Nappy Boy

Back in the mid-2000s, Lil Wayne was notorious for promising collaboration albums that would never see the light of day. Whether it was a follow up to Like Father, Like Son; the joint Juelz Santana project, I Can’t Feel My Face; an R&B album with Lloyd or even a Watch the Throne-esque LP with Drake; let’s just say Wayne had (and somewhat still has) a tendency to promise projects despite having no means, time or even permission to actually release them. The most illustrious of all falsely assured Weezy collabs, however, is the album with none other than Mr. Auto-Tune himself, T-Pain.

The two grew incredibly close musically and even embarked on a massive stadium tour together, at one point referring to themselves as super group named T-Wayne. Of course, at the time, nothing ever surfaced (expect for a few snippets and samples) but after eight long years of waiting and practically forgetting all about the lost project, Lil Wayne and T-Pain finally unveil their T-Wayne collaboration.

The eight-track project was released via T-Pain’s official SoundCloud on what appeared to be a whimsical impulse decision. In a tweet immediately following the release, Pain wrote, “This ain't for y'all new niggas. These the lost files from '09 and I'm tired of em just sittin on my hard drive. #FreeC5.” So although these eight “new” songs aren’t actually new recordings from the duo, they still come from a highly cherished vault of unreleased music, which was created right around both artists’ primes. Both Wayne and Pain’s creative IQ was at an all-time high back when these songs were cut—not only because they had both excelled in their own lane but because they were willing and successful at crossing into each other’s fan bases.

“He Rap He Sang” pretty much sums up the overarching goal of T-Wayne, which is to highlight both artists’ rapping and singing capabilities. Pain opens with his “Wayne, I'ma hold you down on this rap shit, mane” mission statement and proceeds to fare extremely well with a 16-bar verse. Wayne then pops in after the back and forth chorus for a gravely verse with premier Weezy bars like, “It's the white cup dranker/Baby I'm a trapper turned rapper turned sanger/Darlin', suwoo to the bangers/And if you want beef, I'll cook that angus.” This one is particularly special to hear both completed and in CDQ, seeing as the muffled snippet version had been circulating the internet since 2009.

In fact, most of the songs on this album have been previously heard whether it be live rips, snippets or even documentary footage experts like “DAMN DAMN DAMN”; although the three most striking tracks on the project have never before been heard by the masses. First is the dizzying rap relay “Listen to Me,” which will automatically make you long for the days of “mixtape Weezy.” Wayne spits, “I take a trip to hell and nigga, I'ma bring the devil back/And if you want some trouble, I can have my people schedule that/Damn, your face clear, that's ’cause it's up in Reynold's Wrap,” with such a convincing conviction that it’s hard denying his past “best rapper alive” claims.

The second unheard cut is “Waist of a Wasp,” a violin-laden clap-a-long track that has potential to be played as a viable wedding song. Pain smashes the chorus and Wayne gives another heap of top notch lovey-dovey rhymes. Plus, Wayne drops a T-Mobile Sidekick reference ("Now won't you do it like I told you? Send a pic or download it/’Cause I promise in the Sidekick you got your own folder”), just in case you didn’t feel old enough.

Third is the Florida automotive anthem “Heavy Chevy,” which is basic enough when it comes to the rhymes but Tha Bizness’ production is incredibly reminiscent of the mid-2000s with a repeated pitched-down chorus and straight forward baseline.

Unfortunately T-Wayne isn’t an accurate snapshot of either T-Pain or Lil Wayne’s current musical eminence, which evokes happiness and disappointment at the same time. Hearing both these millennial legends back in near-perfect form is similar to seeing an old friend you completely forgot about. With that said, it makes each and every one of these eight songs marginally frustrating to grasp for the simple fact that we will likely never hear these two rap and sing like this ever again.

At the end of it all though, this T-Wayne project should be considered a gift from hip-hop past, an evaluation of hip-hop present and hopefully something to look forward to in hip-hop's future.

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