Perched smack in the middle of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V album is “What About Me,” an accusatory, open-wound R&B record where the rapper croons heartbroken Auto-Tuned lines. “I stayed up all night for you/ Girl, what about me?” Wayne sings. “I shut down my life for you/ Now you run around with him.”
This is straight from the school of drunk-alone-at-2-a.m. Drake ballads, so it’s not surprising that Drake was originally supposed to appear on the track, according to Johnny Yukon, who co-wrote “What About Me” in 2015. Not only that, Post Malone cut a featured verse for the song this week as well.
“The initial idea was to get Drake on it,” Yukon tells Rolling Stone. “That was something [Lil Wayne] said to me that night [he recorded his vocals]… Then there were emails back and forth — ‘They think Drake’s going to get on it.'”
Then on Thursday, TMZ reported that Post Malone was rushing to the studio to be a last-minute addition to Tha Carter V. “There is a version [of ‘What About Me’] that Post cut literally this week,” Yukon says. But Malone did not appear on the final version, which was released Thursday at midnight. Instead, the rapper Sosamann contributes a brief verse to the track.
Representatives for Drake, Post Malone and Lil Wayne did not respond to requests for comment.
“What About Me” has had a long and complicated life. Yukon wrote most of it in his Los Angeles apartment in 2015. “The beat was all pretty much done by myself,” he says. “I was kind of sad about an ex. That’s what I’m most excited about — it’s this emotional record. I was surprised when [Wayne] said he was going to cut it.”
At the time Yukon wrote it, he did not have a publishing deal, but he later signed with Artist Partner Group (APG), a joint venture with Atlantic Records. Yukon sold the “What About Me” beat to Atlantic; he thinks it was supposed to go to the R&B singer Trey Songz, but Yukon ended up buying back the track. He even considered putting the song out as his own. Mike Caren, an experienced writer and executive who founded APG, was the one who thought it should go to Wayne; Yukon remembers him comparing it to 2011’s “How to Love.” Through Caren, “What About Me” reached Mack Maine, a longtime Wayne associate who helped found the rapper’s Young Money Entertainment label.
crazy, i wrote and produced this song in my first apartment in LA some lonely night in 2015, three years later and it’s on the the Carter V!!! big shouts to everyone who made this happen @LilTunechi @mackmaine @DJFRANKE @mikecaren @dvcphung pic.twitter.com/tpSzL3lkj0
— Johnny Yukon (@johnnyyukon) September 28, 2018
Maine loved it and played it for Wayne, so “about a year and a half ago,” Yukon found himself at the Record Plant in Miami smoking with the rapper as he finessed the vocals for “What About Me.” “He said [the song] is crazy, it’s emotional, it killed me,” Yukon remembers. And the rapper also mentioned that Drake might end up on the track.
“The last thing we heard about it, around a year and a half ago, while we were sending the song back and forth, making edits …. at that point, the emails were like, ‘Drake’s gonna cut to it,'” Yukon continues. “It was gonna be a thing for a sec. I don’t know what happened. We didn’t find out that Drake was officially not going to be on it until this week. We heard six people cut on this song. One day this week, [employees for my publishing company] were talking to some of the attorneys [in Lil Wayne’s camp], and they were like, ‘Can we at least confirm it’s not Drake?’ or something like that. They’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s not.'”
But Wayne’s team apparently made one last play for a major feature, enlisting Post Malone to try his hand at the track. This was smart; it would have practically ensured that pop radio rolled out the red carpet for Tha Carter V rapper. But, “something happened, I don’t know what,” Yukon says. “Something got delivered wrong. That all happened last night.”
Malone is not on the version of “What About Me” from Tha Carter V. But oddly, as of press time, Spotify credits Louis Bell, who writes regularly with Malone — see “Congratulations,” “Rockstar,” “Psycho” and “Better Now” — and Billy Walsh, who has five writing credits on Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys album, on the song. A source close to the song says the current credits on Spotify are not correct — they reflect an alternate version of the track.
Even if these features never came to be, Yukon says, “it’s been incredible to watch the reaction [to ‘What About Me’ on social media]: people saying, ‘I didn’t know we were getting this Wayne on this [album].'” And once the music industry found out that Wayne had cut a Yukon song, it helped the writer earn credits on major cuts like Pitbull, J Balvin and Camila Cabello’s “Hey Ma” and Lil Yachty’s “Mamacita.”
Finally, “What About Me” also serves as a reminder that Wayne’s sing-song vocal delivery was a heavy influence on a young Drake: “[People are saying], ‘Yo, this proves that Wayne gave Drake the blueprint,'” Yukon adds.