Day 231: “I’m the One” feat. Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo, and Lil Wayne – DJ Khaled, single, 2017
A decade ago, the best rapper alive hopped on a relatively unknown DJ’s posse cut blowout of a single to tell the world that he, Lil Wayne, stayed on track like a box of Pumas. It was a statement of fact: Lil Wayne couldn’t be knocked off his trajectory. But it also turned out to be a promise. Ten years later, neither Lil Wayne nor that DJ has lost their path. That DJ was DJ Khaled, and today he locked in his first ever Billboard number one single, featuring, naturally, Lil Wayne.
“For the record I knew Khaled when that boy was spinnin’ records,” Lil Wayne sings on that single, “I’m the One.” This, too, is a statement of fact: Not only have Wayne and Khaled been long time collaborators, but, as the story goes, Khaled worked at the record store where Birdman first met Wayne. Their origin stories are connected. Wayne is on a half dozen of Khaled’s previous charting hits. It’s only fitting that for Khaled’s biggest star turn yet Wayne would be involved. And it’s also fitting that it happened on the baton-passing that is “I’m the One.” While past Khaled hits have included more of his contemporaries, this one is firmly rooted in the next generation, with Chance the Rapper, Quavo, and Justin Bieber as guests. Wayne is the elder statesmen for these guys: The rapper who showed Chance how to piece together his tongue-twisting bars and gave him an early career boost, the Auto-Tuned crooner who paved the way for Quavo to take drugs and go to the moon, the enormous pop star who decided he’d rather hide out in his mansion and skate for a while.
Conveniently, Wayne also proves himself as elder statesman by turning in far and away the best verse on the song. Where Wayne of ten years ago was dipping and diving all over, eating rappers and beats alike, Wayne of right now is slicker musically than he’s ever been. He’s subsumed Auto-Tune and melody into his delivery so completely that he can handle incredibly dense lines with pinpoint precision. Compare it to the fractured experiments with the sound he was doing ten years ago. If that was him picking out a few chords on a guitar, this is him doing Jimi Hendrix guitar solos. It’s total mastery, in part because you hardly even notice how good it is. This verse is so much harder to pull off than it sounds like, which of course only makes it more impressive.
Listen to the repetition in “‘Cause I been looking for somebody, not just any-fuckin’-body / don’t make me catch a body that’s for any and everybody.” Pay attention to the assonance in the lines, “Tunechi F Finessin’, I’m a legend / straight up out the Crescent / fly your bae down for the Essence.” Here is Wayne singing on the number one pop song in the country with Justin Bieber in the year of our lord 2017, and he pulls off this wildly acrobatic verse, well, pretty much because he feels like it. You’ll be hearing it plenty this summer, but just in case, let’s run it back right now while we add another trophy to the case for Wayne’s chart statistics:
Lookin’ for the one, well bitch you lookin’ at the one
I’m the best yet and yet my best is yet to come
‘Cause I been looking for somebody, not just any-fuckin’-body
Don’t make me catch a body that’s for any and everybody
Oh my God
She hit me up all day, get no response
Bitch, you blow my high, that’s like turning gold to bronze
Roll my eyes
And when she on the molly she a zombie
She think we Clyde and Bonnie, but it’s more like
Whitney-Bobby, God forgive me
Tunechi F Finessin’, I’m a legend
Straight up out the Crescent
Fly your bae down for the Essence
For the record I knew Khaled when that boy was spinnin’ records
Moolah gang, winning record
I’m just flexing on my exes
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