1st things 1st this is Flex from the Party Boyz my homeboy Mitch is on the hook and hitting the 1st verse and my cousin is managing them (nepotism for the win) but you can’t deny the fact that it’s ctchy and hits in the whip/club
Hip Hop and African American English
Lil Wayne and his unique use of linguistics
When discussing Hip Hop there aren’t many figures who are more unique than Lil Wayne. Be it through his voice itself or the inflections therein, his style of dress, or the content and the delivery of the content that he produces it is safe to say that Lil Wayne stands out as an anomaly in the somewhat uniform world of hip hop. But no man is an island where does this distinction come from? I will examine the culture of New Orleans, hip hop from that region, and the south in general. I will also talk about where much of his subject matter comes from as well.
Lil Wayne or Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. was born in the Hollygrove section of Uptown New Orleans. The city of New Orleans is astoundingly unique in the nation of the United States. Serving as a melting pot even before it became a part of the United States the cities Spanish, French and Creole blacks were there intermingling and producing a culture unique to New Orleans. Once it was American land they were soon joined by Anglo’s, Italians, Irish people and African slaves. The ragtime music met with musical traditions of the Africans and produced the blues and Jazz which New Orleans is most well known for. By the time Lil Wayne was growing up however Jazz music wasn’t what was making New Orleans sing it was bounce music. Bounce music was birthed in the eighties and popularized in New Orleans in the early nineties. One of the early purveyors of bounce music was Byron Thomas who took the name Mannie Fresh for his DJ name while he was in an early bounce group New York Incorporated. Once that group broke up Mannie Fresh produced a song that became legendary in New Orleans for celebrating the local culture and traditions of second lining. The success of this single led to Mannie releasing the first major label rap album from a New Orleans artist. This is important because Mannie Fresh was a large early influence on Lil Wayne due to him being the chief architect of the Cash Money sound. But what set off New Orleans bounce music was “Drag Rap” from the Showboys but in New Orleans it was called Triggaman. “Drag Rap” was a record that was recorded in 1986 by the Hollis Queen duo The Showboys although it got them a record deal it never blew up in New York and the duo broke up and forgot about it until a Memphis promoter called them about doing a show in ninety four. Apparently the record had a second life down south where it became the basis for New Orleans bounce. Lil Wayne himself reprised this track with the new lyrics on the mixtape LilWeezyana
Bounce began in the 17th ward, the same ward that Lil Wayne was born in, when local rapper T.T. Tucker started chanting over the Triggaman break beat. Soon there were Bounce tracks popping up throughout New Orleans another early bounce rapper was Terius Gray who rapped under the name Juvenile due to the fact that he wasn’t yet eighteen. This is also important because Juvenile adopted a faux patois Jamaican accent which Lil Wayne would also later utilize in some of his raps. In 1993 after Bryan Williams was released from jail and they formed Cash Money Records label home of Lil Wayne throughout his recording career. Cash Money helped popularized “gangsta bounce” which merged gangster rap and bounce music. What happened however was that as Cash Money’s content became more gangster oriented its roster of artists lives started to mirror the music they were making with three of their artist being killed. With much of their roster of artist gone they soon signed Chris Dorsey and Dwayne Carter and named the duo The B.G.z with Chris Dorsey being Gangsta D and Dwayne Carter being Baby D. But Dwayne’s mother pulled him from the group when his grades began slipping. Soon Juvenile signed to Cash Money and with the release “Solja Rags” Cash Money found what would become the key to their success by making New Orleans bounce more accessible to the rest of the world by adding musicality to their tracks. This method of drawing deeply from the New Orleans bounce tradtion and making it much more palatable for the rest of the nation is what I would like to posit as the main component of Lil Wayne’s music that gives it such a unique flavor while also allowing it to be accessible to the average person.
Another influence on Lil Wayne was the French culture in New Orleans as evidenced in his verse on the “Its Me Snitches Remix” [Lil’ Wayne:]
‘Voulez-vous coucher avec moi bitches’
Southside baby, we outside baby, smokin’ on a spinach like Popeye baby
‘J’adore ah les femmes’, yeah I love my riches, ‘bonjour’ money and ‘au revoir’ bitches
‘Il ne petite’, we do it the biggest, and new nae rats mean we ain’t snitches
Now can ya tell me how good my French is: “voulez-vous coucher avec moi bitches?”
Another influence he draws from is Jamacaian patois as evidenced in his intro to Da Drought 3 “
[in Rastafarian voice]
Yeah…Rasta dem king of the jungle,
Dread lock swing down me back like Reppunsle.
My breddrin don’t swing. Dem packs in a bundle;
We’ll take your tings, sell it back to your uncle.
And we’ll make it rain till your dances will come true;
We’ll make it rain so you betta bring a swimsuit.
Alone when I came, but I’m leavin with them two;
Gyals give me brain, give me brain like temples.
And him got the game, game sharp like a pencil;
And if you want formage we can crash like a symbol.
And Let prepare me window, on my new sports coupe;
twelve horses in the hood, sittin’ on horse shoes.
Come from the land that Jesus walked through;
Sacrifice me life, man I bleed for me uncle.
Them no want to run, run with me them no want to;
Murder them, and the family them belong to.
Murda them. Man I murda them. Fuck a competition, man I murda them.
Man murda them. Man I murda them. Fuck a competition, man I murda them. [laughs]…
[in regular] and that is why i’m hot…
Its Da Drought 3, Welcome.
Another very large influence on Lil Wayne and his music was Jay-Z. After Lil Wayne released the album 500 Degrees he began releasing mixtapes with a neighborhood crew that he assembled named “Sqad Up” it was on these tapes that you began to see the evolution from a rapper who relied heavily upon the New Orleans aesthetic that characterized his music to a more universal and East Coast appealing lyricists. While Lil Wayne was always the most lyrically accomplished rapper in Cash Money he was never considered to be in the elite category. On the Sqad Up tape series he began using more complicated metaphors and onomatopoeia. Not only that but he also began to bend and pronounce words differently emphasizing syllables and vowels in totally unique and unusual ways. The aping of some of Jay Z’s cadences and delivery however overshadowed this development and led to charges of biting. While Lil Wayne definitely borrowed heavily from elements of Jay Z’s persona, and style I don’t think it would be wholly accurate to say that he totally bit his style from him.
Another influence that is totally overlooked when discussing Lil Wayne’s development is Mystikal a fellow New Orleanian rapper who was different than the rest of his counterparts. Mystikal brought a unique sound in his voice that coupled with his double time flow led to him using an economy of words and not overloading his bars with unnecessary verbiage. When discussing his growth as rapper and lyricists Wayne cites the fact that when reviewing his earlier work he noticed that he would sometimes pack in words that did not need to be there. He recognized that he was trying almost too hard to be overly lyrical and then recognized that sometimes by omitting words, simplifying and using an economy of words that he would then be able to improve his flow thus making his music more accessible, understandable and better. Although he does not credit Mystikal with influencing him due to there being a pre-existing beef between No Limit and Cash Money and also between former Cash Money artist UNLV and Mystikal that produced the top ten diss song “Drag ‘Em In The River”. Also Mystikal is somewhat of a discredited figure in New Orleans hip hop due to the revelation that he was a cheerleader in high school leading to rumors of homosexuality and his recent conviction of rape against his hair stylist. That given I find it hard to believe that someone who was once not only the most talented artist in New Orleans but also the most commercially successful at a time didn’t have some sort of affect upon Wayne’s development as a rapper.
Another overlooked influence upon Lil Wayne is the Dungeon Family rapper Cee - Lo Green, who Wayne has not only shouted out in songs but acknowledged as one of his favorite rappers. Cee Lo came into rap in the early nineties with the Goodie Mob, he was Andre 3000 of Outkast’s childhood friend, who released their debut album “Soul Food” to critical acclaim. While upon first glance their does not seem to be a lot to link Cee Lo and Lil Wayne upon closer inspection the similarities are undeniable. What may be the most obvious is the fact that both rappers have distinctively unique voices that allowed them to stand out from their collective rap groups. While Cee-Lo’s voice is a unique kind of high pitched squeaky voice, Lil Wayne’s is more of a mid-pitched croaky voice, but was is shared is that they utilize their voices to accentuate vowels in ways that are simply inaccessible to other rappers much in the same way that Eminem and Asher Roth’s voices allow them to do different things verbally. Another aspect that is shared by these two rappers is that they both seem able to employ a mastery of crafting hooks that are both sing songy but still grounded in the Hip Hop aesthetic akin to Nate Dogg but distinct in that they rarely break into full song on their hooks. Recently Lil Wayne has been something of a hook king in hip hop but the southern paragon is Cee Lo when it comes to hooks. They both use an economy of words and utilize their voices individuality to create hooks that are both simple but nuanced. Another shared aspect is their willingness to experiment within and without the genre of hip hop ,this trait is also shared by Cee Lo’s friend Andre’ 3000 who experimented similarly on The Love Below and subsequent releases, Cee Lo began singing more and more on Goodie Mob albums and on his solo debut “Cee Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections” he took it to another level with the bulk of the tracks being sung instead of rapped he even collaborated with Big John Popper and crooned a country song. This element only expanded on his follow up “Cee Lo Green is the Soul Machine” , with even more singing. This propensity for singing and experimentation expanded with his collaborative project with the producer Danger Mouse under the name of Gnarls Barkley. This willingness to experiment and use the uniqueness of their voices in full song is shared by Lil Wayne who followed a similar bare bones minimal sound on his single “Lollipop” that was used previously by Cee Lo on “Crazy” the chart topping single from the first Gnarls Barkley album “St. Elsewhere”, at times they both whisper and coo, whiles Cee Lo uses his powerful voice to punctuate his song, Lil Wayne is content in slinking in and out the track recognizing his limitations as a singer and maintaining an intimate vibe due to the difference in subject matter. Yet another similarity is their willingness to step into the arena of rock music to try and express themselves, while Cee Lo was content with having one or two rock tracks on their albums like Mos Def on “The New Danger”, Lil Wayne has opted to try and release a rock flavored cd titled “Rebirth”.
I posit that while the world sees Lil Wayne as something of an anomaly it is clear that much of his idiosyncrasies and habit of bending words musically is a direct extension of his New Orleans roots, Southern Roots, and Roots in Hip Hop