SEXIST, homophobic and trashy in ways that are not just politically incorrect but indefensible, Lil Wayne doesn't make it easy for his middle-aged fans to feel proud. Yet in an age of so much corporate radio treacle (be it DJs with chain-store individuality or hip-hop that sounds as if it has been manufactured by computer programmers), there's something about this ribald imp from New Orleans that's refreshingly raw.
Weezy -- as Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. is also known -- has been scratching his thug attitude into the collective unconscious all summer with "Lollipop," the infectious chart-busting single that seems written to test how much of a song can be bleeped and still get played incessantly on mainstream radio.
If you compare "Lollipop" with Usher's smooth and seductive "Love in This Club," another Billboard supernova released earlier this year, you might get a better handle on Wayne's edgy appeal. Young Jeezy, the rapper who's featured on Usher's R&B cut, may be up for a hookup in the club's bathroom, but there's nothing on their record that's as dangerously witty as Wayne buggin' at his own libidinous prospects. With its grinding adolescent loop -- "I like that!" -- you're transported (even against your will) to those early gaga moments of adulthood's upside.
Lyrically, Wayne is sly, sexually insidious (in a manner that forces you to embarrassingly wonder whether your imagination is dirtier than his) and too swaggering to strive after clever Kanye-like perfection.
But for those who know him mainly as a sneaky sidekick on such freeway rolling fare as Lloyd's "You," it may be surprising to hear that, beyond all the self-puffery, Wayne's capable of breakneck ironic twists, psychological bull's-eyes and zany sendups of himself and others (including Rihanna, with her ridiculous "umbrella, ella, ella . . . ").
His long-awaited studio album "Tha Carter III" might not have made good on his barrage of overinflated promises. But with tracks featuring Dr. Carter wittily diagnosing other rappers' weak flow and an amusing scenario in which a policewoman falls under his pheromonal spell (that is, until he asks for her number and she replies 911), one thing should be clear to all but the most prudish: Wayne's originality can't be reduced to a raging id.
-- Charles McNulty