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11/30/2005

Peaks Lick Sky Like Flame Lick Sky


I'm obviously about the farthest thing from a mainstream hip-hop expert; really, I'm basically just getting wet on the whole genre. Still, and as weird as this may seem, hearing Lil Wayne on The Mind of Mannie Fresh early this year made me feel like I had been missing something, and it's at that point that I really started trying to pay better attention. I just wasn't comprehensively interested in the genre, frankly. I dunno, it might be because the scene seemed to lack sensitive creeps, it might just have been that I realized what a sensitive creep I was when I listened to it.

Either way, sitting here listening to Tha Carter II on a tile floor with some very flammable anaesthetic close at hand, it's hard to ignore the promethean feats of Weezy, who, while not sure whether he wants to be a fireman or the fire thief, is caught compellingly in-between. Let me level with you (that's what I do): this album is goth. Goth-gangsta. Now, Augustus Welby Pugin was a gothic architect; I remember looking at scans of his notebooks and thinking the peaks, the peaks, the peaks, how high the peaks only to be told later that they were supposed to represent a kind of reach towards heaven. Most of Tha Carter II follows the same ascension dreams (heat rises), flames all running around big beats and minor-key choirs drifting up like dutch smoke (but no Mannie Fresh, wah, get over it). Pinky & Brain finally get wheels, Weezy's grownsed old & big enough to chase the world-domination daydreams out of a waterlogged New Orleans, a pale horse rider, solo w/guns. Forget the fire imagery, the loneliness is fucking freezing at times, very Army of One; Wayne whispers: "what up Pa, what up Pac, Pun, what up Big, what up Soulja, as the streets get colder I get Chilier, what up Left Eye, what up Aliyah." Now, puns on bandmates of dead people is kinda opportunistic and name-checking famous corpses seems a little specious, but when Wayne scavenges it sounds thrilling: "allergic to winter" in a city where nothing stays buried, and everyone knows ghosts make things cold. Oh you didn't know that? Sorry. He tells us he's hungry and he sounds like it (I eat a lot in wintertime, too); there's only so long you can suckle the teat of youth before passing the milk on to someone else.

A couple very good exceptions. "Receipt" is a Ghostface love letter written on sandpaper with Kanye drizzle, that puppy-love nostalgia/"Tears of a Clown" machismo: "It's kinda hard sayin' this shit to your face, so I do it over snares and bass," which is practically Neutral Milk Hotel for a guy who, about 30 minutes earlier, actually chants "get money/fuck bitches." Whatever, mom always said that men are complicated (sigh). Even though it sounds like MOR talent show funk, "Shooter" whips the cold, fragile ass of anything that Adam Levine guested on this year by about eight Abercrombie & Fitch sweatshirts and your mom saying "wow, this is funky" before Wayne starts cussing a whole lot (which he apologized for earlier on in the album, I think he just forgot about it by the end).

Plus, does nobody else just love this guy's voice?

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