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A Year of Lil Wayne: Lil Wayne for the 2059 Nobel Prize in Literature

We've noted the similarities between Lil Wayne and Bob Dylan before. Guest Drew Millard joins in to offer more perspective.

by Kyle Kramer
Nov 23 2016, 6:23pm

Day 65: "We Takin' Over (Remix)" – Da Drought 3, 2009

Kyle: Today, in honor of feasting, another song from Lil Wayne about eating rappers: He begins "We Takin' Over (Remix)" (which, it should be noted, is a freestyle over a song that is already de facto his) by saying: "It's me, the rapper eater. Feed me, feed me!" This is an iconic song for many reasons—Wayne also has an important Birdman moment here, saying, "Damn right I kissed my daddy / I think they pissed at how rich my Daddy / is" before adding "Diss me and don't diss my Daddy / 'cause who was there when no one wasn't? Just my Daddy / who was there when I needed money? Just my Daddy / so who be there when I see the money? Just my Daddy"—but the reason it's the song for today is that my guest for today, Drew Millard, my former colleague who has written about Lil Wayne at Noisey a few times before, chose it. Drew, you have a whole different point to make about the song, so I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Drew: Thanks, Kyle, for letting me have a crack at "500 Days of Kristin, but for people who own Trukfit." I will try to not let you, or this column's dedicated readers, down.

First off, have you guys been following the neverending North Carolina governor's race? Shit's fucked up. Part of me wanted to just say "fuck it" and derail this entry into a mini-rant about politics in the state that gave us Pepsi and Petey Pablo, but I won't do that because (a) I had this great spiel planned out where I was going to talk about how Lil Wayne is like Bob Dylan, and (b) I can already see you closing that tab if I keep going on about politics in my state.

OK, here goes with the great spiel. Lil Wayne, as has been discussed in this space before, is like Bob Dylan. Just think about it. Or, better yet, go ahead and read this essay by Luc Sante, writing at the oh-so-hip-hop New York Review of Books, on Dylan's recent Nobel prize, and this other essay by David Remnick of the even-more-hip-hop-than-the-NYRB The New Yorker, on Dylan and the phenomenon of the "hot hand." Or, don't, and let me cherry-pick little bits from those essays that support my argument.

First, consider Remnick's piece, which lifts the concept of the "hot hand" from basketball, citing a paper defining the phenomenon as an "atypical clustering of successes." He goes on to observe that "novelists, composers, painters, and poets are apt to experience stretches of intense creativity that might derive from any number of factors," before declaring that Bob Dylan—in the 15 months during which he "went electric"; cranked out Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde; and performed the legendary "Judas" concert in London—had the hottest hot hand of all time. Writes Remnick:

Dylan was exploding with things to say and sing. As he later acknowledged, it was as if he were taking dictation from somewhere, from somebody. And, at the same time, he seemed on the brink of self-annihilation. Amped up on nicotine and speed and who knows what else, racing from place to place, thought to thought, song to song, and embittered by the jeering and booing he encountered from the folk-loyal fans from Newport to Manchester, Dylan was headed for a crash. One day, while riding his motorcycle near his house, in Woodstock, he was, according to one account, blinded by the sun, hit a slick in the road, and was smashed to the ground.

Remind you of someone? LIL WAYNE, THAT'S THE FUCK WHO. We can quibble about when Weezy's hot hand began, whether it started with the first or second Carter album, or the "10,000 Bars" when he formally denounced writing down his lyrics, or some day in 2005 when Lil Wayne was standing outside in a thunderstorm, got struck by lightning, and instantly got ten percent better at rapping. But we cannot quibble about how at some point in the mid-2000s, Lil Wayne evolved from a pretty-good Southern rapper to LIL FUCKING WAYNE, the New Orleans prodigy who pumped out mixtape after mixtape, each of which seemed bursting with creativity and near-psychedelic imagery. As Remnick writes of Dylan, Wayne, too, seemed to be "exploding with things to say… as if he were taking dictation from somewhere," while simultaneously "on the brink of self-annihilation." Dylan fueled his creativity—or attempted to physically catch up to it—through taking mounds and mounds of amphetamines, while Wayne pried open his lyrical chakras through guzzling pint after pint of lean. And just as Dylan could be found grousing at reporters in Don't Look Back, Wayne participated in a documentary called The Carter which showed him as a moody, media-averse cipher very much in the mold of Dylan (though Wayne eventually sued the documentary's producers, you can watch it in full on Vimeo).

Both Dylan and Wayne became famous within their respective genres (folk and southern hip-hop) through injecting a sly psychedelia into forms that had previously embraced only earthbound imagery, and each icon publicly repudiated their cults by embracing techniques once thought verboten. Where Dylan went electric, Wayne began using AutoTune—then looked at as a passing curio—in weird and wonderful ways, amping up the otherworldliness of his voice. Fuck post-rap: at his slurred peak, Lil Wayne was post-human. The pure pop piffle of Wayne's "Lollipop" was, in its own way, just as stirring a kiss-off as Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," and the albums that the singles were packaged with— Tha Carter III and Highway 61 Revisited—each contained tracks that revisited the traditions from whence they came.

If you couldn't guess, these would be "A Milli" and "Desolation Row." Both are almost parodically back-to-basics—"Desolation Row" features the finger-picking that serve as the backbone of folk guitar technique, while "A Milli," with its sparse loop and booming bass, could have been a Run-DMC track, and it's so hip-hop that it samples fucking Phife Dawg—while delivering lyrics that are basically a verbal hit of acid. Dylan goes from executions to jacking off in record time, while Weezy compares himself to STDs, goblins, and a lawnmower.

Speaking of imagery, let's go to my dude Luc Sante, discussing Dylan's contribution to the English lexicon:

[…] note that phrase: "famous long ago." Although undoubtedly people used it in speech and writing before Dylan was even born, it is nonetheless now tied to him: "…for playing the electric violin on Desolation Row."

You may not think of Dylan as a poet, because his lyrics don't always scan well on the page, but consider how many lines of poetry he has embedded in common discourse: "But to live outside the law you must be honest"; "She knows there's no success like failure/And that failure's no success at all"; "Ah but I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now"—those are just off the top of my head, and we could go on like this all night.

Similarly, Lil Wayne has given us so many colloquialisms, little turns of phrase that open up reams of new meaning—"OK you're a goon, but what's a goon to a goblin"; "Yikes! Yeeks! Great Scott! Storch! Can I borrow your yacht?"; "Real Gs move in silence like lasagna"—that they end up being reused by other, lesser rappers, and they slowly get seen less as Lil Wayne's contributions to the genre but as lines that exist within hip-hop's greater public domain. And when I saw that Donald Trump had won the election despite my assumption of the physical impossibility of his victory, I said to myself, "Unbefuckinlievable, Donald Trump's the president."

Kyle: To that point I would add: During his early Cash Money era Lil Wayne also helped coin perhaps the two most well known pieces of rap slang, "bling bling" and "drop it like it's hot." And on "Phone Home," his claim that "we are not the same I am a Martian" has become a template for an entire subgenre of rap. Not to interrupt.

Drew: I could go on like this for days—we could get into how a good 30 percent of what both Wayne and Dylan have made is bullshit, and part of the fun is debating which of their work is bullshit and which of their work is "misunderstood"; we could compare Wayne's ill-fated rock album to Dylan's Christian years; or we could speculate as to whether Drake and Nicki Minaj, as well as the greater cadre of Young Money artists throughout the years, have helped Wayne explore the various sonic nooks and crannies of hip-hop, just as The Band once helped Dylan delve into the American songbook—but it's late and I want to watch an episode of Frasier before I go to bed.

I will end by pointing out that Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize in 2016, 52 years after he released Highway 61 Revisited. Therefore, I hereby predict that Lil Wayne will win a Nobel Prize in 2059, 52 years after the release of Tha Carter III. If I end up being wrong, we'll be old as shit and you'll have totally forgotten about this blog post. But if I'm right, you're totally gonna be like "HOLY SHIT!!!"

Photo: Screenshots of Lil Wayne in The Carter documentary and Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video

Follow Drew Millard on Twitter.

Follow Kyle Kramer on Twitter.