Day 280: "Bring It Back" feat. Mannie Fresh – Tha Carter, 2004
"I take off my brim, moment of silence for the homeboy Soulja Slim!"
"Go DJ" might be the bigger hit from Tha Carter, but the jury's still out on whether it's the better hit. Certainly, "Bring It Back" is the more New Orleans one, delivering on the promise from the hook to "bring it back to the bottom of the map." This is pure Southern party rap, a raucous blend of the repetitious magic of New Orleans bounce and Miami bass with the laconic swagger that T.I. was bringing out of Atlanta with songs like "Rubber Band Man." It's effortlessly musical in a way so much rap struggles to be, and it has a timeless elasticity that guarantees it will still be able to light up dancefloors for decades to come. The great tragedy is that Wayne has so many other hits that your chances of hearing it on the dancefloor are slim. But, America, it is within our power to change this. We can revive "Bring It Back" as a club staple. We can… bring it back. I encourage you to play this at your next party and watch the rumps start bending as per Mannie Fresh's instructions.
However, most people remember "Bring It Back" for one very simple reason, which is that it's the place Lil Wayne first makes the claim that would come to define the next four years of his narrative as an artist: "best rapper alive since the best rapper retired." That's referring, of course, to Jay-Z, who had recently announced his retirement from rap with the Black Album and whom Wayne had publicly admired for years. While some people speculated that Tha Carter's title was a dig at Shawn Carter, Wayne had paid tribute to Hov shortly before its release with an entire mixtape called The Prefix, which was largely done over Black Album tracks. After Tha Carter was released, Jay famously tried to sign Wayne to Roc-A-Fella, prompting Baby and Slim to counteroffer with a sweeter deal than the one Wayne had been enjoying at Cash Money before. ("Even though I had millions [offered from Roc-A-Fella]," Wayne told XXL in 2005, "that didn't mean, We about to take care of your for the rest of your life. I had to make a smart move and think about my future.")
Nonetheless, that line was a gauntlet thrown, and it would fall on Wayne in the coming years to try to justify his place in rap's lineage of greats, particularly to the skeptical New York fans for whom even the blank space left by a retired Jay-Z was preferable to Lil Wayne (ultimately, Wayne would come with more direct shots when Jay tempted a return). "Bring It Back" was prophetic, as it offered an argument for not just a reconsideration of Wayne's place in the canon but for a realignment of rap's regional hierarchy—both assessments that ultimately came to pass. But it wasn't just idle speak. Wayne's claim as the best rapper alive can be traced to a very specific ability he shows in "Bring It Back," one that Jay, too, was uniquely good at. Namely, Lil Wayne is able to rap in top form while still preserving the feel of a party song. And he does it in a way that ties back to the premise of the song. Here he is bringing it back to New Orleans and his own history in the third verse, while also rattling off amazing boasts and handling the beat like he's driving the foreign car he raps about:
Wizzle Fizzle, I keep it New Orleans
Sleepin' with women that sleep with the Hornets
Yup, a country boy in somethin' foreign
'Bout a hundred thousand more than what you're in
You're not 'bout it you freeze up like popsicles
Pop up on bicycles pop y'all like spot pimples
Yeah, Wizzle Fizzle, original Hot Bizzle
Still Lil Wayne but the dividend's not little
If that's not the kind of virtuosic performance capable of proving who the best rapper is, it's hard to say what would be. That's exactly what it took to bring it back to the bottom of the map. Soulja Slim would be proud.
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