Point/Counterpoint: Is Lil Wayne's Newfound Sobriety a Good or Bad Thing?
|Weezy F. Baby|
And yet something doesn't quite sit right. For the man who once composed a love song to his purple drank, this is roughly the equivalent of stripping Bill Gates of his keyboard, or Wonder Woman of her bracelets.
There are few artists more associated with substance abuse than Weezy; in the years before his incarceration, he was almost never seen without his Styrofoam cup of prescription cough syrup, and he famously refused to go into recording studios (or even hotels) where they wouldn't let him smoke his weed.
But rather than just a source of recreation, drugs informed Wayne's musical style itself. After a relatively forgettable stint in Cash Money super-group Hot Boys as a teenager -- when he was presumably sober most of the time, and outshone by Juvenile and B.G -- he came into his own as a blunted twentysomething, dropping hazy, out-of-body-sounding, ultra-vivid rhymes.
Sure, they were often self-indulgent and full of the faux-deep rambling common among stoners, but that was part of the fun. His burnt timbre, croaking cadences and disjointed flow made you feel a contact high. Yes, he could be mercurial and egomaniacal -- he once insisted an interviewer speak to him the way he would to Martin Luther King Jr. -- but, just as often, he played the whimsical, delightful oddball.
His eight months behind bars, however, have changed everything. While in prison, Wayne took to actually writing down his lyrics; he'd previously just recited them off of the top of his head. On "6'7"," the first single off of his hotly anticipated upcoming album Tha Carter IV, his rapping is crisper and quicker, his voice has lost some of its raspy edge, and his lyrics are obviously more considered (whether they're better, however, is debatable).
His sober performances, meanwhile, are noticeably different. Reports from early dates of his "I'm Still Music" tour, which comes to the American Airlines Center tomorrow night, speak to a particularly energized Wayne.
MTV News notes that he appears "agile," and "trimmer" than before prison. The word "lucid" has also been used.
But is this what we want? Has sobriety infused Wayne with renewed creative vitality, or has it stripped him of the spark that made him so much fun before? One could really argue both points here, which is what I will hereby do after the jump.
Point: A Sober Wayne Is An Awesome Wayne
Sure, musicians on drugs are romanticized, but they also quite often end up dead. I think we can all agree that codeine-promethazine drank is not part of a balanced diet, and that a healthy Wayne beats no Wayne at all.
In fact, let's face it -- all the stuff about how he's an alien, how he does things for his "click" like Adam Sandler, and how the police are only "logic" for patrolling black neighborhoods looking for crack dealers has gotten old.
Plus, smoking weed while you're recording, and then proceeding to quote vague statistics from an unspecified "white guy" on TV -- as he did on Tha Carter III's "Dontgetit" -- is pretty much the definition of lazy music-making.
For the first time in a while, he nowadays seems completely focused on his craft, and his new stuff sounds pretty on-point. "6'7"" is sharp, clear and -- more often than not -- clever. "Glass half empty, half full, I'll spill ya/Try me and run into a wall, outfielder," is good. And "woman of my dreams, I don't sleep so I can't find her," is funny, too. Regardless of what you think of the song, it's clear he has actually planned out what he's going to say, rather than just spewing whatever bogus epiphanies filter into his dome.
There's also evidence he's no longer such a colossal prick. Fat Joe has said he's funnier these days, and Nicki Minaj insists he's nicer. "I guess when you're not getting high, you have to deal with reality and I think he likes his reality now," she told Tim Westwood. Wayne's days of megalomania seem to be over.
Like all great artists eventually need to do, he's ready to evolve.