As I type this, we are dangerously close to finally hearing the first single from The Carter III, Lil Wayne's long-awaited, frequently leaked and delayed sixth album. The first single is a curiously auto-tuned club joint called "Lollipop," the video for which is supposed to premiere on Wednesday on BET. A one-minute snippet has leaked and the track is even more intriguing and off-putting than I had previously thought.
Obviously an attempt to capitalize on the current vocoder and synth craze in hip-pop that has taken over the charts and the clubs, the song is also an effort to reposition Wayne as a solo pop star rather than a sensational mixtape rapper and charismatic guest on other artists' singles. He stands right now on the verge of absolute pop superstardom, a sort of perfect storm of months of hype, hit songs, popular appeal and critical acclaim from the right (white) places: The New Yorker, the New York Times, Pitchfork. Wayne has been notorious for never having really secured a hit single as a solo artist (his biggest hit to date is "Go DJ"), despite declaring himself and willing himself into becoming the "Greatest Rapper Alive." So, in other words, the first single from the new album could make or break it, either sending it to the upper reaches of the pop charts or condemning it to internet acclaim with real world obscurity.
It's truly incredible how risky this move is that Wayne and his people have decided to take with "Lollipop." The song is seemingly contradictory to the persona Weezy created with his Dedication mixtapes and their predecessors, a series of seething, hallucinogenic, ravenously hungry runs of lyricism and lunacy. There is no denying that he could have created a lyrical masterpiece to leak to the streets, release as his first single or whatever (and I'm sure he made many), but this is a curious move, perhaps even a brilliant one.
What Wayne needs is a hit. Plain and simple. If he got too fancy his album would flop, but if he gets too "pop" his die-hard fans (and the rap community) would discredit him. While I haven't heard the whole thing, "Lollipop" seems like it may tread some bizarre line between chick-friendly club pop and weird sonic experimentation with enough RnB flavor to keep enough music heads on board. I mean, the thing is a smash hit, let's face it. Right now, Weezy can almost do no wrong, that is unless he released something like "Gossip" as his first single. "Lollipop" is perfectly timed, coming right off the heels of "Sensual Seduction" and "Low," occupying the same sonic template and popular territory. We'll see if he can keep his dignity after the full thing leaks, depending on how embarrassing a song called "Lollipop" actually gets. But knowing Wayne, it will have some sort of edge of competitiveness, irony, or self-consciousness.
It's also worth noting this summary of the song from Lil Wayne himself: "Dudes are gonna hate this one...Ugly dudes, that is."