Lil Wayne, Whip It Like A Slave, and the Crisis
Music is said
to soothe the savage beast, but it may also powerfully excite it. At an
emotional level, there is something deeper about hearing than seeing; and
sometimes about hearing other people which fosters human relationships even
more than seeing them.
the Mind. New York: Free Press, 1992, p. 26.
That Lil Wayne is an embarrassment to
the rich legacies of musical excellence which paved the road for his rise to prominence
is not a breakthrough. Its a given. An irrefutable fact. But that he would
stoop so low to the level of making a song titled, Whip It Like A Slave,
boggles the mind of even this writer.
For too long, unskilled rappers, like
Lil Wayne, have landed featherweight punch-lines on the ear-drums of trained
listeners, reminding us that the art of lyrical swordsmanship should be left to
those best capable of wielding it. But this song, bad pun or not, crosses the
line. This time, somebody must be held accountable for the drivel and acerbic
vitriol Lil Wayne lashed out at his ancestors, who suffered far too much to be
disrespected by an intellectually crippled caricature.
The lyrics of the song, which also features
super-lyrical southern crew Dem Franchize Boyz, goes:
I wake up in the morning, take a sh**, shower, shave/
Stand over the stove and whip it like a slave/ I whip it like a slave, I whip
it like a slave/ Stand over the stove and whip it like a slave/
This hook is maintained for a good 40
seconds (that way, its sufficiently ingrained in the minds of young listeners),
before Mr. Carter comes inin signature superciliousness. And just so no one
misses the point of the song, he raps: New day new yay/ Bet I whip it like Kunta
Kinte/ Talking sugar, talking dough like a ben-YAY/ I take a brick, karate chop
it like a sensei/.
Of course, its always comical to hear
Lil Wayne discuss the dangerous
terrain of drug-dealing. Why, the multi-millionaire who had it made at 11 knows
more than anyone else the perils of the dope game.. But even with this
awareness, many younger fans are still desperate enough to be lied to blatantly
about an experience they know he never partook in, and one which they are
foreign to. On this ground, commonality is found. Most of them, you see, are
White and rich.
White suburban girls cant get enough of
Weezy, and for good reasonhe, essentially, validates the centuries-old lies
told about Blackness as a racial demerit. Lil Wayne is the epitome of a 21st
century Minstrel. Stepin Fetchit in the flesh. He bucks, coons, and shines,
for the shillings tossed his way by far wealthier white executives at the helm
of this recording industry.
Your career is
Mine was written
like a Haiku/
And before we go any further, a couple
of points must be addressed:
1). Lil Wayne
is no gangster, no dope dealer, no Blood. Hes, in truth, merely a child star
who cashed in, quite handsomely I might add, on the untimely retirement of
Jay-Z in 2004. Many of us who, today, shake our heads consistently at the very
thought of Lil Wayne being regarded the Best Rapper Alive, remember the
laughs we shared when he first, in early 2005, declared himself that. Most saw
his ambitiousness as an unwise publicity stunt, but lately, circumstances have
changed considerably. What we now realize, and are forced to admit, is the enormous
control of those old White men Mos Def sang about in The Rape Over (The New Danger, 2004).. Lil Waynes
success, it can be safely assumed, is a product not of talent or merit but of an
agenda long-drafted before he came onto the scene. At best, hes the dummy
whose strings were picked to be pulled by powerful ventriloquists in big
2). Lil Wayne
is powerless. Just that. For one who sold an impressive 1,000,000+ copies with
his latest album, Tha Carter III
(2008), and has been mentioned
no less than twice
by the most powerful man in the world, he might be getting less respect, from
his bosses, than security guards and janitors.
According to the
Irv Gotti golden rule of business in the Hip-Hop industry, to get whatever they
want, artists must get hot. Well, no other artists, with the exception of
Drake, is hotter than Lil Wayne at
this point, and still, label executives and A&Rs could care less about hurt
feelings, as they rip asunder his many aspirations.
In a December 2007
interview with RollingOut Television, Rap mogul Irv Gotti discussed the
tricks of the Rap trade: The key to negotiations and the key to success
[is]just get hot and stay hot, and when you go in that office and have that
meeting, check your hotness.. Gotti explained how to ascertain the hotness of
an artist: Say some stupid sh**. If they kick you out [of] the office, Ni**a,
youre not that hot. If you say some outlandish sh** and they sit there and
talk with you, youre pretty hot. If you say some outlandish sh** and they
thinking about doing it, Ni**a, youre off the hook!
So, lets put
Lil Waynes career to that test.
In 2008, at peak
time, following the huge success of his now-triple platinum album, Mr. Big Shot
decided he wanted to release a Rock-themed
album, Rebirth. Many laughed and,
apparently, some of those were executives at Universal Recordshis parent
company. After the release of his first single, Prom Queen, his manager,
Cortez Bryant, was advised that the shot-callers werent really feeling the
concept, and if Weezy doesn't brighten up, they have to turn into Mr. Evil
Record Company and just tell him its never going to be released. The album
was originally scheduled for an April 2009 release date. Its been pushed back
several times now, but is tentatively set for November 2009. Something tells methis
time next year Rebirth would have
been shelved. The reason: Lil Wayne, to borrow Gottis term, is not hot.
The many impediments
put before his collaboration album (three years in the making) with Harlem
rapper Juelz Santana, I Cant Feel My
Face, provides further validation.
For this reason, I stand convinced that
the concept for Lil Waynes Whip It Like A Slave diatribe was probably suggested
by some sleazy executive whose name we might never know. This contention,
however, should not be read as an excuse for the vitriolic investments these Black
rappers made in the song. But I can see a scenario play out where
Lil Waynes original line was Whip It Like A Soda, or a variant of sorts, but
a snot-nosed executive heard the hook, thought a while about it, and compelled him to introduce that one word
which gives it a completely different context. In fact, Im not sure you call
that compulsion. Forced might be the
more accurate adjective.
Put a barrel in
a capo mouth, til his scalp come out/
You a kid, you
dont live what you rap about/
In spite of this, Im not sure of many
White rappers or MCs who would get away with similar statements. I can see
Hip-Hop message boards overflowing past maximum capacity if a, say, Eminem or
Asher Roth released such song. I can see the NAACP trotting out its best and
brightest to condemn the disrespect hurled at the legacy of more than 80
million people washed away by the rivers of inhumanity and brutality. I can see
esteemed Hip-Hop artists, fueled with great pugnacity, penning diss songs to
make known their rage at hearing a White rapper flaunt invectives at the
history that produced this great culture of ourswhich they, today, benefit
bountifully from. I can see Hip-Hop sites invoking the works of John Henrik
Clarke, John Hope Franklin, Frances Cress Welsing, Carter G. Woodson, Frederick
Douglass, C.R. Gibbs, Hubert Harrison, Herbert Aptheker, and Ida B. Wells to
damn the acidity of hatred contained in the song. But these werent White
rappers. As far as I can tell, Lil Wayne darkness isnt debatable. These
characters are Black. Yes, Coons and Samboes, but theyre Black nonetheless. So
why, then, am I left victim to the voicelessness of Hip-Hops countless culture
Is the pain any less bearable because a
Black rapper is the utterer?
talk about Kis., its all poison/
the kids you mislead with the poison/
The impact this song masters on the
minds of Lil Waynes many adoring young Black fans is certainly no less caustic.
The message that slavery, its aftermath, and the insurmountable cost of the
African Holocaust, are trivial still plays itself out perfectly in the minds of
impressionable listeners. Many of these listeners, already accustomeddue to
criminally negligent education in public schoolsto a fabricated interpretation
of slavery, would find great relief, courtesy of Lil Wayne (and the masks
behind him), that the Trans-Atlantic slave trade isnt at all the gory and
bestial experience its been established as.
Some would argue that even young
listeners can separate fraud from fact, but I beg to differ. I understand that
everyone is innately capable of deciphering the truth, but I also understand
that the world in which we live is filled with so much inequity and iniquity
that any condition can be adapted to. Any condition. Good or bad. Ignorance,
hatred, folly, fame. I understand that even the most repulsive imagery,
conjured by half-baked Rap artists, after a while adopts a normalized nature in
the psyche of the listener.
Late English author Anthony Storr
described this process in his 1994 book, Music
and the Mind:
Noise can be threatening to normal people. If
someone is hypersensitive to noise, and unable to filter out what is irrelevant from all the different noises which constantly impinge upon him, he may be specifically inclined to deal with it by trying to impose a new order on it, make sense out of it, and thus turn what was threatening into something manageable.
[p . 102]
Weve witnessed this sense play itself
out in Hip-Hop recently. Lil Wayne is hardly the only one to spit terror and
torture on the history that gave birth to him. Gone are the days when such
audacity invited Timberland boots and golf clubs to the bodies of uninformed
Rappers. On the monstrously misogynistic second single of Cleveland Rapper Kid
Cudis upcoming album, Make Her Say (Poke Her Face),also featuring the ever-conscious
CommonKanye West invokes Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks to demonstrate his
financial prowess: And Thats My
Commandment, You Aint Gotta Ask Moses/ More Champagne, More Toastest /More
Damn Planes, More Coastest/ And Fuck A Bus, The Benz Is Parked Like Rosa/.
Of course, Wests comments appear mild in the face of Atlanta Rapper Young
Jeezy who had previously compared himself to MLK, Malcolm X and Jesus. And not
to forget Lil Wayne demanding, two years ago, that a XXL interviewer [t]alk
to me like you talk to Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. Youre not going to ask
him about what he thinks about what somebody said about him. You ask him about
his greatness and his greatness only. Pretty damn accurate if you ask me.
Well, since Lil Wayne sees fit to
anoint himself the modern-day MLK and Malcolm X, Ill appreciate any fans who
can relay to him, when next he stops by, just how proud we are to have Martin Luther King or Malcolm X wake up
in the morning, take a sh**, shower, shave/ Stand over the stove and whip it
like a slave.
Tolu Olorunda is a cultural critic and a Columnist for BlackCommentator.com. He can be reached at Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.