Lil Wayne: The Keith Richards of Our Time?
Eminem, Keith Richards, Lil Wayne on the November 2011 cover of GQ
During a certain period in time, any given date between 2003 and 2007, when Lil Wayne decided to fully abandon his cartoon-gangster image, the one who sported a Cash Money medallion almost everywhere he went and whose teeth were ripe for a jeweler's appraisal, into the hardest-working man in rap.
From the moment Wayne's flow improved on those Sqad Up mixtapes to his free-association apex on Dedication 2and Da Drought 3, he was rap's most celebrated hedonist. We figured his string of creativity that reached into whatever made sense to him via nonsequiturs and outer-worldly similes, and he could never be burned out.
Much like Keith Richards.
I'm not one to say that Wayne's legacy as a rapper can match Richards' legacy as a member of one of the greatest bands in the history of the universe, but it's quite clear how similar the two of them can be.
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We make jokes about Richards' probably holding the cure for every disease known to man inside of his slightly frail body, and his drug consumption has made for some of the greatest reads in rock history; his book "Life" is pretty much a clear example of this. Weezy is just as frail, if not moreso, and held together by whatever strange mix of weed and codeine syrup.
Lil Wayne, rap's supernova, saw the beginning of the end in July 2007, when he caught a gun charge in New York City. Since then, the star has burned out with each release, making sporadic revivals on "6 Foot 7 Foot," the Drake see-saw "Ransom" and maybe a few more tracks.
He was our hyperviolent Martian, but now he's sputtering around on what should be a celebrated tenth solo effort, making constant dick jokes and reminders of his sexual prowess. Simple as can be -- Lil Wayne has hit that same plateau we all thought Keith Richards hit a long time ago, before he became revitalized and eternally known as rock's God of Life.
I Am Not A Human Being 2 shows everything that might be considered bad about Lil Wayne, from lethargic lyricism to moments where his brain goes completely neutral. It finally happened, what we feared for the longest with Weezy and thanks to drugs we now realize what made Weezy great in the first place.
It's a sad thing to wish some of our favorite artists were on drugs, but the timeline of musicianship from Wayne between his jail stint and now is startling.
While in his present slightly sober state, he has returned to being as predictable as his pre-Squad Up days. That Wayne, the one trying to reclaim his mantle as "Best Rapper Alive"? Can't rap.
Richards pretty much became one of the voices of my hippie/funk/rap childhood, the cranky guy who helped give Mick Jagger that little extra when Mick would deliver his lip service to the ladies on a nightly basis. But once Richards mellowed out and got clean, you saw how drugs had ravaged his body. Not Mickey Rourke post-boxing bad, but still.
Weezy is going through it the same way, although it's worse thanks to those seizures and bouts of epilepsy. He may not seem like a Martian, even dismissive and erratic, claiming I Am Not a Human Being 2 is his "bum ass" album. But mortality, undefeated since the dawn of time, is now looking Weezy dead in the face.
Our last great American rock star is slowly losing his grip on things -- and he can only look at one of our favorite rock legends to see where to go from here.
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