Three Thoughts on Lil Wayne's "Earthquake" with Jazze Pha
No rapper is properly cocky anymore.
Screenshot via Dailymotion / Logo by Mike Alcantara
Day 249: "Earthquake" feat. Jazze Pha – Tha Carter, 2004
No rapper is properly cocky anymore. Lil Wayne came up idolizing Jay Z, the king of cockiness, and this song is, whether intentionally or not, an homage to the idea of Jay Z. Jay Z has always been the guy who walks into a room and commands it, who instantly looks cooler than everyone else in it, despite not necessarily being the best dressed. Perhaps he becomes the best dressed, even if he is just wearing an enormously baggy T-shirt, by virtue of being Jay Z.
Lil Wayne is a rapper after this model. He walks in a room with swagger (to paraphrase a later song, no one on the corner has swagger like him). He gets girls' attention with a wink. He gets girls to tattoo his name on themselves then mugs for the camera in his music video to point out, with a toothpick in his mouth. He is the kind of guy who has a toothpick in his mouth and looks cool. This is what rappers used to be like. This is Busta Rhymes and Bun B, Snoop Dogg and 1 million percent T.I. It's Jay Z, of course. These guys were the cockiest motherfuckers in the room, and that made them interesting.
These days, rappers don't do that. Now, it's all about dressing like a "rock star" and bragging about doing prescription drugs that make you incapable of coherent speech. Now, it's all about looking cool on social media, not commanding a room. Not that there aren't any newer school artists who have charisma, but it's hard to think of a younger artist who walks in a room with the kind of assurance that Jay or Wayne might have had. It's hard to imagine a rapper these days making this kind of smooth, laid-back jam about being way more fly than you. Nobody has the sauce for this. Nobody has the range. Jay made songs like this and became a star; to Wayne, that was the only way to do it. So he made songs like this, too, and they were hits that didn't apologize for being hits.
Um, this video is incredible. It starts with Wayne's daughter Reginae coming and asking him for money. He gives her a whole wad of $100 bills. Curren$y is in it, and, to quote one YouTube commenter, he "be mackin dem bitches." At the end, Mannie Fresh (who, in a rare shift for Wayne, did not produce this track because Jazze Pha produced this track) shows up to dance and sing along from a podium that he turns into a pulpit:
Can we give Jazze Pha some credit for sampling Al Green? Who the hell gets away with interpolating "Let's Stay Together" like this? That's what I'm talking about when I say this is cool. It's cool in the way that 1950s jazz man is cool, cool in the way a 1960s soul singer is cool—timelessly so.
Based on a topix.com forum thread, Wayne performed this on Wild N' Out in 2005, which is the first time I remember seeing Lil Wayne on TV and perhaps the first time I ever knowingly heard his music. I don't remember him performing it—I do remember him doing "Fireman"—but I trust the forum commenters in search of the song that sampled Al Green. What's more, I think it's great that Wayne has so many singles like this that were big enough to perform on TV and yet, by comparison to his even bigger singles, hardly a blip on the radar of his career. How many people even remember this single? Not that many, relatively speaking. It's not even listed as "Earthquake" on the tracklist on streaming services. It's called "Shine," which is extremely confusing because there's also an arguably better single with a definitely better video called "Shine" from Lights Out.
Do I know why the name mysteriously is now listed as "Shine" in the tracklist on streaming services? No, I do not, and there is no record to indicate why anywhere I can find. I'm sure there's a good explanation, though. Probably a sensitivity thing about natural disasters? Who knows.
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