Day 148: "We Takin' Over" feat. Akon, T.I., Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Fat Joe, and Birdman – DJ Khaled, We The Best, 2007
When I started the Year of Lil Wayne, I promised that I would make repeated claims about the best Lil Wayne song. But now I'm nearing the halfway point of the year, and I've barely made any such claims at all. It's time we got to the bottom of this.
So, today, let's discuss the best Lil Wayne guest verse of all time, his closing verse on DJ Khaled's 2007 opus "We Takin' Over." There are a few Wayne lines that seared themselves into my brain forever the first time I heard them, that instantly confirmed my suspicions that Lil Wayne was the best rapper alive, and "I stay on track like a box of Pumas" might be the most important of all of them. Something about that metaphor—so outlandish yet so, pardon the pun, pedestrian—communicated everything great about Wayne's mind, the way that it worked in virtuosic ways the rest of us could never approach. And it was rapped so simply, so matter-of-factly, just perfectly and precisely on beat. It is iconic. And that's not even the most famous line in the verse.
But first let's back up and set the scene, just as it is set for Wayne's verse to arrive. After all, that's part of what makes this Wayne's best feature: He's batting cleanup after an all-star lineup, delivering the punctuation that turns a great posse cut into an iconic one.
In the scheme of "Why Should I Care About DJ Khaled," the rankings are fairly clear. There is, of course, DJ Khaled the persona, the modern Snapchat maven and cocoa butter enthusiast, beloved by all for his good-natured bluster as rap's over-the-top ambassador to the wider world. This version of DJ Khaled is important. But the reason anyone cares about it is because of DJ Khaled's biggest undeniable hit, "All I Do Is Win," a song that is and will forever be played at every sporting event in America until the end of time. And the reason anyone cares about that is the number one ranked item on our list, "We Takin' Over," the best of Khaled's all-star anthems, the one that proved his undeniable power and set forth the following decade of successes. "We Takin' Over" laid the blueprint for the DJ Khaled megahit, from the roster of guests to the literal world-conquering hook to the big budget video set up to look like an action movie of the highest order.
"Basically, between me and Khaled, we pulled every favour in the book," director Gil Green told the Miami New Times last year, in reference to the "We Takin' Over" video. It was a worthy endeavour. The song landed T.I. at his absolute height as King of the South for the opening verse. It had Akon, the emergent king of pop radio, whose hits "Smack That," "I Wanna Love You," and "Don't Matter" were burning up the charts all of 2006 and 2007. Rick Ross, then something of an unknown outside of Miami, began to cement his legacy, announcing he was the "Biggie of my city." Fat Joe was Fat Joe, on the heels of his massive hit featuring Lil Wayne, "Make It Rain." Plus, he's the one who ended up on the speedboat with Khaled in the video, a coveted spot. There was Birdman, the superstar record impresario responsible for Lil Wayne, the newly minted best rapper alive, both of whom Khaled had known from his days as a record store clerk in New Orleans—in fact, Khaled had witnessed them meeting in Odyssey Records, according to the same Miami New Times article. As far as all-star rosters go, you couldn't have done any better balancing massive pop appeal and authentic street appeal than this one.
The result is that the song became a smash, and it was one of those songs, too, where the video only added to the mystique. The song sounded larger-than-life, and Khaled gave it a video to match, a big-budget action movie caper story (the video opens with a voice announcing, "this just in: DJ Khaled is on the run… Khaled is wanted by an evil assailant group affiliated with censoring the powerful voice of the people, but the movement will not be stopped"). Among the spectacles we witness are T.I. kidnapping Khaled (to keep him safe), Rick Ross and Khaled driving backwards in Bentley convertible down I-95, Khaled and Fat Joe in a speedboat chase, and then Wayne and Birdman under attack by a SWAT team in a church. It's fucking awesome. It set the stage for every Khaled video and many other videos to come. And it made the people involved superstars.
Talking to the FADER in 2013, Khaled credited the video with being his big break:
It changed my life. That's when I knew they let me in. I broke the barriers, the circle. That's when I said it's gonna be on and poppin'. And I knew it on the video set when me and Ross was driving the convertible Bentley backwards. I told Ross, "Oh, it's on now." I remember that day. It's a certain feeling: people were rooting for me. And it felt good. And I ain't never turned back since. That record [was] Wayne's best verse of the year at that time—shit, maybe the decade, that's how serious... I am the beast, feed me rappers or feed me beats. And that's when Ross just broke with "Hustlin'" and he became the new big artist. And me and Ross repping that Miami, and we on there. There's a lot of special things about that record, you know what I'm saying?
And, like Khaled said in that interview, the song was something of Wayne's big break, too. Although Wayne was obviously already a star—at the exact same time, "Stuntin' Like My Daddy" and "Make It Rain" were both huge hits, and "Lollipop" was just around the corner—his verse felt like confirmation of the claims he'd been making in the year or two beforehand that he was the best rapper alive. After all, here he was on a song with several other star rappers walking away with the hands-down best verse. Songs like "Go DJ" and "Fireman" were hits, but "We Takin' Over" was an anthem. This was "Bling Bling" part two, except this time Wayne wasn't just a precocious upstart coming into his own. He was out to prove he could rap better than literally anyone else.
Evaluating the video at the time, the Village Voice's Tom Breihan anointed Wayne's verse as "monumental" and "the best one" on the song, adding that "it's amazing how much better Wayne's gotten in the past year; even his bullshit guest-verses feel like events." Breihan concludes that "it really shouldn't sound so easy." A few years later, in 2011, HipHopDX declared that the verse "Turned Wayne into a Hip Hop superstar." Writer Ryan Redding goes on to say, "Wayne dialled up the goosebump meter for his scene-stealing appearance" and describe Wayne rapping "as if he was in Hip Hop 101 and this was his final exam" before concluding, "the breathtaking final verse on 'We Takin' Over' was a watershed moment that will one day make its way onto Lil' Wayne's Hall of Fame plaque." And just last year, Khaled's own assessment of the verse remained consistent. In an interview with Power 106's J Cruz, when asked about the best verse of all his anthems, he responded without hesitating, "'I mean, definitely that Lil Wayne 'Takin' Over': 'I am the beast, feed me rappers, feed me beats.' That's a classic, you know."
So what is the verse? It goes like this:
I am the beast
Feed me rappers or feed me beats
I'm untamed; I need a leash
I'm insane; I need a shrink
I love brain; I need a leech
Why complain on easy street?
I don't even talk, I let the Visa speak
And I like my Sprite Easter pink
And my wristwear Chopard but the Mueller's cooler
I have more jewels than your jeweller
Touch and I will bust your medulla
That's a bullet hole it is not a tumour
Red light, red light, stop your rumours
I stay on track like a box of Pumas
Now just rock-rock-rock with junior
I am the little big kahuna
Besides the Pumas line, which I love, and the opening line about eating rappers, which Khaled loves, there are so many other things to love about this verse: the symmetry of the "I'm (blank); I need (blank)" lines, the declaration that "I don't even talk, I let the Visa speak," the way he pauses as he says "I like… my Sprite… Easter pink," mimicking the slowing effects of lean. That line, by the way—I can tell you from recently reading lots of profiles and opinion pieces of Wayne from around this time—was used ad nauseum to discuss his drug use and explain what cough syrup was, which makes it iconic even beyond the fact that it rhymes with "Visa speak."
Then there's the beautiful internal rhyme of "Mueller's cooler" that then is also an internal rhyme with the next line, another iconic statement of "I have more jewels than your jeweller." This is another example of the kind of Wayne line that sticks out in the minds of people who don't really follow rap and builds his image as the quintessential rapper. Plus he rhymes it with "medulla." And then just consider the rhythmic gymnastics of "I am the little big kahuna," a line that I could repeat 50 times before I managed to fit it into the rhythm of that verse.
What else is there to say? Lil Wayne, the little big kahuna, grew into the best rapper alive in the public mind right here, and he went on to have the best year of rap anyone had ever seen. His verse was so good he decided he had to go and make a freestyle over the whole song, and that also was incredible. What verse could be better?
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