According to Josh Tyrangiel, a writer for Time Magazine, “ Lil Wayne has a smoke-scarred rasp that makes him sound like Redd Foxx covering Bob Dylan.” I completely agree with Josh in comparing lil wayne with the iconic figure Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan is a common favorite. No one looks askance or questions me when I name Dylan as one of my two favorite musical artists. However, when i mention lil wayne to my friends, I often find myself facing a mouth agape, a scowl, or an expression disbelief: “thats a joke, right?” Even those who accept my declaration of favor for Lil wayne often come back with, “Dylan and Lil Wayne? Thats an odd combination”. But it is not odd; not at all. First of all, they’re both superb lyricists, each with his own distinctive style. Secondly, both Lil Wayne and Bob Dylan are frequently charged with being opaque, non sequiturian, disingenuous, abstruse, silly, banal, indulgent and nonsensical. Both are accused of stealing lines, not just because people seek to tear down those at the top, but also because both are engaged in the folk tradition. Finally, they both have similar flows.
Musically speaking, both Dylan and Lil Wayne use existing songs as scaffoldings on which to construct their own. Dylan draws from country, blues, bluegrass, folk, and early rock music, sometimes taking melody, harmony, rhythm and even many of the lyrics from an existing song and putting his own spin on it, inserting his own lines. According to ContactMusic.com, “Lil Wayne uses Karma Ann Swanepoel’s folk track once on his hit song I Feel Like Dying”. Wayne raps atop existing tracks from other artists and also samples from older pop and rock songs, especially on his mixtape. This is a clear extension of the folk tradition, modernized.
Adding to being their own distinctive style, they both are charged with being opaque. According to Derek Askey, a writer for phoenixnewtimes, “ Self Portrait is still a bad album.” Curiously, roughly ten years into each of their careers, both Dylan and Wayne released albums that were viewed as career self-sabatoge but that ended up putting hardly a dent in their careers: Dylan’s was called Self Portrait, viewed as rambling and lacking cohesion; Wayne’s Rebirth, viewed as a sophomoric attempt at Rock. According to Chris Deline, a writer for CultureBully, “ The Price is Wrong, a song from Rebirth, has overly aggressive power chords used in the track translate as so completely empty that they’d hardly cut it with the worst bands existing in radio stations.” They have also shown appreciation for nursery rhymes, with Dylan releasing a whole album, Red Sky, that riffs on the structural forms of nursery rhymes; Lil wayne draws on the same structural forms and also alludes to existing nursery rhymes (Jack and Jill, for example, in “Cashed Out,” which also references other children’s characters like, again, Gremlins, Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse, Barney and Baby Bop). Lil Waynes song “Started” begins each verse with the same line, maintains a consistent (although not unbroken) rhyme scheme throughout, essentially consisting of groupings of four lines, like many nursery rhymes, with alternating or coupled rhymes at the end of lines.
Besides being accused of sounding opaque, both lil wayne and bob dylan are accused of stealing lines. According to Andy Greene, a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, “ Dylan’s been lifting lines from other artists for his entire career- for one, huge chunks of his 1985 disc Empire Burlesque were based on Humphrey Bogart movies.” While Dylan pulls lines from antebellum era poets, Japanese novelists, early blues songs and the folk cannon, Wayne pulls lines from Sam Cooke, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Green Day, 2Pac, B.I.G., Eminem, Jay Z, as well as movies, television shows, ad campaigns, and even the ancient Greek historian Thucydides ( “the strong do what they will; the weak do what they must, or, as Wayne put it in “A Milli”. “ I do what I…