For 403 seconds near the start of his new album, Lil Wayne makes Funeral feel like a transmission from the past. As long as “Mahogany” and “Mama Mia” are playing, it’s still 2006, the music industry is crumbling, and within the cinders of Cash Money is a young man who’s ready to prove he’s the very best at the singular thing he does for a living. Wayne was at his peak back then, regularly offering some of the most captivating run-on sentences in the English language. His jokes, metaphors, similes, patterns, ad-libs, melodies, screeches, and prolific mind-dumps were vehicles of sheer momentum. The man behind them was harnessing a rare velocity most musicians can never capture.
A long time has passed since then, but on these two songs, Wayne offers something that honors his past while comfortably existing in the present. “Mahogany” and “Mama Mia” are multi-syllabic, mush-mouthed torrents of internal rhyme, where bad puns bleed into childish punchlines and hooks are mostly an afterthought. He sounds particularly at home atop the jittery sample of “Mahogany.” Buoyed by his old Cash Money colleague Mannie Fresh and Sarcastic Sounds, Wayne raps about…mahogany. That’s it. By the second verse, Weezy is teetering on the edge as he tries to think of all of the ways he could use the word before his voice runs out of gas:
Mahogany dashboard, I do the dash, boy
I think in my backyard, I need an airport
Mahogany sand, boy, I start a sand storm
Mahogany skin, touch me, I cut your hands off
Mahogany door handle to match the floor panel
Mahogany sand, mahogany Dior sandals
Mahogany dash, slime, I do the dash, slime
Part of the song’s effectiveness comes from Mannie’s knack for beats that move and shift without a clear center of gravity. Over the years, Wayne’s ear for production has deteriorated, but on “Mahogany” the chops, starts, stops, and changes in pitch help give him a foil for his voice.
In contrast, “Mama Mia” is in the mold of Wayne classics like “A Milli” or “6 Foot 7 Foot.” For almost four minutes, he raps and raps and raps until his lungs sound like they’re deprived of oxygen. In every nook and cranny of the song, there’s a callback to one of Wayne’s patented lyrical tricks. There’s the double repetition of a single word in the span of one bar, when Wayne raps “beat round the bush and I’ma come around with a bush cutter” and then follows it up with “Y’all lil’ niggas is some foot soldiers, I’m a foot fungus.” He mispronounces a popular word or phrase (“New Tang clan, like Raekwon, I’m stupid, nigga”) and then becomes amused by his own mispronunciation. In some passages he combines all of the tricks at once:
I’m out of my Gucci, you not on my Gucci, that’s not an exclusive
Designers, excuse me, massagers masseuse me
Oops, I mean masseuses massage me, I’m gruesome, I’m grimey
Between those moments, there are similes about feces, extended rhyme schemes involving animals, bars that include slightly racist caricatures, and violent threats involving the kind of food or deli meat Wayne will turn you into. It’s a lot, bordering on too much, which means it’s among the better latter-day Lil Wayne songs.
Lil Wayne is a prisoner of the public’s nostalgia. His prime coincided with the era when free online music became widely available, and hip-hop emerged once and for all as the dominant music genre in the United States. His memory is forever linked to a time when the future was uncertain and one former child star seemed like he couldn’t care less. But even the best run-on sentences need to end at some point.