Lil Wayne used to be the "Best Rapper Alive." He isn't anymore.
Before the 2000s were a decade old, Wayne ran through the game. Rap wasn't hard for him. Dope lines flowed from his mouth like magma from Mount Doom: steady, unpredictable and hot.
Wayne was strange; his connections were looney. He mashed the names of boxer Hector Kamacho and Macho Man Randy Savage.
He said the seasons were hating on him, "Real Gs move in silence like lasagna" and a million other lines that only he could make you believe were sweet.
Maybe his mind was disintegrating after marinating in syrup, but still. Wayne hooked you with a raw look into his stream of conscious.
He's the James Joyce of hip-hop. He made rapping, something that is incredibly difficult, look like the easiest thing in the world.
Wayne was a Martian, but, because he made things look so easy, he was dismissed by casual fans. Because of his long dreadlocks, excessive chains and intricate skin art, "Le Wrong Generation" made him a caricature of everything that was wrong with rap.
But, Wayne wasn't wrong; he was just difficult to understand.
Despite the attempt to put Wayne in the "bad rapper" box, Wayne has shattered the one-size-fits-all thug image.
He took online classes in psychology from the University of Phoenix; he likes tennis; he cited Nirvana as a major influence; he skated; he wanted to play guitar.
Wayne is an originator; just look who came after him.
Wiz Khalifa made the prolific stoner aspect of Wayne into his whole persona. Tyga jacked the insatiable appetite for pussy, but with a third of the creativity. But, the next Wayne can't be an imitator because Wayne never imitated anyone.
A more interesting comparison is Young Thug. Thug is like if you swabbed Wayne's DNA and frothed it in a test tube with the newest sonic possibilities and all the organic compounds necessary for life.
Thug is weird like Wayne. He's got the dreads (though, his are blond); he's incomprehensible (but instead of the mental rabbit holes, it's speaking in tongues like Eric Cartman throwing a temper tantrum); he's got the face tattoos, the grill and the skinny jeans. His Twitter profile picture is him kicking back on a John Deere lawnmower in a mall.
Thug's music isn't like Wayne's music, and so, there's outrage as he's about to drop his album, "Carter 6." The album is set to release on Apr. 17 (his mom's birthday), which is a nice date, but also probably before Wayne puts out "Tha Carter V."
Like a lot of what Thug does, it doesn't make a ton of sense and seems disrespectful to hip-hop's past.
Wayne has been exceptionally unchill about Young Thug's release. Last night he said, "Y’all let him know I said fuck ‘em. Stop listening to songs of n****s who pose naked on their motherf*cking album covers."
His reaction is a teensy hypocritical as Wayne has been shirtless for over a decade now. But, his adopted father is a megalomaniac who quickened the release of Thug's album while delaying Wayne's.
Never forget, Birdman and Wayne kissed each other on the mouth for everyone to see. There's a lot of complicated emotions going on here.
But "Tha Carter V" probably won't matter. Wayne is an ancient 32; music has passed him. He apologized for making us wait, but it was kind of underwhelming. His future career will probably be inheriting Snoop's legacy as America's dread-wearing, giggling, novelty rap legend.
In his later years, he's gone some places we weren't willing to follow; he's wack now. And, the hype surrounding "Tha Carter V" is more about Birdman being a dick than the anticipation for what Wayne will do next.
Mortality is hard, but the darkness comes for us all.
Young Thug isn't the problem here. He's a young dude who has probably heard every Lil Wayne song several times. Say what you will about plagiarism, but naming his album "Carter 6" got it more attention than any other name possibly could have.
And, if he continues the series, it will probably continue to have that effect.
It's just so much more fun when rappers, or any entertainer, relinquish the top spot at the right time. You want to be Larry Bird and Magic Johnson laughing as they pass the torch to Michael Jordan. You don't want to be ol' grumpy Shaq.
Wayne sounds salty, and there's no reason for him to be. He's had a top-10 career. He can step aside to let others shine. The high priest of Young Money could say a brief benediction for Rich Gang.
Maybe Young Thug isn't the next Lil Wayne, but he's certainly the newest threat to the defenders of "real hip-hop." A quick scroll through the comments section on Thug's Facebook page will make you ashamed to be human.
For whatever reason, Tupac is the most cited source of why Young Thug sucks. It's hard to imagine 'Pac caring, like, at all, but it makes sense.
Tupac, unlike Wayne or Thug, is easy to understand; his contradiction is clear. He's a thug, but a peacemaker. He's "Hit 'Em Up" and "Dear Mama." We're all aggressive and loving, and Pac repackaged our emotions in an infinitely cooler package.
Thug is not clear. He's muddled and likable, but not super relatable. As his Facebook shows, when people don't understand someone immediately, they'd rather call that person stupid than entertain the possibility that the world-famous multi-millionaire is onto something.
His slurring melisma is modern scatting; it's pure emotion. If Wayne was the ego, Thug's the id. He has more success than he probably imagined possible, but he still wants more. And, he doesn't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
On "Lifestyle," he talks about boredom with everything he's ever wanted: "Hop up in my bed full of forty bitches and yawnin'."
It's a melancholy party anthem. It's the blues of a man with everything he is supposed to want.
In related news, his new album is due in a week, and a rap legend hates him.