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lil wayne

Posted by on 08/05/2011 at 11:31 AM

The Popdust Files: lil wayne, popdust 40

#10 Lil Wayne

A self-described “Martian” and possible genius, Lil Wayne is mainstream hip-hop’s resident oddball. Given his tongue-twisting rhyme schemes, out-there wordplay and street-honed hardness, Wayne’s recent pop success is seriously unexpected. Even though his biggest hit to date is an Auto-Tuned love jam, and despite his embarrassing attempts to remake himself into a rock star, Wayne’s brought a much-needed infusion of arty intensity to the increasingly dull world of big-money rap.

NOWNESS: Much of Wayne’s “now” status hinges on whether or not the much-anticipated but much-delayed Carter IV is actually coming out later this month as the rapper claims—and also, y’know, if it’s any good. But Weezy’s done a pretty good job of keeping his name out there in the meantime, releasing the self-explanatory Sorry for the Wait mixtape, putting on an excellent MTV Unplugged performance and releasing teaser single “How to Love,” a low-key, acoustic number that the public has nonetheless taken to pretty well, making it a left-field top ten hit earlier this summer. And oh yeah, the guest appearances: “Motivation,” “I’m On One,” “Hit the Lights,” “Look At Me Now,” “Dirty Dancer” and “Bow Chicka Wow Wow,” all from this year, all top 40 hits. Ain’t no thang. (17/20)

RESUME: Wayne first came to prominence as a squeaky teenager with the Cash Money crew, a New Orleans hip-hop conglomerate that ruled MTV and BET for a brief moment at the turn of the millennium. After that, he went underground, releasing much of his best music on free, Internet-distributed mixtapes. It was only with 2008’s Tha Carter III, the year’s biggest album, that Wayne finally became a major star, along with (as he endlessly put it) the best rapper alive. And then the guest appearances started, resulting in Wayne experiencing an almost unprecedented ubiquity in the top 100—between his own singles and guest appearances, the Martian appeared on an unthinkable 24 top 40 hits between the years 2008 and 2010. Weezy is pop music’s ultimate volume shooter: He might not stick every jumper, but before you know it, you turn around and he’s got 40 points with a quarter-and-a-half still to go. (10/10)

DRAMA: Now here’s the one arena other than rhyming in which Wayne has always excelled. After several years spent mostly in the studio, Wayne began attracting mucho unwanted attention from the law thanks to his interest in marijuana, prescription cough syrup and other controlled substances. In 2009, Wayne pleaded to possession of weed and a firearm that was not his own, and beginning in March 2010, he moved into bucolic Rikers Island, serving eight months of a yearlong bid while continuing to write rhymes. (Even prison can’t keep a craft-obsessed workaholic down.) (15/15)

THIRD-BEST SONG: Wayne made his rep with quasi-legal mixtape freestyles, but as far as songs you can grab off iTunes, we’d have to go with “A Milli,” the first single from Tha Carter III. The stark bang-bang-bang of the beat from producer Bangladesh is purposefully minimal and focuses all the attention on Wayne’s formidable mic skills. (9/10)

MUSIC VIDEOS: Wayne’s contribution to the art of music videos has been pretty negligible. Cash Money’s early videos were a weird, vivid mixture of ghetto griminess and high roller excess. Wayne’s solo videos have mostly been glossy, well-made, and thoroughly generic celebrations of the nice things (cars, clothes, sex) that stardom can buy. We should probably at least mention Wayne’s scene-stealing cameo in Destiny’s Child’s ultra-stylish, high-contrast clip for 2004’s “Soldier”—but if we did that, we’d probably have to mention his super-literal, impossibly dumb video for this year’s “6 Foot 7 Foot.” (5/10)

LIVE SHOW: Like most rap gigs, the music isn’t really the draw, and there’s not much of a stage show in the lasers-and-costume-changes sense. You‘re there for Wayne‘s boundless energy and watching him shake his dreads and spit high-velocity rhymes, as he has throughout his successful recent I Am Still Music Tour. (3/5)

NON-MUSICAL VENTURES: Wayne spent several years pursuing a never-completed college degree. But he seems more interested in music than opening a club or promoting an energy drink, especially when compared to other hip-hop heroes of his stature. (2/5)

FASHION/HAIR: Wayne’s got a pretty low-key fashion sense; he’s expensive and stylish without being outlandish. The dreadlocks are about the closest he comes to a style trademark, though they are admittedly singular. (3/5)

HOTNESS: Like a lot of guys who’ve lived hard for most of their lives, Wayne seems prematurely aged, more weathered than a 28-year-old should probably be. He’s in excellent shape for a guy with a reportedly serious cough syrup jones, but he also covers that body (and his face) with plenty of gnarly tattoos, so your mileage may vary. (6/10)

WHO THEY’VE DATED: Wayne was a father by the time he turned 15, but his relationships have been mostly conducted outside of the paparazzi’s line of fire. Despite being as sex-obsessed as most rappers, he’d rarely been seen stepping out in public with any lady friends, celebrity or otherwise—at least until recently, when he was spotted cavorting around Miami with an anonymous hottie, later identified as the mysterious “Dhea.” (3/5)

FAN CRAZINESS: Wayne‘s fans, especially the critics, are more annoying in their zealotry than crazy. Seriously, listening to the way they talk about his mixtapes you‘d think they cured diseases, repaired broken economies and revealed the true name of God. (3/5)

TOTAL SCORE: 76

—Jess Harvell

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