As Lil Weezyana Fest 3 nears, Lil Tunechi reminds us what he's not good at with a game app and what he is with some recent features.
I spent part of yesterday playing “Free Weezy: Sqvad Up”—Lil Wayne’s new skateboarding game app. So far I get 10 to 15 seconds of game play followed by 30 seconds of ads for other games after my generic skateboarder has been knocked off his board by a bird. The only thing that marks the game as a Weezy product is his image in the app icon and his voice (I think), which says, “Welcome to Hollygrove, my town" when the game starts, and "Don’t give up that easy! Keep riding!” when you fall down. Nice to see Nesby Phips did the music, though.
I downloaded it expecting nothing better. For a long time, I also had on my phone the Lil Wayne digital lighter—the image of a Zippo with a flame that would move in the eWind as I waved my iPhone over my iHead at concerts. It too had nothing to do with him beyond his name.
When Lil Wayne gets out of his lane, his hustle is pretty naked. I covered his press conference when he put his rep and imprimatur on the Lower Ninth Ward skate park that turned into a boondoggle, and beyond the failure—which had more to do with the real money people behind him—the embarrassing part of that event was that Weezy barely skated at his own press event. You’d think he would have shown at least a few skating chops, but no. He executed a few turns while other, better ‘boarders whipped around the skate park to show what it and they could do.
We can go down the list of his shaky plans and half-assed ideas including his decision to play electric guitar and make a “rock” album in 2010 when he released Rebirth. I admit that considering his track record, I was pleasantly surprised that Lil Weezyana Fest was a success in 2015 because nothing he’d done gave us reason to expect festival organization to be in his skill set, particularly at a time when he was embroiled in a feud with Birdman and Cash Money Records over $51 million he contends are owed him. But even without the YMCM infrastructure—assuming there is one—he headlined a history of bounce party in Champions Square that was solidly and unpredictably exciting. Last year’s show was less conceptual but also a solid show with guest spots by 2 Chains, Yo Gotti and The Showboys, who recorded the seminal-to-bounce “Drag Rap.” After those experiences, there’s every reason to look forward to Lil Weezyiana Fest 3 in Champions Square August 25 even though none of the special guests have been announced yet.
Beyond the money, the cost to Lil Wayne of his dispute with Cash Money is that it has limited his ability to do the thing he’s still really good at: rap. Weezy today is not the Weezy of Tha Carter II or III, and his then-guerilla approach to mixtapes and the marketplace has been streamlined and calcified as a marketing strategy. The Wild West of Hip-Hop 2017 isn't the mixtape world but Soundcloud. Still, as his take on Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia” shows, he still has chops. Ty Dolla $ign’s “Love U Better” transcends its Essence Fest-ready slow jam self when Lil Tunechi takes a verse. He interrupts the sexy walk to the bedroom to bounce off the walls for a few bars while talking about himself, and even though his lines aren’t as antic as they once were, his spirit is.
He was and remains a wild card, and even though there are more direct antecedents to the Lil Uzi Verts, Yachtys, and Soundcloud rappers, Wayne is in the anarchic parts of their DNA. Unfortunately, that part also keeps him in trouble. TMZ.com reported that the two sides were close to a settlement when Birdman saw a video of Weezy announcing onstage, “I’m a Rocafella Millionaire” where he used to announce Cash Money allegiance in “I’m Me.” Publicly identifying himself as part of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation chilled negotiations, so we have no idea when or if we’ll hear Tha Carter VI, or new music from Lil Wayne that’s not sneaking into the world via features or one-off duets.
In the meantime, I’ll have to keep my eyes open for features and settle for fragments of his mayhem because in most other arenas, the damage he does is to his own reputation.
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