Lil Wayne – “Get Off the Corner”

Released: 12.5.00

Peak: #88 [Hip-Hop/ R&B]

Before he was a critically lauded mixtape king, drowning in the absurd proficiency of his rhymes, adrift on delusions of rock stardom, and foisting Drake on a hapless public, Lil Wayne was just another New Orleans tough guy on the Cash Money roster. Weezy had personality — this was Cash Money, after all, not No Limit — but he hardly dominated the Hot Boys posse cuts, which burned with full-team excitement rather than individual brilliance. And if Wayne easily surpassed, say, Turk (we hardly knew ye, dog), in terms of overall notoriety Juvenile handily eclipsed him.

Anyway, Cash Money wasn’t about MCs–it was a showcase for the virtuosity of Mannie Fresh. That in-house auteur served Weezy well on his string of early singles: The street anthem “The Block Is Hot,” the bounce-salsa “Respect Us,” and “Everything,” a heartfelt letter to his dead pops. But “Get Off the Corner” is one of Fresh’s finer (and least twiddly) moments. The drama is all in the movement of the music, how the choruses’ synth chords ascend, how the verses’ synth bass descends, and it’s an ideal setting for Wayne’s clenched-throat ghetto Cagneyisms.

Lyrically, Wayne rehashes the daily necessities of dealing, though I expect the realities of the daily grind are lots duller than this. Not since “New Jack Hustler” has the rise-and-fall story of a crack-slinger been told so succinctly, and Wayne’s at home enough with capitalist nihilism that he doesn’t feel obligated to append an unconvincing moral. First verse: cops send small-time dealer Wayne scurrying. Second verse: Wayne drives off the competition to become boss. Third verse: A new small-timer sticks his gun in Weezy and the cycle starts again.

The further Wayne strayed from the streets, the funnier and more abstract he became. Anyone who thinks fame and security didn’t improve Wayne’s ingenuity must love the conventions of genre fiction more than the verbal freedom it allots its creators. But anyone who jumped the Weezy bandwagon and slights his early singles is missing out on just how gripping street level crime can be.

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