Mixtape Review : Lil Wayne – Dedication 4 by Jayson Greene

5 years ago by in Music
The Dedication mixtapes have reliably served as a barometer of Lil Wayne‘s creative fire: On 2, he was a determined kid busily fulfilling his own “best rapper alive” prophecy. On 3, he was skidding dangerously post-Carter III, whacked out on codeine and sounding frayed. Dedication 4,
for its part, is the clearest transmission yet of a message he’s been
sending for a while: He’d rather not to be rapping anymore. From a beat
selection so obvious that the word “selection” feels generous to Wayne’s
recycled punch lines to his unimaginative rhyme patterns, the mixtape
is joyless clock-punching work from a rapper who has given some
indications he doesn’t even like his own music as much anymore.
But a career’s a career, and when you’ve gotten this famous, you don’t
just stop, even if maybe you’d prefer to. This is the spirit Dedication 4 comes to us in: Somehow, I don’t think this is what 2005 Wayne meant when he promised us he’d only retire when he died.

Not
many rappers bother with this format anymore, in which a rapper flexes
skill over a tape full of borrowed beats to point out how much better
they are than the rappers that paid for them. Nonetheless, this is the
sort of mixtape that elevated Wayne from “famous rapper” to “legendary
rapper.” His freestyles over beats like “Show Me What You Got” and
“Shoulder Lean” have become classics on their own. By contrast, Dedication 4 is a game of rap karaoke. The beats he raps over– “Same Damn Tune”, “Burn”, “Mercy”, “Don’t Like”“Amen”— are
so ubiquitous that every rapper in the world looking for a quick SEO
boost has spit some bars over them. Worse, Wayne falls immediately into
the song’s preexisting rhyme pattern, offering nothing to distract you
from its source material: For a rapper so famous for stealing– and
murdering– beats, the worst I can say about Dedication 4 is that there isn’t one moment where I wouldn’t rather be listening to the often mediocre originals.
There are a dozen or so good punch lines scattered on D4,
enough to make it fun enough for one listen: a good “Jack Black/Jack
White” joke on “Magic”, a “straitjacket/straight jack it” pun on “Burn”.
On “Cashed Out”, he neatly unites his well-documented Gremlins fixation
to his sex fixation with the line, “That pussy so wet, it turned into a
Gremlin.” Wayne doesn’t sound depressed or detached here; he’s still
having fun, collapsing into giggles after dropping the
Larry-the-Cable-Guy-worthy “I would talk about my dick/ But that shit
would be a long story.” He just sounds uninspired, and in need of a new
style.
There are two surprising moments on Dedication 4: One
is Nicki Minaj’s hilarious faux-Romney endorsement on “Mercy” (if Minaj
were actually to offer a Romney endorsement, I don’t think the
straight-faced line, “I’m a Republican, voting for Mitt Romney,” on a
Lil Wayne mixtape would be her method). The other is when G Dep’s
“Special Delivery”, of all things, shows up late on the mixtape. “I
don’t even like this beat,” Wayne mumbles playfully, before slipping in
one of the tape’s liveliest verses, dancing in and out of double time.
It’s one of the only verses that doesn’t feel like a minimally tweaked
update on something he said in 2007. Wayne has admitted lately
that he’s bored with rapping, reasonably pointing out, “I’ve been doing
it since I was eight and I’m about to be 30 in September… I think
fans deserve a little-to-no Wayne. I’ve been everywhere.” He’s right.
Let’s hope Dedication 4 is the last we hear from Wayne for a while: We can wait until he has something to say before he approaches a mic again.

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