Is Lil Wayne’s Verse on Tyler, the Creator’s Album Really a Return to Form?

Day 306: “Droppin’ Seeds” feat. Lil Wayne – Tyler, the Creator, Flower Boy, 2017

More than a few people have pointed me to this verse as an example of Wayne making a return to form. With all due respect, I think there are better recent examples of Wayne’s show-stopping guest verses, but I can’t knock the enthusiasm, even if it seems to come from a sort of backhanded place. And I also can’t complain about the principle of Tyler, the Creator handing an interlude over to Wayne on Flower Boy, which by my premature reckoning already stands as the former’s best album since Bastard, if not ever.

Wayne, of course, has long tapped Tyler as a standard bearer for rap’s future; you could argue that his entire pivot toward being obsessed with skating and brightly colored clothing was prompted by Tyler’s example. Certainly, he has seen Tyler as a disruptive force for hip-hop’s occasionally strict norms: In a documentary about the making of Cherry Bomb released earlier this year, Wayne talks about how Tyler “changed the game” and made him more comfortable being gross in his raps (“I think about, would Tyler say this shit?”). He also highlights how good of a rapper Tyler is, complaining that people haven’t actually been listening to what Tyler is saying. And that message, he seems to sum up a few moments later, boils down to this:

Work hard. Be somebody. Be something more than what you see in the mirror. Let the world be your mirror. Don’t let ’em judge you, ’cause the mirror can’t judge you. You judge what you see in the mirror.

Wayne has always been a rebel in the rap world. Tyler has, too. Both of them, at times, have seen their message of bucking conventions obscured by their outsized personae and the narratives that have arisen around them. But both have also always stuck to the principle that their craft spoke louder than outside perceptions, and so it’s natural that, on an album on which Tyler looks to set himself free of perceptions, he would turn to Wayne for an interlude. And it makes sense that Wayne would rise to the occasion by “dropping English” and getting academic, weaving together references to Adam and Eve alongside ones to Onyx and Sticky Fingaz.

Is this a return to form for Wayne? None that he hasn’t already been making for a while. But if people want to see it that way, I think it’s a positive thing. Wayne and Tyler aren’t always the most elegant messengers, but that’s what makes their respective messages to be yourself all the more powerful. If it takes Wayne popping up for a minute on Tyler’s album, signature lighter flick and all, to get that side of each across, so much the better.

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