Day 57: "After That" – Future feat. Lil Wayne, Monster , 2014
It should come as no surprise to all one or two of my loyal readers that I have no good ideas in the moment. All the best tie-ins and ideas for this Lil Wayne blog come after the fact. And still, it was only when I tweeted yesterday about it being day 56 that I realized I'd missed a perfect Future connection. But, hey, better late than never, and Lil Wayne wasn't on 56 Nights, so it's not that glaring an oversight. I'll take any excuse to write about Future. And now Future and Gucci Mane have gone and dropped a six-track tape together, the sequel to Free Bricks. The signs are in the stars! Future is topical today, so let's talk about one of my favorite Lil Wayne verses in recent memory, his appearance on Future's "After That," from the mixtape Monster.
Monster—which just celebrated its two-year anniversary, as long as we're talking about missed opportunities to blog about Future—is a project all about collapse and recalibration. It features Future at his most broken, on songs like "Codeine Crazy" and "Throw Away." And it sees Future turning heel, pivoting from the romantic pop aspirant of Honest into the lean-fueled demon who would engineer one of rap's great runs over the next two years (one that at the moment seems poised to continue). It is a project that demands listeners to throw everything out and to re-examine things they had taken for granted.
Among the assumptions that Monster rejects is one that had been brewing for a while, fueled in no small part by Wayne's lackluster I Am Not a Human Being 2, which was that Wayne had lost his grasp on rap. The clearer explanation, though, was that Wayne had lost his interest in rap—he'd said as much himself, claiming that he would rather skateboard. Wayne was bored. (N.B. I've always maintained that that boredom is to blame in more ways than one for his apparent loss of technical faculty during those years: Not only was he not that interested in the songs themselves, but Wayne was playing with new ways of rapping and seeing how far he could take rapping "badly" because rapping extremely well wasn't fun any more.) Future's energy on "After That," or perhaps the energy in TM88 and Southside's beat, clearly inspired Wayne, and this is one of the first verses I can think of from Wayne's recent run where he sounds hungry on the beat.
His flow is acrobatic, leaping through the beat in little bursts of syllables. The whole verse hinges on a three-syllable rhyme that is as much about the cadence of emphasizing the first and third syllables as anything else. Shakespeare would be proud. It goes, "Gotta watch my own back / fuck around and get stabbed in that / Hollygrove my habitat / wish I could bring Rabbit back," and it continues from there, practically heaving under the weight of all the punchlines he somehow manages to pack into that structure. " It ain't looking good like cataracts" goes one. "Tryna get as high as me nigga then where the fuck is your scaffold at?" goes another. And then there's my absolute favorite, which is one of the most virtuosic rap deliveries I've ever heard, when he quips, "The Feds tryna throw me in the box / I'm like fuck that, throw Jack in that."
My guy just made an entire line wrap around itself to be a fucking jack in the box pun! About prison! Never doubt that Wayne is a genius. But lest you do, he has some quick-fire consonance to close the verse out in style, where he follows up the "scaffold at" line with "Niggas flip facts like acrobats, I click clack, what comes after that?" Yes, Lil Wayne crammed more -ack rhymes into this verse than a motherfucking Cathy comic, and he brought it all back around to the title of the song to close things out just because it wouldn't befit his talent to do anything less. Monster didn't just jumpstart Future's revival; it signaled good years ahead for Wayne's rapping. "After That" is exhibit A of what Wayne, fully backed by two decades of practice, was and is still capable of doing. After this, there can be no doubts.
PS. Go check out Free Bricks 2.
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