Day 120: "Tiffany Blews" feat. Lil Wayne / "America's Suitehearts Remix" feat. Lil Wayne – Fall Out Boy, Folie a Deux , 2008 / Fall Out Boy, unreleased, 2008
Over the weekend, big news hit the mid-00s emo community: Skrillex was releasing a new song with his former band, From First to Last. People were quick to trot out their emo bona fides in reaction, and, as someone with none, I quickly lost my already nonexistent enthusiasm for the discussion. But it did remind me of one of pop-punk's best crossover collaborations, as well as one of Lil Wayne's most interesting features: Fall Out Boy featuring Lil Wayne. The collaboration made perfect sense: Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump have long been vocal about their love of hip-hop (more recently, foreshadowing the existence of Lil Uzi Vert's whole schtick, the band toured with Wiz Khalifa), and, at the point when Lil Wayne's rock star ambitions were most pronounced, Fall Out Boy was one of the biggest rock bands in the world. With their pop heft riding at an all-time high, when it came time to make their album Folie a Deux, Fall Out Boy decided to expand their sound, working with Pharrell and reaching out to Lil Wayne.
The song that resulted from the collaboration is "Tiffany Blews," on which Lil Wayne sings the almost backgrounded bridge: "Not the boy I was / the boy I am is just venting, venting / dear gravity / you held me down in this starless city." It's a pretty catchy song, although it predictably did not find much purchase among Fall Out Boy's fan base, as far as I can tell. It was never released as a single, and critics had little to say other than pointing out it existed. Which is weird because it was, in the scheme of things, an incredibly perceptive collaboration. Even though Wayne had been drifting toward singing, ruling the pop charts with songs like "Lollipop," and spending a lot of time dicking around on guitar, nobody seemed to really recognize that his sound was pointing toward a sea change in hip-hop. Except, weirdly enough, Fall Out Boy. I interviewed Patrick Stump for RedEye a few years ago and talked with him about working with Lil Wayne. He had this to say:
You've worked with a lot of hip-hop acts in the past, though. You've worked with Lil Wayne. How did that come about?
I remember we were working on that record ["Folie a Deux"] right before "808s and Heartbreak" and all that stuff came out, and we were like, "Man, it'd be awesome if we got an MC singing." Because some of these guys can sing and it'd be really cool to have somebody singing on a rock record. Usually you get the hip-hop guest and you have him do a verse. It'd be cool—Lil Wayne isn't exclusively into rhyming, he also likes musicality and melody.
And he has the most amazing Auto-Tuned singing voice.
Yeah, he does have a really hilariously distinctive voice. So we got him on it. And then by the time the record came out Auto-Tune had already landed with a huge explosion. So by the time the record came out it was kind of a blasé point. But we had been trying to do it for awhile. We thought it was really cool. And I'm pretty sure, if I remember right, I don't think he's very tuned on that record. I think we pretty much went with his voice, which I thought was cool…
Fall Out Boy was pretty open about being into hip-hop and R&B and metal—whatever stuff we weren't supposed to be into, and I think a lot of people blasted us for it. …
I would definitely say I'm more of a hip-hop fan than I am a rock fan. It's funny because a lot of my hip-hop friends will come up to me and say things like, "I didn't really like rock, but I [bleep] with Fall Out Boy."
Ironically, for me, it was more so through Lil Wayne that I realized that Fall Out Boy was kind of dope ("Sugar, We're Going Down Swinging," am I right?). See, there was another Fall Out Boy/Lil Wayne song that leaked on the hip-hop blogs and which, until I started writing this blog post, I thought was actually the Lil Wayne/Fall Out Boy song. It's called "America's Suitehearts," and if you think "Tiffany Blews" is dope, wait until you hear this. It was one of the singles from the album, and it's a full-on power ballad epic. Where Lil Wayne is barely a presence on "Tiffany Blews," here he's basically another instrument, his warped Auto-Tune snaking through the song like a riff dedicated to pointing out how high it is the whole time (in this case: "I stay high above you like the dove do"). It's beautiful. Wayne sings "I hate, heal, kill, and love you," which I don't know what that means but I would argue is a perfect emo lyric.
If you want a blueprint for how Auto-Tune as an effect or filter rather than as an editing tool could work in music, this is it right here. Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak is generally credited as the genesis of this sound, but anyone paying attention knew that Wayne got there first. And is it any surprise that he did? This collaboration should be proof that no, it isn't. I've claimed before that Auto-Tune is our generation's electric guitar, and here it pretty much directly plays that role. Of course it was a rapper who was obsessed with being a rock star who recognized that. And of course it makes sense that one of the best early examples of the sound—an example that, admittedly, has mostly been lost to history—was on a song with a pop emo band. Shouts out to Fall Out Boy for facilitating it, although boo to them for not letting it see a wider release. We can only hope that history will see the record set straight.
Photo: Still from Fall Out Boy's "America's Suitehearts" video
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