You Only Live Once, but You Can Think Twice About Lil Wayne

"The Motto" was where Lil Wayne jumped the shark—only to swim to the butt. OK, maybe this metaphor doesn't work.
September 6, 2017, 9:20pm
Screenshot of Drake's "The Motto" video via YouTube / Logo by Michael Alcantara

Day 352: "The Motto" feat. Lil Wayne – Drake, Take Care, 2011

I always felt that the exact moment that Lil Wayne jumped the shark was when he sounded out the words "oh my God, Becky, look at her butt" on "The Motto," thus aligning himself with Sir Mix-a-Lot, who may be a poet but is hardly the type of person I wanted Lil Wayne looking to for inspiration. And then Wayne showed up in the video in those ridiculous neon green moon boots, which just about put me over the edge! I couldn't believe Lil Wayne, the best rapper alive, was letting himself look like such a doofus at the precise moment Drake was cementing himself as a cultural icon. "The Motto" is not only a cool song; it is one of our generation's defining texts, the gospel of YOLO. And here, flaunting the wisdom thusly decreed, is Lil Wayne making a series of mistakes that should make anyone yearn for a second chance. I mean, "I'm twisted / doorknob"? Really?


But I was 23 when this song came out, and everything seemed far more important to me then than it does now. Lil Wayne, meanwhile, would have been my current age, 28, while he was recording his verse, and no doubt saw the world with slightly less gravity. Coming off of eight months in jail and a commercially successful return in Tha Carter IV, he surely gave no shits about the grander philosophical implications of dropping a lazy punchline like "wish a nigga would, like a tree in this bitch." Or maybe he saw the even-grander-than-that philosophical implications of this song, which are that, owing to the fact that you only live once and also that this song is dedicated to Mac Dre, the inventor of thizz, it would be grossly wrong not to get a little bit stupid.

At a certain age, YOLO might seem like a badass mantra for doing cool shit while you're young, but at a slightly more advanced age, YOLO feels more like an embrace of the grand cosmic joke that is life itself. You only live once, so why stress about trying to make it perfect? I'm sure Mac Dre, rest in peace, would agree. You can't be feeling yourself when you're too busy overanalyzing yourself instead.

In hindsight, Lil Wayne's verse has aged just fine. Is it his most brilliant work? No. But a lot of it is memorable! "If a leaf fall put some weed in that bitch / that's my MO, add a B to that shit"? That's pretty good. I would venture to say that Lil Wayne has perhaps even taken ownership of the "oh my God, Becky, look at her butt" empire from Sir Mix-a-Lot. And how many rappers have referenced Mr. Ed the Talking Horse in a song before? Lil Wayne may have jumped the shark, but he only did it to swim to the butt. OK, maybe this metaphor doesn't work. But you definitely remember that line, too, and, when this song comes on at a party and you're in the building, that's all that really matters.

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