This Is Why You Should Be Flipping Out Over Lil Wayne's "Magnolia" Freestyle

Incredible rapping? Shots at Birdman? A moment of glory for Pierre Bourne? Here's a brief history of the 'Nolia.

|
Jul 5 2017, 11:30pm

Day 287: "Magnolia (Freestyle)" – single, 2017

Stunna number blocked
This New Orleans Milly Rock
Let 'A Milli' rock
Me and woah don't really rock
Evidently not
Tell them it's the Roc
In New York let Jigga rock
I'm higher than my socks
I'm twisted like my 'locks
Big up to The LOX

Lil Wayne just shared four new songs like a warning shot. They're all exciting—the Jeezy single could be a monster—but one of them immediately stands out, for a few reasons: a freestyle over Playboi Carti's "Magnolia." Like Wayne's "Show Me What You Got" freestyle or the entirety of the album 500 Degreez, it's a message, and it's maybe more pointed than he's ever been. After two years of nothing but features, this is a hell of a return.

"Magnolia" is an obvious freestyle choice for Lil Wayne because it's a titanic dinosaur's skeleton of a beat and the obvious ahead-of-the-curve rap hit of the moment. And Lil Wayne built his career spitting over other people's ahead-of-the-curve rap hits. It would be a smart move for him in any circumstances, a savvy embrace of the youth as well as a subtle reminder that Wayne can rap circles around any of these newcomers without even a modicum of effort.

But it's especially fitting because of the line that gives the song its name: In Carti's original, he raps "shootin' like a soldier, like I'm from Magnolia." It's a reference to the late rapper Soulja Slim, a native of the Magnolia Projects in New Orleans and a local hero who you definitely know about because of his song "Slow Motion" with fellow Magnolia native Juvenile. Tragically, Slim was shot and killed before "Slow Motion" was released, so we'll never know where his career might have gone. Wayne famously shouts out Soulja Slim on "Go DJ"—but back to the 'Nolia. Juvenile, of course, was signed to Cash Money Records, a deal that he got in no small part because the founders of the label happened to be a pair of brothers from the same neighborhood. Their names were Ronald and Bryan Williams, although you may know them better as Slim and Baby a.k.a. Birdman a.k.a. Stunna, the guy whose number Lil Wayne raps about blocking at the beginning of this freestyle.

Birdman and Wayne, of course, have been embroiled in a years-long legal battle over the past and future of Lil Wayne's music, which has resulted in, among other things, the indefinite delay of Tha Carter V. Recently, Wayne has been using some of his time onstage to shout out, along with the usual "fuck you"s to Birdman, Roc Nation, JAY-Z's talent management agency. Wayne has always been a fan of Jay's, and he almost signed to Roc-A-Fella back in 2004 before staying on with Cash Money. The latest news seems to suggest that Roc Nation and presumably JAY-Z's talented corporate lawyers might be offering a way out for Wayne. So when he raps, "tell them it's the Roc / In New York let Jigga rock" and closes the song out "Wait for Carter V to drop / it's the it's the Roc! / tell the bitches it's the Roc / I'm throwing up the Roc," it might be news that, uh, Tha Carter V is finally on the way via some sort of Roc Nation deal.

That would be a devastating blow to Birdman. But in the game of rap, this freestyle itself is a hell of a chess move because it's hard to imagine public opinion not siding with Wayne after he casually demolishes the current best beat in rap (truly, since this song came out, haven't we all been wishing for nothing more than Wayne freestlying over it?). "I ain't from the 'Nolia, but Tunechi still a soldier / and rest in peace to Soulja 'cause he was real Magnolia," Wayne raps, with the suggestion that certain people are not in fact real Magnolia and that, moreover, Wayne is quite happy putting the necessary respect on the neighborhood's name until the rest of world can get in line.

And what better way to do that than a punishing sprint of a rap that immediately calls to mind the stream-of-consciousness chaos of the freestyles on Da Drought 3 or No Ceilings? Wayne questions ass implants, blows by in the pineapple coupe, quips that he has "so many hos they call me John Thotty," and brags about his unreleased OVO Jordans. He pokes fun at rappers bragging about their bags full of questionable amounts of "bricks." His flow might be described as "upgraded Playboi Carti," extrapolating the short burst spaz-rap of the current generation of artists out into a coherent verse structure. That gives us the best part of the song, which comes right after his opening salvo and details his prison bid before promising good things to come and a rude awakening for at least one guy:

I did a show with Ja
(yo Pierre you wanna come out here?)
Did a show with Ja
Soon as I left the spot
Pulled over by the cops
Them bitches found my glock
They threw me in the box
Eight months tops
Staring at the clock
Commissary stocked
Man when Carter V drop
A nigga jaw gon' drop
The bitches jaws gon' drop
And then the calls gon' drop
Hello?

Does Lil Wayne have a Carter V label news surprise ready for Birdman? Whatever is in store, "Magnolia" is a hit job worthy of Mr. Carter (either one, apparently, word to Roc Nation), and it's a pretty powerful suggestion: Wayne, in some form or another, is back to his old tricks. You'd be advised to take notice.

Follow Kyle Kramer on Twitter.

Stories