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A Year of Lil Wayne: "The Blast (10,000 Bars)"

In which Weezy gets utopian, but can't fight back the demons.

Day 27: "The Blast (10,000 Bars)" – Sqad Up Vol. 7 (10,000 Bars), 2002

One of my favorite parts of "10,000 Bars" is this section where Wayne goes all If I Ruled the World and lists out a bunch of things he wishes for: no police, no races, no rapists, but also better models of Mercedes and rims that weren't so difficult to make tight turns on, floor seats at the Staples center, etc. He wishes he could get high but then when he gets high he wishes he didn't. He wishes "dope heads stop using as if they not dying," and he is both regretful that not "every bitch" gives head and that he couldn't save his (step)dad from dying.


All of these wishes give a good view of the ping-ponging breadth not only of Wayne's psyche but of human nature: Who among us doesn't often wish for the most profound societal changes and the simplest materialist aims in the same breath? I imagine there are people out there who are put off by artists like Lil Wayne, who lack the single-minded and high-minded focus of their peers when it comes to discussing matters of political importance or whatever. But if you're spending all your time talking about the police state and not pausing occasionally to riff on the Lakers lineup or whatever, you're probably not a very interesting person to hang out with. Wayne is great precisely because his oeuvre covers such a huge range of topics and his wish list involves such a crazy mix of high-minded and mundane concerns: So do our own minds.

Still, there are a few lines that stand out in particular to me. I'm hit by the casual admission of "sometimes I wish I wasn't alive," which I guess is probably a thought that passes through most people's mind at one point or another but that, at the same time, is an awfully dark admission for hard-partying 20-year-old Wayne and a haunting preview of some of the drugged-out nihilism to come.

I also think it's critical to point to "and you know I wish for Pun, Biggie, and Pac shit," in part because of the forcefulness of the "and you know." I'm not sure everyone would in fact know that Wayne looked to Pun, Biggie, and Pac: To this day the fans who lionize those artists are often prone to treating Wayne as a lyricist with skepticism, while at the time Cash Money was almost by definition a rejection of coastal hip-hop elitism. But Wayne, although it's not always discussed, is the consummate aficionado of hip-hop craftsmanship, and it holds true throughout his career. He's constantly stacking himself up against Jay Z; he invokes the greats half a decade after this on the proving ground of "A Milli"; throughout the Sqad Up tapes he's tackling beats from Jay Z and Nas, who at the time were not only just about the two biggest rappers in the world but locked in a struggle to each prove himself superior to the other (Wayne demolishing their beats makes a case for himself as dark horse candidate for winner of that beef).

That it should be self-evident Wayne, a child star, originally a bit of a novelty act, wants to be seen in the company of these greats, is a testament to not only the way the goalposts were shifting for his career as he headed into the Carter albums but also to the understanding he had at the time of hip-hop as a whole. After all, Big Pun is sort of a cult figure; it's not like he was saying he wanted to be LL Cool J or something. There's a more haunting possible interpretation to this line too, though, that I'm only realizing now as I think about it paired with the "wasn't alive" line: all of these artists were killed prematurely. Was Wayne also imagining a rock star martyrdom for himself? It's crazy to consider, but then again what makes someone a legend? In more ways than one, I think Wayne was and is determined to answer this question.

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