Screenshot via YouTube / Logo by Michael Alcantara
Day 310: "Duffle Bag Boy" feat. Lil Wayne – Playaz Circle, Supply & Demand, 2007The best Lil Wayne song is "Duffle Bag Boy," which is in fact a Playaz Circle song. "Duffle Bag Boy" was a monster. "Duffle Bag Boy" was huge, and Lil Wayne sounded awesome on it. To this day, it still leaves a mark. Lil Wayne had flooded the streets with music and had had radio hits of similar magnitude by the time "Duffle Bag Boy" dropped, but even "Go DJ" and "Make It Rain" didn't feel quite as ubiquitous. The reason, in my eyes, was simple: "Duffle Bag Boy" was a new kind of Lil Wayne hook. It was a new era of Lil Wayne. It was Lil Wayne singing.
Right there, that created a different kind of formula. Suddenly, Wayne's innate sense of how to craft a simple, memorable line morphed into something even stickier. An entirely new career was born, one that would soon see him floating off into fantasy realms of Auto-Tune, invading pop radio, and trying his hand at being a rock star. People will tell you that Bone Thugs-n-Harmony or Ja Rule or Nelly ushered singing into rap, and they wouldn't be wrong per se. But if you want to draw a dividing line between the previous generation of rap and the current one, "Duffle Bag Boy" is it.This song is the exact point in which rap's dominant mode shifted from the boom-bap East Coast bravado of the 90s and 00s to the South and to melody. There are others, of course, and you can argue about them, but I'm happy picking this one right here. Hell, it kicked off the trend of having 2 Chainz—at the time still just Tity Boi—rap circles around everyone living. "And while you wishing on that fallin' star / I'm in a foreign car, smoking out with the doors ajar"? Your favorite rapper still hasn't caught up to that line. If you think you're a fan of current day, bury-me-inside-the-Louis-store 2 Chainz, wait until you find out he was saying shit like "walk into the Gucci store, honey I'm home" a whole five years earlier.Yet as much as we could talk about Tity Boi hanging out his suede sunroof or Dolla Boy clowning on your woulda-shoulda-coulda excuses—and we definitely should—the real breakthrough in this song is, indeed, that hook. As 2 Chainz so kindly reminded me recently, "Duffle Bag Boy" came out at the height of the "ringtone rap" controversy. At the time, much as today people are fixated on the Lil Yachtys and Lil Uzis ruining the spirit of true lyricism, hip-hop culture (i.e. New York rap gatekeepers) was flipping out about artists like Lil Jon and Soulja Boy destroying bars as we knew them. Wayne, since he was from the South and had come up as a child star, was for many of these people part of the same category, even though anyone with ears could have told you Wayne had been among rap's elite MCs for, at the very least, half a decade. But "Duffle Bag Boy," with its singsong hook, was prime ringtone material, and so Wayne was seen as part of the trend.
Of course, history has proven that Wayne wasn't so much part of a trend as the vanguard of a stylistic step forward for the genre at large, the reason we have guys like Future and Young Thug doing what they're doing with melody today. And even at the time, there wasn't too much concern from those actually making the music: 2 Chainz told me the song sold 2 million ringtones. And that wasn't all he told me."Wayne is a reason that a lot of these people even probably rap or have fans or whatever it is," he explained. "With just his strong rebelliousness. When he came in—you know he came in young, but when he grew up, you were able to watch him grow up, and you know all the things he did that we see people do today. I don't know if they remember. These people forget about shit so fast, but like all this shit that's going on, bro was putting that on the mainstream a long time ago." I pointed out Wayne's embrace of the rock star image that has become such a popular pose for rappers now, and 2 Chainz nodded."Wayne been tattooing his face for, what, 20 years now?" he continued. "I remember when people were looking at him like he was crazy. Now you almost don't look right without a tattoo on your face and you a rapper. It's a lot of stuff though that he did that everybody wouldn't necessarily agree with, but it worked for him, and it worked for the impact he made."After "Duffle Bag Boy" blew up, 2 Chainz went on tour with Lil Wayne, as well as Nicki Minaj and Drake, which is the stuff of legends and at least a half dozen Drake songs. As 2 Chainz explained, the song had gotten so big that it eclipsed his group. People knew the song, but they didn't know Playaz Circle. Wayne's hook was well known, but he and Dolla Boy were, to many people, just guys who happened to be on the song. "I went out to try to put a face with it," 2 Chainz said about the tour. "I think that kind of helped, with the 2 Chainz [thing]. Because I would be in the right places at the right time." Given the relationship between 2 Chainz and Wayne over the years, it's ironic that it had to be here, of all places, where Wayne's star power had some of its most blinding influence.
"I consider myself one of the first members of Young Money, just unofficial," 2 Chainz told me. "Just because of my relationship with Wayne and shit." He'd met Wayne as early as 2002 or 2003, he said, "when we probably both had corn rows or something like that. It was a long time ago. Before Katrina." It's been a fruitful partnership, though, and not just on a musical level. "We just kind of kicked off and had a brotherhood ever since," he added. "That's somebody I really consider my brother. I'm an only child, so that's somebody I consider a sibling."Fans can probably feel a sense of that, just looking at the pair's track record. The success of "Duffle Bag Boy" was a pivotal moment in both artists' careers, elevating them to new levels of visibility. But for Wayne in particular, it cemented his hold on rap radio that had begun with "Stuntin' Like My Daddy" and "Make It Rain." It complemented the underground mixtape run of projects like Dedication 2 and Lil Weezy Ana and Da Drought 3 that were making him a grassroots legend. It was the perfect note to strike in a triumphant 2007, an overture for one of the most important and influential rap runs in history."That's why I can't believe they acting like they forgot about my boy," 2 Chainz said, also, pointing to Wayne's ability and influence. He stressed that that run isn't over. "Y'all niggas know when he get this shit together it's gonna be pressure… They secretly want you to get out the way. You know like, Wayne is intimidating to some people." Then again, if the hook of "Duffle Bag Boy" taught us anything, it should be that. Ten years on, Lil Wayne still damn sure ain't about to pick today to start running.Follow Kyle Kramer on Twitter.