Lil Wayne was the first rapper of the new millennium who dared to improve right before our eyes. Instead of quietly honing his craft, he worked out the kinks in startling, messy leaps over an endless string of free releases. His warts-and-all mixtape rampage changed rap standard practices forever; in his omnivorous wake, self-editing has gone the way of such other hip-hop anachronisms as “the rap group” and “writing your lyrics down on paper.”
Listening to Lil Wayne became a thrillingly uncertain proposition. For every bottled-lightning leap he made, you’d get at least one groaner pun, clunker near-metaphor, or mystifying nonsense. In commemoration of The Carter IV, we thought we’d take a look at some his more “whuh?”-worthy gems he’s left in his path. Some are impressive-sounding pseudo-profundities. Some are forehead-smackingly dumb puns. And some are inspired flights of lunacy. All of them attest to one of the most feverishly creative brains in rap working overtime.
DISCLAIMER: Because Lil Wayne has worked outside the confines of the conventional albums as often as he works within them, many of these lines come from Internet-only releases. Follow the breadcrumb trail below.
“Gee golly gigabytes in a gorilla’s hand”
â€” “Famous,” from Lil Weezyana
“Famous” is one of Wayne’s most playfully nonsensical songs ever, set to a hollow clunk of a beat that you could play with a single drumstick on a plastic bucket. He giggles audibly as he tests the limits of what gangsta rap will let him get away with, stretching out sounds like taffy and often abandoning sense altogether. This gleeful string of Dr. Seussian word-salad is a great example, especially considering he takes a hairpin turn back into violence with the next line’s “To the side of a nigga’s face like I don’t give a damn.”
“Dear Mr. Toilet, I’m the shit/ Got these other haters pissed because my toilet paper thick/ But trip and that 40 make a chip/ Out of potato-head wimp, and like ranch, I dip”
â€” “Money On My Mind,” from Tha Carter II
Certainly not Weezy’s most dignified moment, this bit of fourth-grader humor and silly potato-chip wordplay nonetheless caught the attention, indignant or no, of everyone who heard it, on The Carter II.
“As the crooked world revolves/ Love spelled backwards is ‘EVOL’/And ‘evil’ spelled backward is ‘live’ or ‘live’/ So when death comes you better have life to give”
â€” “That’s Not Love,” from Fabolous’s The S.O.U.L. Tape
Wayne seems stuck somewhere between the Scrabble and OUIJA boards here.
“Beef! Yes! Chest! Feet! Tags! Bags! Blood! Sheets!/ Yikes, yeeks, great Scott/ Storch, can I borrow your yacht?”
â€” “We Takin Over” freestyle, from Da Drought 3
A personal favorite of mine, and a demonstration of where Wayne’s lily-pad-hopping mind can take you – from a forensic scientist’s lab to a celebrity producer’s fat white yacht in a few syllables, with a Hanna Barbera-ish “yeeks!” along the way.
“After me there will be nothing /I am legend/ and I Will Smith”
â€” “Let The Beat Build,” from Tha Carter III
A head-scratcher celebrity reference and a pun on the double meaning of “Will/will” that dead-ends against the unavoidable question: What exactly does it mean to “smith?”
“I aim at your moon and get my howl on”
â€” “Cannon,” from Dedication 2
This sounds menacing and vivid, for sure, and clearly contains the implied threat of some type of gun-related violence. But it could just as easily be a puzzling/disturbing sexual metaphor.
“I have just swallowed the key to the house of pain/ Now I’m stuck here to deal with the house’s pain”
â€” “I’m Me,” from The Leak EP
Wayne’s a pathological personifier – the instrumentals he raps on cry out for sympathy, his money runs like it has legs – and now, it appears, his house is in pain. Or something.
I think about more than I forget/ But I don’t go around fire expecting not to sweat”
â€” “No Love,” from Eminem’s Recovery
A typical piece of Wayne’s “yearbook signing” wisdom, intoned with the gravest of seriousness for maximum “wait…WHAT?” effect.
“Benjamin Franklin on X, how that cash roll/ And that’s right, them mils do, like damp clothes”
â€” “Maybach Music 2,” from Rick Ross’s Deeper Than Rap
“Them mils do” = “mildew.” Like “damp clothes.” GET IT? Let’s move on.
“I sweat money and the bank is my shower/ and that my pistol is my towel/ So stop sweatin’ me, cowards”
â€” “Shoot Me Down,” from Tha Carter III
An absolutely impossible-to-parse gym-as-bank scenario, with a towel subbing in, extremely awkwardly, for a pistol. The mental imagery inspired here is truly indescribable.
“I look in the flames, and see the hotter me/ But how come I’m still colder than commonly?”
â€” “Run This Town” freestyle, from No Ceilings
The Weezy school of Thermodynamics boils down to one fundamental, existential question: How is it possible to be this hot and cold simultaneously? This is a particularly convoluted take on the problem, stumbling hard on the clunky phrasing “colder than commonly.”
“I’m rare like Mr. Clean with hair”
â€” “Phone Home,” from Tha Carter III
And then, sometimes, we just say things.
“I slipped in her inkwell/ I saw jellyfish and seashells/ No further details”
â€” “This Is What I Call Her,” from Dedication 2
Maybe my favorite single Lil Wayne lyric of all time. Evocative, bewildering, sexual and funny – the “no further details” demurral gets me every time. Who needs “further details” when we’ve already seen jellyfish and seashells?
“I am leanin’ like a three-legged lion”
â€” “Top Back” freestyle, from Da Drought 3
In which Southern slang gets run through the Weezy funhouse. “Leaning” is code for drinking promethazine syrup, and Wayne dreams up a particularly Dr. Doolittle way of conveying just how hard he’s leaning here.
“Toss you like a fruit salad, strawberry grape ya”
â€” “Fireman,” from Tha Carter II
One of the earliest signs that Lil Wayne was about to roam to some weirder/uncharted places in gangsta rap, this threat from Tha Carter II‘s street single left you scratching your head; it was both highly un-menacing and wildly homoerotic. But it was memorable.
“I’m a venereal disease/ Like a menstrual, bleed/ Through the pencil and leak/ On the sheet of the tablet in my mind/ ‘Cuz I don’t write shit, ‘cuz I ain’t got time.”
â€” “A Milli,” from Tha Carter III
“I have just boarded a plane without a pilot/ And violets are/ Blue/ Roses are red, daisies are yellow/ The flowers are dead.”
â€” “I Feel Like Dying“, from the Internet
One of Lil Wayne’s most hauntingly evocative drug songs, “I Feel Like Dying,” was famously litigated out of official existence by the song’s sample source, Karma-Ann Swanepoel. It has remained a cult hit of Wayne’s, however, due to the plaintive sample and Wayne’s delivery, which feels like it has the beat, and reality, barely within its numb fingertips. The quoted passage is typical, and looks like stoned rambling on paper: the enlivening secret is in his delivery, which is halting, quizzical, and then, on “the flowers are dead,” genuinely heartbroken. You will get chills you will not be able to account for.
“Life is the bitch/ And death is her sister/ Sleep is the cousin/ What a fuckin’ family picture.”
â€” “6 Foot 7 Foot,” from Tha Carter IV
Wayne loves to cast intangibles – life, death, the rap game – as women. Then, he can plop them into a familiar scenario (life is a bitch, or “Sleep is the cousin of death”) and rend the clichÃ© into a frenzied hash. See above, which, for some reason, brings the fading Polaroid from Back To the Future to my mind.
“And when I was 5 my favorite movie was the Gremlins/ Ain’t got shit to do with this, I just thought that I should mention.”
â€” “Ride 4 My Niggas,” from Da Drought 3
Another much-discussed Wayne line, and a good example of his eagerness to jump away from a topic as soon as he’s lit on it. A second before this out-of-nowhere digression, we were standing with him over a pot of bubbling crack. Now we’re watching Gremlins with him. He just thought that he should mention.
“Wanna walk in my shoes?/ You need 10 socks”
â€” “Zoo,” from Da Drought Is Over 5
Ten socks? So five pairs, right? Surely this is an exaggeration.
“I’m a crazy-ass star like a fuckin’ asterisk”
â€” “Back On My Grizzy,” from Da Drought 3
A spit-take line, at once completely ridiculous and genuinely surprising. At the height of his powers, he would reel of a dozen or so of giggly punch-lines these in two minutes’ time.