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A Year of Lil Wayne: The Time Wayne Became Reggae Jay Z

Wayne really leaned into the sample on "Lucifer" to explore the sound of his own voice.

by Kyle Kramer
Mar 13 2017, 7:44pm

Day 174: "Lucifer (Remix)" – The Prefix, 2004

Long before badmon Drake showed up on the scene, his mentor Lil Wayne was brimming with rasta enthusiasm and playing around with patois. I'm no authority on the layers of cultural appropriation that this might or might not entail, but my interpretation of Wayne's mindset is that he rightly understood that the way reggae artists use their voices to play off the rhythmic backing of a song is like an instrument unto itself. One can imagine how listening to music that did that might have influenced the demonstrably percussive-voiced Wayne and why he might have been tempted to emulate it.

So: "Lucifer." Jay Z had retired and Wayne, "the best rapper alive since the best rapper retired," took it upon himself to cover some of Jay's songs, via freestyling over the beats. While, for most of The Prefix, that was a pretty straightforward proposition, with "Lucifer," Wayne decided to lean more into the dubby sound of the Max Romeo sample, chopping it up to emphasize the reggae roots and then rapping over it in Jamaican patois.

The effect is ultimately a strong indication of how Wayne's talent stacks up to Jay's. While Jay's version of "Lucifer" is all laser-focused bombast (including the famous "welcome to the murder capital where we murder for capital"), Wayne's is loose and playful, as interested in stretching out his voice as it is in landing its lines. It talks about smoking weed and seems issued from a place that involved a lot of weed. These two approaches kind of spell out two different ideologies of rapping, neither of which is inherently better than the other but both of which can be seen filtering down through other imitators. As a complement or counterpoint to Jay, it's not exactly better, but it showcases the unique perspective Wayne had to offer a rap game that had been more or less dictated by Jay in the preceding years. 

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