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Soundcheck Smackdown: Lil' Wayne

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lil’ Wayne claims to be the best rapper alive, but it took New Orleans' most famous guest MC two years to put out his new album. In another Soundcheck Smackdown, we debate Lil’ Wayne’s claim to greatness and his new album, "Tha Carter III." Joining us in studio: Sasha Frere-Jones, pop music critic for the New Yorker magazine, and Jake Paine, senior editor of the website

Our blog: John Schaefer on Lil' Wayne

Tell us: Is Lil' Wayne the best rapper alive? Why or why not?


Sasha Frere-Jones and Jake Paine

Comments [47]

Joachim from philly bitch

He is not talkin about the rappers in the past he talking about his future and what he will do for hip-hop...

Wayne is the best rappper Alive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dickheads listen to all his music first.

Nov. 18 2009 02:50 PM
brooke from canada

lil.wayne is deffintly the best alive!!! if you don;t luv him like i do don;t make sick comments about him ok...

Feb. 05 2009 08:31 PM
brooke from sk


Feb. 05 2009 08:30 PM


Feb. 05 2009 08:30 PM
Junior Zuniga from everywhere

Greatest rapper ever? Please.......

Everyone one of his albums is for high school kids who listen to the same song played on the radio 6 time in an hour.....

Hip Hop has many great lyricist so its hard to say who the greatest is. Personally one of my favorites is Del The Funkee Homomsapien. I lost touch with mainstream hip hop when they decided it was cool to kill each other and rap about "ice" and "bling". It's garbage and shame on you NPR for making this "lil wayne" trash an issue....

Jul. 08 2008 05:43 PM

Wayne is definately one of the best. His lyrics are rediculous. Dont listen to his pop crap like lollipop. its probably his worst song ever. Carter 3 has a fun different style to it. Reminds me of A love below by outkast. Drought 3 is a great album also. I think as a whole hes one of the best alive for sure. People who listen to his radio songs dont have a good idea of who he is. His pop songs are just that....... pop. but on some songs he just spits fire. No lie

Jul. 04 2008 11:56 PM
vanessadgp from NJ

I am still trying to figure out where all this sudden overrated hype aoubt lil wayne came from- i cannot believe that this is what hip-hop has come to! I never thought I would see it in my lifetime because that wasnt the case less than a decade ago but man o man- hip hop must be dead if we even have to DEBATE whether or not this dude is Best Rapper to this dude- its like the teeniebobbers and MTV have taken over!! guess im gonna have to start listenting to R&B now LOL....

Jun. 25 2008 07:29 PM
Tim from L Dot A Dot California Hot

This will get solved after you figure out who has the best slice in the city. ODB was way more eccentric & original.

Jun. 23 2008 08:02 PM
Samantha day from ansonia ohio

lil wayne is one of the best rappers alive nomatter wat you haters say or think. his new cd is the bom..i love it. lil wayne is a natrual and is music is real not fake.though he should step his game up a lil bit but he still da best.I LOVE LIL WAYNE!!!!!!

Jun. 23 2008 04:33 PM
Samantha day from ansonia ohio

lil wayne is one of my fav rappers... he is so sexy and my fav song by him is lollypop. i would LOVE to meet him and go to one of his concerts some day.

Jun. 23 2008 04:29 PM
Gabe Smith from RTP, NC

The best rapper alive, I think not. Orginality does not constitute talent, and this guy isn't even that orginal. His music is heavly produced and lyrically weak.

Jun. 19 2008 09:32 AM
Kevin White from Kalamazoo, MI

The best? No. Good? Of course. Stating "Best Rapper Alive" is merely a wise, yet played, approach to branding. Few should fault him for the tactic. Lil Wayne is a product. It would be strange if he didn't attempt to persuade since modesty is completely absent from this music genre -unless you're counting nerdcore. While I welcome Lil Wayne to my listening options it's "Atmospere," "Eminem," "MF Doom," "Outkast," "Mos Def," "Common," or "Talib" (to name only a few) stitching together material that offers listeners an experience beyond, say, which direction the decimal is moving on their bank account. Lil Wayne is young and it will be exciting to see where he takes he's skill set. Maybe he'll take-on issues bigger then himself (e.g. Eminem's "Mosh"). Until then he needs to realize titles like "The Best Rapper..." are issued by us. The listeners. Over time.

Jun. 19 2008 01:23 AM
Brennan from Bronx, NY

People want to hear Lil Wayne.. and We're being fed him because it makes certain people money. Not taking away from Lil Wayne at all.

Jun. 17 2008 09:46 PM
Brennan from Bronx, NY

As for him not being the best rapper alive. I personally think Eminem is one of the greatest rappers alive. But when is the last time he has produced something. See, it is not that Wayne's songs are forgettable. He just has the work ethic of a freaking mule (if that makes any sense) compared to these other rappers such as Eminem who waits 3 years to produce albums. Lil Wayne constantly puts out music (thanks to our generation and technology- computers internet, etc.) and they are good songs but they are not on the lyrical level of a Rakim, Tupac, Eminem, even Cannibus. They are just good songs to listen too.

Lil Wayne is a GREAT artist and is definitely musically inclined but he will lack the respect from people who know hip hop and rap is not just about good songs. It is the new form of poetry (along with other genres of music) and meaningful words/lyrics are still important to grasp hearts for ages- no matter what medium you come from.

Sorry for the article, lol.

Jun. 17 2008 09:41 PM
Brennan from Bronx, NY

First and foremost, Wayne is not the best rapper alive. Not even in the top 50 emcees of all time (I'm a big fan though). He is very likable though. His songs or his body of work (not necessarily his Carter III) all point to counter culture concepts. And as I think Sasha said, that has a lot to do with the context of 2008. Our current government has failed us (in so many ways) so in a sense we are seeking to rebel.

Lil Wayne has that different swagga that we can cling too. He is just different in every sense of the word from his song concepts to how he words things to him spitting at his own pace and not following the track arbitrarily to his dedication to producing music to his ability to own up to him kissing his "daddy" (talk about counter cultural). I think our society does move or react to the actions of our government and we are seeking something different in terms of political parties (policies) as well as in entertainment. Lil Wayne stepped up to the plate. For him doing this, he is popular because he is appealing to everyone by working out of the box of just hip hop artist. This dude will jump on any beat, with any artist, at any time no matter what his higher ups tell him.

Jun. 17 2008 09:41 PM
Matt Scanzano 17 from Montreal, Qc, Canada

Honey Dip, why the hell does it matter if you're white or black anymore, this is the 21st century buddy, judging somebody by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character ended along time ago. And secondly it DOES NOT MATTER where you are from either, just because you live in the "Dirty South" doesn't mean that your the biggest and baddest man around, even if you've been to Compton. Try living in a place like Timor-Leste in South-East Africa, it is the poorest country in the world, you probably wouldn't survive a day in a place like that.Even at that, how about you come to Montreal, Quebec one day and visit Lil' Burgundy, N.D.G, Ville-St.Laurent, Lachine, Verdun or Point-St.Charles. For Christ Sakes Belly got jumped in Amabay by a bunch of Haitians while shooting a music video. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't present yourself as the biggest man cause you're not, and it doesn't matter how many albums somebody sells, how much money you have, or how much pussy you get. I don't see how people like to be show offs.

Jun. 14 2008 10:13 AM
Matt Scanzano 17 from Montreal, Qc, Canada

No doubt that little Wayne is a good rapper, and maybe even the best rapper alive, but it's not about that at all. Like any other classification of music its always about the lyrics, for example, Tupac Shakur rapped about how hard his life was and how he managed to get through his struggles as a black man in the ghettos of the United States of America, he tried to use that as a motivation for the people to hopefully not go down the path Tupac went down as shown in his lyrics.

Rap has changed, it's no longer about actually putting meaning into your lyrics, but about whose got the most money, who deals the most drugs, and who killed the most people.All in all, it doesn't matter that Lil' Wayne might in fact be the best rapper alive, but that would just be because all the other legends of hip-hop are dead, and the others that are still alive have changed with the times. A greater achievement for Lil' Wayne would be to be remembered as such characters as Tupac, and Biggie Smalls."Theres going to be some stuff you're going to see thats gonna make it hard for you to smile in the future." (Smile, Tupac Shakur)

Jun. 14 2008 09:52 AM
Honey Dip from Houston

I also just noticed that all of those comments that were posted, were by people from NY,except like 3 or so,in that case they wouldnt even come close to understanding because down south is a different world, for real. I travel everywhere,been to new york a many of times, so with that being the case, I know that you all wouldnt even get it. He sold 423,000 copies the 1ST DAY. Thats not just a fade, or loud music, or noise.

Jun. 13 2008 12:33 AM
Honey Dip from Houston

some words are spelled wrong, sorry. I just was typing so fast.

Jun. 13 2008 12:25 AM
Honey Dip from Houston

YOU all are insane. 1 st off, the critics that are givin there opinions arent anyone. Shasha is a POP CRITIC, so what the heck would he know about a Rap album or Artist from the south! Not to be rude, but Im SURE all of these people commenting are white. No offense but it true. ALSO lil wayne ONLY claimed, he was the best After people have said that numerous times. Im so upset, its like lil wayne is the best rapper alive, the one making music now. Listen to the lyrics, listen to what he is saying. GO TO THE SOUTH, im just upset.Really Upset.

Jun. 13 2008 12:22 AM
dnugg from brooklyn via new jersey

Calling Lil Wayne the best rapper alive is ridiculous. "Best" could be replaced with "most popluar", "most talked about" even "most listened to" and "most liked"

I like Lil Wayne and a lot of his songs, but its absurd to hear him described as the best rapper alive.

A short list of living rappers that are a lot better than him:
Nas, Common, Redman, Black Thought, Mos Def, GZA, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Jadakiss, Andre 3000, MF Doom, Lupe Fiasco, Rhymefest, and plenty more.

Jun. 12 2008 12:38 AM

This His songs are geared to girls.

Lollipop lyrics:

Lil mama had a swag like mine
She even wear her hair
Down her back like mine

Did he just rhyme with "mine" with "mine"? He made a great pop-hop, NOT a great rap album

I love the start of Mr. Carter too. he just answers the chorus.. LOL

Jun. 10 2008 07:24 PM
Dag Sheepshanks from Eastern Parkway

You know as I think of this I dont think there is a Greatest Rapper Alive title. There are a bunch of really great rappers. To me I think the penultimate would be Mos Def(even though he hasnt released any albums in about 3 years, when he does they are pretty good). I also think MF DOOM is great, and Big Daddy Kane(even though there is a bias towards the new rap acts, I dont see why, they dont seem to contribute or improve the genre much). Common is good but he s too concerned with commercially viable albums to make the lyrics tight. Talib Kweli and Black Thought are great rappers. Cant forget De La Soul. Andre 3000 and Cee-Lo Green are great too. I guess since I m older I want my rappers to have some context, let me know we ve been through some of the same things. Cant relate to Lil Wayne nor some of the younger guys.
And as a side note: Most of the younger guys dont have the lyrical prowess or finesse to make me want to buy their albums much less listen to them.

Jun. 10 2008 04:38 PM
Moneek2008 from Upstate NY

Not in my book.

Jun. 10 2008 02:36 PM
EVA from TX

I think that Wayne is alright but I feel we are lowering our standards becuase the state of modern hip hop lets look under the ground at rza and big l and blazhay the academic for goood rap, real poetry. where has the poetry gone?

Jun. 10 2008 02:33 PM
Adria from Washington Heights, NYC

Let me preface this by saying that I am a 31 year old fan of classic hop hop. I listen to public radio all day so that I DON'T have to hear this Lil Wayne mess on the radio. Why is this happening to me? Where can I run now if have to hear this fool on NPR?

Jun. 10 2008 02:33 PM
Mr. Thomas from Brooklyn Heights

The problem with Sacha's reasoning is that the 2Pac's, the Biggie's and the Jay-Z's never said they were better than the Rakim's, the KRS's and the Kurtis Blow's.

None of them tried to call themselves the greatest of all time, even though the generation before them had essentially vanished from the mainstream the same way Wayne's predecessors have.

Jun. 10 2008 02:32 PM
Jarjar from Ridgewood

What do you think about all the Reggeaton artists that claim to be "El Rey" the King.

Jun. 10 2008 02:31 PM

man...jesus.. sasha frere jones is a dick. he's got something smartass to say about everyones opinion.

Jun. 10 2008 02:31 PM
Galen H. Brown from Manhattan

Lil' Wayne is just a band.

Jun. 10 2008 02:31 PM
Meghan from Brooklyn

My favorites are groups like A Tribe Called Quest. Hip Hop just isn't the same anymore.

Jun. 10 2008 02:31 PM
Matt from Brooklyn

Kool Keith rapped about space and aliens a la "Phone Home" years ago and portrayed a not only one doctor but two--murdering MCs not saving them. Lil' Wayne is not advancing lyricism or conceptual innovation.

Jun. 10 2008 02:30 PM
Nick from New York, NY

Lil wayne has never dropped a classic album. Carter II is a great album. I would say that it is one of the best albums to come out in the past few years. But, in no way is it a classic.

To Sasha:

You don't care about albums? You are the problem with hip hop. This is an artform. An album is an embodiment of an artist's thoughts and style. In no way can one song define an artist. To say this, only contributes to the "dumbing down" that occurs in hip hop. How can you define Jay-Z from Big Pimpin'? How can you define Nas from "One Mic". You cannot. Just as, Lollipop doesn't define Wayne.

Jun. 10 2008 02:29 PM
Gabriel from NYC

Jay Z is terrible. If he was the "best rapper alive" then its easy for Wayne or anyone for that matter to be better than him. Hip Hop's dead anyway so what does it mean to be the best alive in a dead medium?

He's dead but will always remain the best.

Notorious B.I.G.

Jun. 10 2008 02:28 PM
Kathy from Long Island

God, I hope not. The noise you played was dreadful.

Jun. 10 2008 02:26 PM
steds from chelsea.

repeating lyrics like 'l-l-lollipop' for 3 minutes is not exactly rapping.

Jun. 10 2008 02:26 PM
Turbo from Brooklyn, NY

After listening to those two tracks Lil Wayne is the greatest con-man alive if he's selling that facile junk.

Jun. 10 2008 02:22 PM
Jeff from ny

Yeah, what's up with Sasha's smug attitude and interruptions. Ui sucked, by the way.

Jun. 10 2008 02:22 PM
b from ny

lil' wayne is so mediocre - is far from the best rapper alive - really how can he even claim this title?

Jun. 10 2008 02:22 PM
Chris Thomas from Queens, NYC

Paine's right. Wayne's album is the drugged-up equivalent of Sgt Pepper. The LSD has just been replaced with codeine.

Jun. 10 2008 02:22 PM
J from TO

C'mon now. "Hot" as he may be Wayne isn't in the top 50 today from an emcee standpoint. Who is this Sasha clown and how did he get into this discussion? About what I'd expect from someone of the esteemed hip hop publication known as the New Yorker.

Jake knows what's what though, probably cause he works for the best site on planet.

Jun. 10 2008 02:21 PM
James from Jersey City

Why is commercial hip hop suffering, while artists like Lupe Fiasco and El-P are putting out amazingly cohesive and ground-breaking albums? What blocks these artists from mainstream play & success?

Jun. 10 2008 02:21 PM
Nicole from Manhattan

I like Lil Wayne's eccentricity and his ability to get so much exposure despite it. I think he is an artist it is unfair to judge by an entire album, his best work is in the details. Certain songs, certain lines, instead of a body of work. However, with all due respect, can Sasha let Jake get his point across will ya? :)

Jun. 10 2008 02:19 PM

any kool keith track is better than that phone home junk.

Jun. 10 2008 02:17 PM
Hatch from Brooklyn

In my opinion, the best tracks on Carter III ("Let The Beat Build" is probably my favorite) are way, way better than the songs that were on the mixtapes last year. It's still not a great record overall, just about half of the tracks sound pretty lame to me. And Jake is right, "Phone Home" is awful.

Another candidate for greatest rapper alive: Ghostface Killah, even though his last album was terrible. He was having a pretty awesome run up through FishScale.

Jun. 10 2008 02:16 PM
David Hume

Stand Down Lil' Wayne! Rakim all Day.

Jun. 10 2008 01:50 PM
hip_hop_says from brooklyn

While I am not even going to debate the merits of public radio ... and the 'best rapper alive' debate... but i will point this out: Wayne F. Baby has yet to produce a commercially or sonically defined masterpiece.

Has Wayne delivered a few hot bars...yes. Has Wayne delivered a classic mixtape or two...yes. Is Wayne the best rapper 'alive' Of course in the day of ghostwriters and ringtone artist the 'best rapper alive' crown has very little merit.

Jun. 10 2008 01:50 PM

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