Lil Wayne’s “Drop the World” Is a Tribute to the Power of Catharsis

Day 302: “Drop the World” feat. Eminem – Rebirth, 2010

Lil Wayne’s rap-rock album Rebirth is often shrugged aside by his fans, but there’s an electricity in the opening of single “Drop the World” that can’t be ignored:

I got ice in my veins
Blood in my eyes
Hate in my heart
Love in my mind
I seen nights full of pain
Days are the same
You keep the sunshine
Save me the rain
I search but never find
Hurt but never cry
I work and forever try
But I’m cursed so nevermind
And it’s worse but better times
Seem further and beyond
The top gets higher
The more that I climb

“Drop the World” is, to most people, the standout track on Rebirth, the rare moment where Wayne’s goal of bridging rap and rock sounds into one angsty symphony comes together, as well as being the song with Eminem on it. Critics generally treated it as the apotheosis of the album’s sound, and I think that’s accurate.

I started thinking about this song today when the news broke that Chester Bennington of Linkin Park had died, by apparent suicide. Lil Wayne and Linkin Park have never worked together, but I imagine them being mutual fans. If there’s an obvious antecedent to the music Lil Wayne made on Rebirth, it’s Linkin Park. “Drop the World” could pass for a Linkin Park song on a songwriting level: It has the same blend of tortured-soul angst and anthemic, cathartic reaction to that angst that made songs like “In the End” and “Numb” such massive hits. “I’ma pick the world up and I’ma drop it on your fuckin’ head” is pure screaming release, an affirmation of pain and a rejection of it at the same time. And Eminem, a master of these kinds of wrenchingly frank stadium bangers in his own right, offers a mini hook that drives the point even further home:

It hurts but I never show
This pain you’ll never know
If only you could see just how
Lonely and how cold
And frostbit I’ve become
My back’s against the wall
When push comes to shove
I just stand up and scream fuck ’em all

Lil Wayne’s music is generally celebrated for its easygoing braggadocio, but Rebirth came out of a moment where he was floundering in the midst of drugs, the pressures of celebrity, and the burden of an imminent prison sentence (the video was released the day he left for Rikers). Much has been made over how Wayne gravitated toward the idea of a rock album because he saw himself as a rock star, which is true. But part of the appeal of being a rock star, as becomes apparent listening to “Drop the World,” is that rock stars are seen as tortured artistic souls in ways that rappers are often not. Rappers are supposed to be the cool guys, always proving they’re the best (N.B. obviously this is a generalization, and there are countless examples of psychologically fraught rap, but the perception of rappers rarely focuses on that). Rock stars are artists living on the edge. It’s easy to forget now, but prior to his prison sentence there was a very real concern that Wayne was going to kill himself with drugs. That he got through it and the worst he has to show for his pain is a half-baked rap-rock album is genuinely impressive.

It’s also a testament to the power of this kind of music, which is nakedly vulnerable and angry and tormented. Linkin Park created music of that variety that resonated on a massive scale, across language barriers—when I lived in China, Linkin Park was the one reliable English-language artist you could find in any karaoke spot, making them valuable common ground. To make music that hits those language-agnostic emotional notes has to be particularly fulfilling. Chester Bennington’s voice was one that was able to do so.

Wayne, god bless him, felt that same pull, and, to a large extent, pulled it off—here, at least. It makes sense that, as producer Chase N Cashe told DJ Booth earlier this year, the beat was originally meant for Rihanna. It makes sense that Eminem, one of the few other real-deal stadium-sized angst guys alongside Linkin Park, is on this song. This is a real shot at the biggest, toughest feelings. I don’t think that Wayne would have been doing it in a way that sounded like this if it weren’t for Linkin Park, which is a credit to their legacy, whatever that looks like from here forward.

Most importantly, though, this song is an ideal one to bring up in these moments of feeling bewildered about bad shit happening because, all analysis aside, it really is a cathartic sentiment. Who doesn’t, when shit sucks, want to take the world and drop it on someone’s fucking head?

Follow Kyle Kramer on Twitter.

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