Yes, there was a T-Wayne that claimed to be “ballin’ on these niggas.” So hard, so completely, so unreservedly, in fact, that this T-Wayne was — grammar, but far more importantly, guile be damned — “feelin’ like sports.” This is a different T-Wayne. Some might even say a fake T-Wayne.
Actual T-Wayne was the sum of the two most culturally relevant hip-hop artists — whose devoted and melodramatic fan (hi) bases overlapped to form a near-perfect circle — at the height of their powers, late in the aughts. There was Lil Wayne, a child star who managed to not only maintain, but also explode his status into universal acclaim through a gushing release valve of verses flowing freely onto the web, and three Tha Carter LPs (which would later become four; still waiting on the fifth), the third installment going platinum in a single week. And then there was T-Pain, your favorite hook writer’s favorite hook writer, the ringleader, and the ur-rap-sanger from whence all others and modern trap music almost directly descended. (Including that other T-Wayne, about whom I refuse to write any more words.)
Since 2009, Lil Wayne and T-Pain’s would-be collaborative project had been an empty promise, but now we have it, and I’ll get to that. But before we go any further, and in the interest of being historically accurate to that year: I was not wearing Girbauds and Air Force Ones. What I should have said here was “BDG skinny jeans and Vans Authentics.”
… And maybe “an Afghan scarf over an M65 jacket, like Kanye West in the ‘Put On’ video.” Remember how Afghan scarves were suddenly a thing for a while after that? “A thing” here meaning, “you could easily walk into any Urban Outfitters and pick one up.”
2009 was a strange and indecipherable time for all involved. Because the global wheel of commerce was spinning off its axle, sure, but also because Jay Z was declaring Auto-Tune dead, despite it being literally everywhere and barely in its adolescence. Post–808s & Heartbreak, Kanye hadn’t really resumed rapping in the sense we traditionally mean it — actual bars and noncontinuous bridges — except for that one Keri Hilson song. Lil Wayne had discovered that there was virtually no sound Auto-Tune couldn’t make at least tolerable to the ear; T-Pain was still wearing a top hat and Oakley shades, singing in perfectly digitized leggiero about romantic log cabin getaways in Aspen.
“Can’t Believe It” lived on T-Pain’s 2008 album, Thr33 Ringz, and was the second of two official collaborations between T-Pain and Lil Wayne that year, the first being “Got Money,” on Tha Carter 3. Each was such an easy, enjoyable moment of synthesis for the two that they decided to shuffle across the neon tiles of the dance floor and touch fingers to form T-Wayne. Speaking about the yet-but-soon-to-be-formed duo with MTV News in 2008, Lil Wayne said he thought of the supergroup’s inception as only right:
“We both have the same energy. I don’t sleep. … He don’t sleep. I play all day. He plays all day and all night. The connection is crazy. He loves to be creative, he loves to work; I love to create, I love to work. He really wants people to respect his rapping; I really want people to respect my harmonizing.”
The first offering from T-Wayne came in 2009, a self-titled song announcing themselves, and their intent to be increasingly outré, to the internet. On “He Rap, He Sang” the two flipped the script — T-Pain rapped about gats, toolies, and lollipops, while Lil Wayne sang, mostly about the same stuff. Each did their thing and, even better, both seemed to have the most fun doing it. It was wonderful, beautiful — glorious, even. Surely the tape would be the same.
But then … nothing.
As in, “[Checks Datpiff] Nothing.” Or “[Checks RapGodFathers] Nothing.” Or “[Checks HotNewHipHop] Nothing.”
Years (OK, months) of boolean searches came up dry, until the unfortunate reality set in that T-Wayne had been lost to the same digital boneyard that’s home to plenty of other mythical collaborative projects. For example, Can’t Feel My Face — a synergy between Wayne and Juelz Santana, “Black Republicans” — or more recently, whatever that Drake and Kanye thing is called that’s never happening. Whether due to lack of interest or unnavigable, music-label-emblazoned red tape, I was satisfied I would never have it.
But this year Noisey music editor Kyle Kramer, God bless his selfless heart, has undertaken “A Year of Lil Wayne”; a blog post about any Lil Wayne song, once a day, every day. And on Day 240, two weeks after eulogizing the mixtape that never was, Kramer shook something loose:
On Throwback Thursday, T-Pain posted T-Wayne to SoundCloud, and I will not cheapen the experience for myself by attempting to convince you that it’s good. I can say, however, with confidence that not a single one of these eight songs was recorded after 2009. How could I be so sure? Because, while talking about sexting on “Waist of a Wasp,” Lil Wayne playfully trots out a reference to a T-Mobile Sidekick:
PHONES USED TO HAVE FOLDERS. SIDEKICKS USED TO EXIST. And, years before an attritional legal dispute with Cash Money Records that nearly led him to retire, WAYNE USED TO BE HAPPIER.
For me, T-Wayne is a brief tour of my senior year of high school, but for you, it’s a brisk and enjoyable half-hour of music on a Friday afternoon. There’s also a sample flip of the “Oompa Loompa” song on the second track, and though Da Backwudz technically did it first on “I Don’t Like the Look of It,” I could argue that “Listen to Me” is better. In fact, I do.
Of course, that could just be the nostalgia talking. It probably is.