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A Year of Lil Wayne: Demolition Freestyle Pt. 1

Wayne's Auto-Tune innovation sounds like the musical manifestation of codeine/promethazine syrup.

by Kyle Kramer and Alex Russell
May 1 2017, 8:00pm

Lil Wayne listening to "Demolition Freestyle Pt. 1" in 'Tha Carter' documentary / Screenshot

Day 223: "Demolition Freestyle Pt. 1" feat. Lil Wayne – Gudda Gudda, Guddaville, 2009

Today, noted rap writer, Atlanta documentarian, and haver of a Good Twitter account Alex Russell joins A Year of Lil Wayne to offer some thoughts on an oft-overlooked deep cut Wayne verse. There is an entire subgenre of warped Auto-Tune rap (think Young Thug, Chief Keef, and Future) that can trace its origins to this era of Lil Wayne, and Alex is one of the leading chroniclers of said subgenre, so I advise listening closely to what he has to say.

If you asked me to pick a song that sounds like the musical manifestation of codeine/promethazine syrup, my first thought would be to ask if you are the police. But my second would be to point you toward Lil Wayne's part of Gudda Gudda's "Demolition Freestyle Pt.1." It was made famous by its appearance in 2009's The Carter documentary, where it exists in between scenes of international hotel hopping and interviews that accompanied Wayne's Carter III era.

Given that he'd just reached the pinnacle of commercial success, where he was moving album copies by the metric ton, you might think Wayne would take a breather after Tha Carter III. But if the documentary indicated anything, it was that Wayne breathes in raps. At least at that time, they overflowed. He'd set up a makeshift booth in every hotel room and just freestyle effortlessly and endlessly, armed only with a styrofoam cup. And so at a time when so-called "Auto-Tune rappers" were being viciously criticized for a lack of lyrical sophistication, Wayne was running circles around all the purists and simultaneously experimenting (dare I say innovating!) with the pitch correction software as a filter. What resulted were dense bars seeping through a viscous layer of mud. "Demolition," a slowed down version of Jeezy's "Get Ya Mind Right" instrumental, crawled along at the perfect pace to showcase these talents.

Consider a close reading: "Like Eli I'm from New Orleans, I'm a Giant in this bitch. Move the 'G' and add an 'S' and put the 'I' before the 'N,' and put the 'A' in front of that, and that's what I am to the end." Here he was manipulating the alphabet as dexterously as Papoose but with infinitely more creativity. But then the story doesn't even end there: "That's a Saint motherfucker, simplify it for them," he continues, anticipating the listener's inability to catch up to what he's saying but graciously bringing us all back up to speed. He goes on, still referencing that first bar about New Orleans, "where your funeral comes with a second line at the end." This is him invoking his home city's unique "second line" culture, a tradition of brass band parades, as a point of civic pride. "Yeah, but you won't be second lining with them." Wait, what? This celebration doesn't involve you, his interlocutor? Why not? "'Cause you'll be in the hearse that's behind all of them." Oh, because you're the dead guy. How unfortunate for you.

This type of elaborate picture painting is made that much more compelling by the sheer casualness of Wayne's delivery. It's like he is just walking you down to the executioner and talking you through your own gruesome demise with the unconcerned tone of someone discussing the weather, detail by detail. And this is typical of Wayne: Possessed with a chess grandmaster's capacity to think eight bars ahead, he'll always tie back into the original sentiment of the first bar, gift-wrapping the whole section without ever losing the beat. Wayne's genius often comes across in his ability to say something that may sound wrong or confusing at first before he either corrects it in real time or forces you to understand why it wasn't wrong in the first place. He can bend the rules of grammar and spelling to suit his own stylistic intentions, which to me is more impressive than rhyming a thousand syllable structures together in MLA format. Wayne can make you feel dumb, but once you do finally get it, after the fourth or fifth rewind, the lyrics become that much more satisfying and memorable. He'll have people turning over the word "lasagna" in their heads for years to come.

Follow Alex Russell on Twitter.

Follow Kyle Kramer on Twitter.