Sunday, August 29, 2010

What the game's been missing

I was having a conversation with an old friend of Muzjiks, the Color Commentator, about how unbelievable it is that Lil Wayne was able to do what he did with The Carter III. Despite the pirating of the internet leak, the general migration away from physical formats toward digital, the proliferation of music blogs that provide easy access to mp3s for even the most computer illiterate, and all the other socioeconomic factors contributing to the death of the CD, Mr. Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. sold one million copies in the first week. That's simply unheard of nowadays. Could you imagine if—all other things being equal in terms of public music taste—Weezy dropped C3 in the '90s? There's no doubt in my mind that we'd be talking about it in the same context as Thriller and Dark Side of the Moon in terms of album sales.

Even so, like any album with that kind of sales success, C3 was timely, full of genius singles, but ultimately just a downright solid album from start to finish. Case and point: play just about any song off of that release at a party—even non-singles like "3 Peat," "Phone Home," or "Let the Beat Build"—and I promise you that over 95% of people will know the lyrics. That's why you don't see artists like Soulja Boy or Jay Sean selling records like Wayne. Sure, they'll go platinum, but they won't reach the stratospheric heights that Wayne did because, when it comes down to it, the collective ears of the public still want an album.

Another illustrative example: If you had a pulse in 2004, you knew J-Kwon's "Tipsy." The song was massive—you'd hear it four times just flipping through radio stations on any given car ride. Now, just for shits and giggles, check out this tracklist to the album on which "Tipsy" appeared. I dare you to tell me truthfully that you've heard of any other song on there. Although J-Kwon has been relegated to the mashup treatment and one-hit-wonder status, in the summer of 2004, he was it. No one bigger in the music biz than this fake ID-toting rapper who experienced a meteoric rise to fame. How many albums did he sell, you ask? 1.6 million to date.

Arguably the crowning achievement of C3 is the unrelenting "A Milli." It's gotten remixed after mashuped after freestyled over the past two years, but few ever recapture the song's original charm. However, with the virtuosic Flying Lotus on the boards, a helium-saturated Weezy is introduced to a fumbling beat that's kept from collapsing on itself by spitfire rhymes alone. You almost think that if Wayne stops rapping, somehow the whole track will devolve into cacophony. And the best part? The masterful FlyLo tests it out, dissolving the beat entirely at the 1:31 mark. The listener wonders whether the Best Rapper Alive has failed, whether he was unable to keep all the instrumental plates spinning, but then, at 1:43, he cobbles the beat back together with a triumphant "You ain't got shit." Did you really think Dr. Carter was going to lose a patient?

Lil Wayne: A Milli (Flying Lotus Remix) [alt]


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