This Is How You Pull Off an Experiment in Letting the Beat Build

Day 341: “Let the Beat Build” – Tha Carter III, 2008

Conventional wisdom says that a blockbuster rap album should be accessible. If you’re going to sell a million copies, you’re not supposed to spend your time on whimsical experiments of craft. But conventional wisdom isn’t what got Lil Wayne to being the kind of superstar rapper who could sell a million copies, who could make a song like “Lollipop” go number one. So thank God Wayne decided to buck conventional wisdom and make a weird rap experiment one of the centerpieces of Tha Carter III. As “Let The Beat Build” producer Deezle (you can hear Wayne shout him out when he asks for just the 808s) told XXL:

“Wayne came to me and told me that Kanye sent him a really dope sample, and he wanted to see what I could do with it. So I was like, ‘Okay, cool.’ I got the sample, and I started foolin’ with it and cutting it up and sort of figuring out what it was going to be. Then Wayne came to me and said, ‘I have an idea. I want to do a song where over time the beat just progressively gets bigger and bigger until the hook drops.’ So I was like, ‘Alright cool.’ It was his concept, and we went through that whole song together because he knew how he wanted it to feel at certain points. So, I made adjustments, and he did what he does best. He made up all the vocals on the spot, man. The whole song. It was recorded in about 30 minutes.”

The result is one of the most satisfying rap progressions of Lil Wayne’s career, as he builds from breezy, laid-back, old-school Wayne boasts like, “Rims big make the car look like it’s two stories” to the fuck-you swagger of lines like, “approving million dollar deals from my iPhone” to the tongue-twisting third verse’s declaration of “and I got a lot of tattoos, and I meant every tear.” Then there’s my favorite part, where Wayne goes crazy getting wavy with this succession of homophones: “I’ma take it one-two-way back / Like a silk wife beater and a wave cap / Or the wave pool / at Blue Bayou / and I waved, fool / as I blew by you / hello, hi you / I can buy you.” Not all experiments yield positive results. But when you just let the beat build, well, there’s no telling what good things might happen.

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