There’s a striking connection between the biggest acts in rap today: Drake and Nicki Minaj. The two send seismic waves through pop culture on all their projects, while their singles erupt the charts, unfairly manhandling the weaker line-ups in lopsided competition. The partners-in-crime have such a stronghold over the rap game, and they’re both mentored by one, wide-eyed genre icon named Lil Wayne. Drake even has a tattoo paying homage to his predecessor.
Lil Wayne pulled the strings of hip-hop since his debut, orchestrating a rhythmic takeover that’s undoubtedly ensured the immortality of his legacy. His renown stage moniker will be encrusted in stone, marking his hall of fame status. His off-the-wall approach to music has been copied down and regurgitated by students of the game. Stitching up a revolutionary subgenre tailored to his style, Weezy F Baby, and don’t forget the baby, is one of the most impactful artists of all time; he forged the lane for rock in rap.
Labelled “The Greatest Rapper Alive,” the rapper from Mars bares a ludicrous legacy. Tunechi took his unconventional, trademark raspy voice and juxtaposed it with obscene melodies over head-banging beats. His sharp smile complemented his experimental dress codes, breaking down the public perception of the rap game being filled with flustered artists just trying to make some bank. Many rappers are now considered rock stars.
With more ice than an ALS bucket challenge, it’s easy to see why so many up-and-coming acts draw inspiration (and sauce) from the man’s mojo. Ever so unique, fun, and cool, his character transcended into the upper ranks of legends who’ve mastered the ability to hold our attention for more than eight seconds. But enough about his past —we’re witnessing his influence on the musical climate today.
Every media outlet seems to have pathetically failed in pinpointing the origin of what’s coined as “mumble rap.” Mumble rap is a style that originated in the South and consists of “mumbling” rap lyrics to sacrifice pronunciation clarity. The mumble style is influenced from the following elements: Southern drawl & pronunciation, the drinking of the drug “lean,” which can slur speech patterns, and the wearing of gold teeth which affects pronunciation. In other words, mumble rap is Lil Wayne.
Artists learned how to mimic slurred words, use powerful auto-tune, and find fruity loop flows to make alternatively listening to music an evocative experience. You could almost feel the energy of the artist(s) as if you were alongside them in the booth. Yet the highly endorsed technique of lyrical realism and brutal delivery that was prominent in the earlier 2000’s has been ‘bounced’ and replaced with rap’s equivalent to flarf poetry.
The change in technical focus reflects a cultural thirst for fun in entertainment, i.e. music you can dance, laugh, and get hype to. Essentially, ~vibes. This pure energy in lyrics, vocal cadence, adlibs, and flow are the assets the Lil Wayne imprinted on his southern contemporaries. Producing the avant-garde raps that inspired the next generation of artists makes Wayne a ‘for the kids’ bro. Young rappers today such as Lil Pump and Uzi boast his style. Wayne’s relentless continuity in the rap game marks him under the twilight of his career, but he’s still capable of creating a soft stroke of genius as we saw on Tyler, the Creator’s “Smuckers” featuring Wayne and Kanye West. Pure bliss.
Hot Atlanta rappers like Migos and Young Thug also embody Wayne’s style to the nth degree, and likewise flaunt boundary-pushing fashion, considering themselves rockstars. They epitomize Wayne’s decree as to what constitutes this alt subgenre of rap; and if you beg to differ, then why does your favorite hip hop artist rock dreads and carry a white Styrofoam cup full of purple drank?