Thumb Wars: Lil Wayne

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Best Rapper Alive?

Raj and Derek duke it out over the merits of Weezy.

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Love Him: There are many reasons why I shouldn't like Lil Wayne-case in point, his rock-rap fusion album, Rebirth, which came out Tuesday-and I have always had trouble figuring out why I do. All I know is that when the highly anticipated Tha Carter III came out in 2008, I played it constantly. I tried in vain to figure out the mystery of why my friends hated this guy while I loved his music.

Eventually, I figured out that the people who dislike Weezy generally do so for one reason: His music does not fit their idea of what hip-hop should be. And that's perfectly acceptable. But as someone who didn't seriously listen to hip-hop until the age of 18, I never really had a rigid mold for the genre. Lil Wayne's music is just, well, music, and it's catchy, clever and cathartic music. And it seems so effortless.

Or at least you would think so, considering the man's output. Lil Wayne releases music at a rate matched by few other artists today, and most of it is more than adequate (his recent No Ceilings mixtape is on constant rotation for me right now). There is something to be said about an artist who produces and releases great music that often.

And maybe his greatness is something that doesn't need explanation. Do I know what makes a bumping song like "Tha Mobb" so moving? Or why "Comfortable" often gets stuck in my head? The production is always great, Wayne's timbre is constantly fascinating, but he has something intangible that I may never understand. And sure, this rock album is a godawful idea, but we all make mistakes. If the Rolling Stones can have their Dirty Work, Lil Wayne can have his Rebirth.

-Rajesh Srinivasan

Hate Him: I am the best writer alive! There, I have forced readers to consider this claim (to which they will invariably sing "Faaaaallllseee"). But just by entering the debate, regardless of my talent, my greatness must be taken into consideration. Lil Wayne is excessively guilty of framing the debate of his music in exactly this manner. At least Nas uses the same method to talk about hip-hop in a substantive way ("Journalism is dead!" Oh wait ... shit).

But the existence of a song titled "Best Rapper Alive" is extremely upsetting, perhaps festerous. Lil Wayne shamelessly and consciously devotes energy to marketing his image, brand and legacy in his lyrics. Some rhymes are so self-congratulatory that they sound like a versed reading of Robert E. Lee's apologist memoirs.

Brag rapping has been around for a while. But never before has someone with such skill gone to such heights to reassure the populace that they are the best. Lil Wayne is talented; he's got an outstanding control of both the English and Creole languages; his ability to construct tangential rhymes and connect them is awesome. But that cleverness is only potential as long as Mr. Wayne chooses to forgo significance.

His music is devoid of any character traits beyond playfulness, is morally detached and tends to wholly re-appropriate entire genres without care. Perhaps that's why his music resonates so widely in the aughts. In the Age of Hipsters, where style has been divorced from substance and sincerity is nowhere to be seen, Lil Wayne is easy to identify with. He gives the exterior impression of hip-hop without that annoying baggage of a willful soul.

-Derek Sagehorn


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