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A Year of Lil Wayne: "That's Not Luv" and the Curious Case of the Unknown

"I never show my hand not even to me," Wayne raps. Amen.

Day 80: "That's Not Luv" – unreleased, possibly 2011

The rise of streaming has really put a damper on the chaos of songs getting passed around between artists and ending up in a million places at once. Plus, these days people are so focused on who is biting whom that the idea that a song might have a complicated lifespan is obscured by the argument of who gets credit for what. Who's to say that Kanye's "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" and Desiigner's "Panda" aren't equally valid uses of the same source material? How different is it to tack a feature or extended sample onto a song as opposed to releasing a cover? People used to release covers all the time! Not so much now!

Anyway, I ask because I've been listening to "That's Not Luv," another one in Streetrunner's series of remastered re-releases of old Wayne cuts. The song appeared on both Fabolous's The Soul Tape in 2011 (with Fab on it, obviously) and Trae tha Truth's 2011 album Street King (with Trae on it, obviously, and not Fab). But yet another version was locked in the vault until Streetrunner released it earlier this year, and it just has two brief Wayne verses. No disrespect to Fab or Trae, but I think it's the best: clean, simple, and, sure enough, more carefully mastered. The song is straightforward stuff. Wayne just goes in about trust over a classic Streetrunner cut of sped up soul, rapping, "snakes in the grass, so I stay in the pavement / survived the battle with animals and cavemen." This is the kind of Lil Wayne song that I can listen to endlessly and always walk away from satisfied. It's Wayne in his comfort zone. It's what his reputation as a mixtape rapper was built on. It's familiar, but it's so damn consistent.

In all three versions, Wayne closes out his first verse with a line that really hits home, "I never show my hand not even to me." I love that image of unpredictability, not least because it feels applicable to my own poorly planned life: How often do we end up doing stuff that surprises even ourselves? When you rap with the acrobatic talent of Lil Wayne, it's frequent I suppose, which makes this a good line on that alone, but it's true of anyone. Life doesn't always move in predictable ways. It stands to reason that even many of our moments of success catch us unexpected.

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