There was a period of time -- from, let's say, Tha Carter II to the first few mixtapes after Tha Carter III -- when Lil Wayne was maybe actually for serious The Best Rapper Alive.
The second Carter LP is the capstone of the early 2000s tinny, minimal, and dumb Cash Money bling-bling era. The mixtapes and guest verses that followed (in particular the remixes on Da Drought 3) saw the Young Money CEO establishing the free associative absurdity that blossomed into swag, while retaining the technical prowess of the Greats, identified by Weezy himself as "Pac, Biggie and Jay-Z."
Unlike the first two hall-of-famers on that list, Weezy didn't get struck down in his prime. And like Jay-Z, he had a chance to oversaturate the market and make some bad decisions. At first, it was incredible that Lil Wayne was appearing on every single track, because he pulled it off, every time. But right around his autotune emo-rock album, Weezy dropped the ball. Hard.
We're afraid Lil Wayne caught Jason Mraz disease when he remixed the singer-songwriter's Top 40 hit "I'm Yours," because "How To Love" is Grade A weenie music. Yeah, we know ... It's supposed to be sentimental. But the lyrics mistake dumb for simple, and the whole vibe shoots for sweet but lands on saccharine. Below are Crossfade's five Weezy slow jams better than "How To Love."
5. Lil Wayne's "Mrs. Officer"
This Summer of 2008 jam would be higher up if it weren't so played out. But no matter how many times 99 Jamz spins "Mrs. Officer," we'll never forget the first time we heard it. It was our introduction to smooth crooner Bobby Valentino, whose falsetto quickly made our panties drop. We also couldn't get enough of Weezy's extended "lady cop" metaphor, including a "Fuck The Police" joke and the line, "Lady, what's ya number/She said 911."
4. Mario's "Crying Out For Me" (Lil Wayne Remix)
Wayne's remix of Mario's "Crying Out For Me" is the perfect example of Birdman's pride and joy crashing the party and stealing the show with a top-notch verse. Mario's original track was already pretty hot under the collar, and Weezy's flirty freestyle at the beginning is simultaneously hilarious and masterful. It's all about the transition from his verse to the first big explosion of the chorus.
3. Lil Wayne's "I Feel Like Dying"
In 2007, Lil Wayne's productivity was hitting a fever pitch. Fans were lusting after the long-awaited, much delayed Carter III and every stray track up for download and available on mixtapes was increasingly creative. "I Feel Like Dying" is neither a love song, nor a ballad. But it is most certainly a slow jam of the highest order. These days, Weezy probably couldn't get away with a bummed out, grimly psychedelic track like this one. Crossfade distinctly recalls more than one radio DJ not knowing what to say before or after they played it.
2. Lil Wayne's "Grown Man"
This track is so smooth it might as well be a Ricky Rozay jacuzzi jam. Like some of the best hip-hop ballads, the instrumental is rooted in silky R&B, and Wayne sounds like his throat is home to the sexiest frog in New Orleans.
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1. Usher's "Love In This Club Part II" Featuring Beyonce and Lil Wayne
Usher's sequel to his mammoth "Love In This Club" (featuring verses by hip-hop's Queen Bee, Beyonce and an excellent closing 16-bars from Weezy) is not only our top Weezy slow jam, it might even be Crossfade's favorite remix. And quite possibly, the Best Song Ever. The track improves upon an already perfect formula, i.e. a love song about straight up doing it on the dance floor. Usher and Beyonce's call-and-response perfectly elaborates every possible detail of actually making love in the club. And Wayne's freestyle makes you want to find your shawty and "Act like two damn fools/Have everyone thinkin you're doing a dance move."