Day 11: "Ride 4 My Niggas (The Sky Is the Limit)" – Da Drought 3, 2007
Kyle: OK, Lawrence is back, and we're going to talk about Da Drought 3. It hasn't come up yet on this blog, but I'm sure it will some more, since it is, I think, popularly considered the best project from "mixtape" era Wayne, the one you're supposed to point to if you're a discerning fan/someone in the know as your favorite over Tha Carter III (wayyyy too basic). I won't Wayne-shame anyone, but I will say: If you've never listened to this song, how would you know one of the most important Wayne facts, which is that when he was five his favorite movie was Gremlins? It's a good line and a funny aside, but it also… kind of explains everything about him?
This song has my friend Kenneth's favorite Lil Wayne line, which is "the only thing on the mind of a shark is eat," which is apparently a real shark fact. I've never been much of a shark guy, so I couldn't tell you, but Kenneth brought this line up once and had to explain it to me so he could make a point about something else. I don't remember what the other thing was, but the shark fact stuck. I guess they are very focused animals. And of course it's a good line because Wayne at this point in his career (well, perhaps always, but especially circa 2007) was rapping at a level that can only be ascribed to intense, monastic focus, with the side effect being that he was devouring every other rapper alive. I was going to mention this line in my intro post to this blog and make some point about blogging and single-minded focus, but of course I got distracted. It goes without saying I am not a shark. Lawrence, thoughts on this song?
Lawrence: I have a really vivid memory of the first time I heard this song. I was in the 11th grade, and I had cut school with my friends Marvin and Stanley. We were in Marvin's forest green Buick La Sabre, riding around East Baltimore—25th and Harford Rd. to be exact. I don't remember why but we probably figured that going to McDonald's or getting a chicken box was a better idea than going to our last class. Anyway, this song always sticks in my head as one of those peak mixtape Wayne moments when he just rambles forever without really saying much but says everything in the most clever way imaginable. That initial time hearing "I'm probably in the sky, flying with the fishes / Or maybe in the ocean swimming with the pigeons," was one of the most hyped I've been over a Wayne line. No exaggeration, at least 15 people I knew at that time had that line as their MySpace name for the next few months. That's how we proved our Wayne knowledge back then; taking deep mixtape cuts, picking the hardest line and making it your Myspace name. It was the pre-Drake line Instagram caption.
The biggest accomplishment with this song, which is just another notch on Wayne's belt, is that this is arguably the most effective beat-jacking of all time. Clearly, I don't know every remarkable beat jack ever, but how many people actually know that this was a Mike Jones song at first? I actually feel sorry for this dude because if you hear Wayne's version first and then go listen to Mike Jones's, it's complete trash. Poor guy. My love for the song also falls on it being a really generic motivational anthem. Just hearing Wayne repeatedly say "the sky is the limit," makes me look at the sky and think, "damn, I can really do whatever I want." That's how powerful he was at that time for me, and it still carries weight.
Kyle: Speaking of carrying weight, this song has one of Wayne's more pointedly topical and politically charged bars—remember this came in the wake of Katrina—where he says, "they tryna make a brand new map without us / but the tourists come down and spend too many dollars." Even when Wayne was rapping a million miles an hour he could go beyond the punchlines to drop a line that is a total gut punch. As he says, don't say talk is cheap—"because I'm the type that let money talk for me / my flow is art, unique."
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