A Year of Lil Wayne: Lil Wayne and His Goddamn Guitar, Part 1

Let's talk about Lil Wayne the rock star, in two acts.
November 28, 2016, 7:26pm

Day 70: "Leather so Soft" – Like Father Like Son, 2006

Drew: I first saw Lil Wayne live in the fall of 2007, a few months before Tha Carter III dropped and The Best Rapper Alive suddenly became everyone's favorite rapper. He'd been arrested a few days before, and there was widespread speculation as to whether he'd actually show up. To toy with this news, Wayne was lowered onstage in this little mock-up of a jail cell. He played for an hour, did mostly mixtape cuts from Da Drought 3—including "We Takin' Over (Remix)" and "Ride 4 My N—gas (The Sky Is the Limit)," which were formative moments in my Lil Wayne fandom. During a very special interlude, Wayne whipped out a guitar and pretended to play along with "Leather So Soft."

Kyle: First of all, welcome back, Drew. Let's talk about rock star Wayne. I saw him on what may have been that same tour, in spring 2007, and he also hauled out his guitar. I believe he just played a solo, sitting on the edge of the stage, and that was it, and everybody sort of politely enjoyed it because hey, WTF, Lil Wayne was playing guitar! I actually didn't realize that this is the whole idea of the "Leather So Soft" video, too, because in 2006 we barely had YouTube and if you didn't see a music video on actual TV (tricky due to this being the heyday of MTV's Next as well) you probably didn't see it at all. Man, this is a great video, though. Shouts out to my guy on the keytar in the band, as well as just the general seriousness of the band in general. Shouts out as well to all the dancers whose big break in a Lil Wayne video meant gyrating next to him while he pretended to play guitar. And thirdly, shouts out to Wayne's "solo" at the end of the video, which truly reinvents the concept of what a guitar solo can be, taking a deconstructed finger picking approach to the instrument. I do honestly appreciate his effort and the fact that the guitar is plugged in, avoiding a common pitfall of the "I'm a rock star" music video trope. Lil Wayne may not be a guitar wizard, but he is undoubtedly 'bout it (it being rock). It's cool now for rappers to say they are rock stars, but how many go so far as to actually embody it the way Wayne did? Dude literally made an entire rock album. It sucked, but he made it!

Drew: The next time I saw Lil Wayne was the summer of 2009, just as he was reaching the peak of his popularity—and probably beginning to fall off. He'd brought along the seven bazillion-strong Young Money crew with him, and his set was punctuated by an at-times excruciating interlude in which seemingly every member of Young Money got to perform a solo song. There was Gudda Gudda, there was Jae Millz, there was Lil Twist. There was a pre-fame Nicki Minaj, who even then was head and shoulders above the competition. The nascent star Drake, still riding high off "Best I Ever Had," was missing from the tour because he'd fucked his ankle up the day before, but that didn't stop everyone in the crowd from screaming along to his verse during "Every Girl," which despite being a song about wanting to fuck every single girl in the world, felt like a wholesome family singalong with the entire Young Money squad up onstage.

But what I remember most from that night was watching Wayne whip out a guitar again, this time as he played "Prom Queen," his much-maligned rock single off his much-maligned rock album Rebirth. When he'd pretended to play the guitar two years earlier, the gesture had been endearing. "Look! This guy is so fun and imaginative that he can pretend to play guitar and it's charming as shit! This guy can get away with anything :)," we, the audience, thought to ourselves. But on this night, Wayne's shitty guitar playing was not endearing, it was bad. "Oh no! Lil Wayne is pretending to play the guitar and no one in his inner circle is brave enough to tell him he sucks at it! This guy thinks he can get away with anything :(," we all thought this time around.

For what it's worth, Soulja Boy opened both times I saw Lil Wayne. He owned ass.

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