Day 16: "Oh Lord" – Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne, Birth of a Nation Soundtrack, 2016
It's odd—or perhaps it makes perfect sense—that Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne, the two most dominant and influential rappers of the late 2000s, have never had a particularly successful or notable collaboration with each other. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't feel like an event when the two come together, especially in the case of their new song "Oh Lord," the first pairing of the two since Gucci Mane was released from prison earlier this year. I won't say there's great chemistry between them—in fact it very much sounds like this was cobbled together over email— but they end up being nice counterpoints to each other here.
Gucci takes the theme of the soundtrack more literally, rapping from a Nat Turner-esque perspective with "Take these shackles up up off me / I'm street but I'm godly / know these white folks fear me / but nothing can stop me." Gucci as a choice for recasting America's historical narrative to be more black-centric might seem a tad out of place—there's not about to be a trap Hamilton any time soon—but thematically he does a good job of drawing a parallel between himself and a 19th century slave rebellion: "my best attribute is bravery / they think that I'm crazy," he says, challenging anyone who would try to marginalize him.
Wayne, meanwhile, seems to have been given a vaguer rundown of what to focus on thematically, but nonetheless he tackles the broad idea of the struggle in what turns out to be a truly touching verse. He begins by talking about his go-to instance being held back, his label drama with Cash Money, rapping, "I gotta feed the family / but I had to leave the family / I cut off CMB I'm an amputee / but I never leave Christianity / might have to plead insanity." But then there's a truly devastating line that pulls into perspective the challenge of having to cut ties with anything that defines you (let alone a business you were part of for 25 years of your life and that played a greater role in your identity than most people's parents do): "it's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday." Fuck, man. People often talk about how Wayne only raps punchlines and poop jokes, but occasionally—and with almost every verse he's done this year—he'll have an aside like that that's just totally devastating. He goes on to talk about supporting his kids and then shares some broken-hearted-sounding bars for the people of New Orleans, the inmates of Angola prison in Louisiana, and the late Soulja Slim. Just when you thought Lil Wayne might be an odd choice for a soundtrack about black liberation, he comes along and breaks your heart. This song might be an overall odd composition, but it turns out to be pretty damn awesome.
Kyle Kramer is still on vacation. Follow him on Twitter.