“London Roads” by Lil Wayne
When is the last time a rap song made you cry? Most people don’t turn to Lil Wayne for pathos, but here it is. In this return-to-form track, the “quickest snail” goes from slow to sprint to syrup once more, dropping playful lyrics like: “Lord, I’m a free man / like I come from Amistad / No I come from Hollygrove / turning O’s to octagons” and “Wear new clothes to the mall…Fur boots when it’s warm / church shoes to play ball.” He even double-times variations on the same “uh” rhyme for a full thirty lines.
But the heart of the song is its tail end, where Weezy recounts a suicide attempt when he was only twelve years old. In a year where law enforcement has been rightfully vilified for its role in perpetuating mortal violence through systemic racism, Wayne somehow manages to beautifully conclude “London Roads” with a paean to a police officer, an off-duty cop who saved his life. His perma-croak goes soft and whispery. I dare you not to cry.
Chris Martin is the author of The Falling Down Dance (Coffee House, 2015), Becoming Weather (Coffee House, 2011), and American Music (Copper Canyon, 2007), chosen by C. D. Wright for the Hayden Carruth Award. In 2015 he co-founded Unrestricted Interest, a consultancy and writing program dedicated to transforming the lives of people with autism. He also teaches at The Loft Literary Center and will be a visiting assistant professor at Carleton College in 2016.
Questions, compliments, (hopefully not) complaints?