A Year of Lil Wayne: "Pray to the Lord"
This song could get you through anything.
Day 73: "Pray to the Lord" – Da Drought Is Over 3 , 2007
If there's any sound that is holy, to me it is the sound of chopped up soul on beats like this one. This stuff gives me goosebumps almost no matter what—for that reason I'll always consider guys like Beanie Sigel to be legends—but when Wayne catches the spirit on a beat like this, well, that's something else.
"Pray to the Lord" is a leak from the mid-2000s that appeared on Da Drought Is Over 3, one of several leak tapes from the Empire that took on the status of officialdom to fans. Over the past year, Streetrunner, who was one of Wayne's go-to producers from this era, has been re-releasing some of the gems from these leaks, remastered, on Soundcloud. Bless Streetrunner. This song is relevant because Noisey has a documentary out today called I Saw the Light, about visiting the country's biggest Christian music festival. You can watch it here. Lil Wayne is, to put it lightly, hardly a religious type. As he raps here, "I can't go to hell, 'cause I'd take over." He is more than anything an avatar of chaos, a playful imp catapulting through the moral order and upending institutionalized beliefs. I mean, he's a fucking alien, which doesn't fit into most cosmologies (word to Tom Cruise, though?).
And yet: Lil Wayne is not someone without a moral logic of his own, nor is he without a sense of spiritual grounding. Hanging over almost all of Wayne's music is a sense of his own impending mortality, particularly the image of his mother attending his funeral (see, among others, the end of "Mr. Carter"). "Pray to the Lord" is one of his most plausibly religious songs—there's a fan mashup with Lecrae—but its dominant theme is exactly that, one of concern over the way his mother and his children would react to his death, which he seems to see as near-inevitable. "I'm trying to live right, stay on the drum beat / but I'm in the fast lane, in the front seat / I wonder will I lose control of the Maserati / and hit some tree, just being young me?" he raps, channeling concern. He gets more contemplative, too: "And every time I see the sunshine / I drop down and give thanks at least one time."
Wayne is convinced of his mortality—understandable perhaps given the amount of drugs he was doing at this point in his life—but he's most concerned of its effect on his loved ones, not out of fear for himself. That's a moral code. And ultimately, this song is hopeful, with that backing vocal—whew, that voice—and its affirmation of that classic bedtime prayer. There's a determination here, and what is religion if not that? This song could get you through anything. Now let us pray.
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