;"Just holla back, I see ya, Sarge. I'm so motherfuckin' high I could eat a star."

;;If John Lennon were alive today, he might have made a mix tape like Lil Wayne's latest opus, Da Drought 3. OK, maybe not exactly like it, but the Great One surely would have approved of the New Orleans native's recent and astonishing transformation into the greatest of hip-hop's surviving wordsmiths. With the free, Internet-only release of Wayne's 90-minute double-virtual-disc follow-up to last year's masterful Dedication 2, the rap world finds Lil Wayne hitting his Sgt. Pepper's phase of ghetto-psychedelic, grammatical gumbo at full steam.


;When Weezy F. Baby tauntingly twists his verses around his own free-associative inner demons, the listener has little to do but get out of the way and chuckle in awe. On the brilliantly titled "Get High, Rule the World," Wayne spits, "Imagine waking up out ya sleep to them pistols blasting, and if the witness is dead there's no trial. I don't mean basketball when I say, ‘I don't know Yao,'" and for a moment, images of tangerine trees and marmalade skies seem not so far away.


;Whether he means to or not, the child rap star, who at age 16 invented the terms "bling bling" and "Drop It Like It's Hot," has shifted the discourse in hip-hop from "How academic are your references?" to "How outlandishly fractured are your images?" "I'm lookin' for a bitch that fuck right, cook right. And if not, then left foot right," he claims on "Don't Stop, Won't Stop." When he says, "My mind is on another continent," it doesn't take much convincing when he's rhyming "Barack-a Obama" with "Rock-a Gibraltar," or boasting that he's God because he "spits bibles" on the Runners-sampling "N.O. Nigga," or introducing the album with some of the best runs of his life … in a Jamaican accent.


;The most intriguing aspect of Da Drought – and the best reason to pick up the album besides the fact that it's, well, free – is the no-guilt stomping Wayne delivers to rap's struggling titan (and his admitted hero) Jay-Z on four – count 'em, four – different tracks. ;Wayne has been the most vocal of Jay's disciples through the years, and when 2005's Tha Carter II announced Wayne's arrival as a grown star, the young one attributed the success to Jay-Z's influence.

;;Since Jay returned with last year's widely panned Kingdom Come, some eyes turned to Lil Wayne to make his move on the crown of Best Rapper Alive. Dedication brought him close, but the absence of the expected freestyle over a jigga beat felt closer to hesitation than respect for his master. But when the saxophone kicks in on "Show Me What You Got," what had to have been the worst single in Hova's career, Wayne wastes no time showing that he's finally ready, stepping up the tempo of the flow to match the hyperkinetic drums in the background. It's here that Wayne shocks the most, as his control over the song highlights what was so wrong with Jay's performance – it was behind the beat all along. The music was never the problem, it was the rapper. Wayne continues the jaw-dropping coup, moving like a rabid cannibal through "Black Republican," "Upgrade" and "Dead Presidents II." The cover of "Republican" is made all the more embarrassing for the elder lyricist by throwing the original's brash nostalgia for Reagan-era opulence into a harsh light next to Wayne's Katrina-era melancholia. "New Orleans representa 'til the inna," he laments. "Come from the city where the glimmer don't glitter."

;;That's not to say there isn't good old-fashioned vulgar fun on Drought, it's just that Wayne takes braggadocio so deadly serious that even the joke songs beg to be psychoanalyzed. Lennon had the same problem; witness the decades-long debate over "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." Those who want to dig even deeper on Drought are given plenty of material, from the assurance that "before I do a day on the edge I will leap first, bet you any money that I will land feet first," to a comparison of your lame Harry and the Hendersons speakers to the Jurassic Park bass in his trunk.

;;There has been a lot of talk lately that hip-hop has sunk so far that the best rappers have all retired or burned out, and all we're seeing these days are the benchwarmers, not the starters. By that logic, crowning Lil Wayne the Best Rapper Alive is akin to choosing the best of the worst. Da Drought 3 is proof for the ages, however, that he is real and here to stay. I suppose there's still a possibility that Eminem will go even crazier and record hip-hop's Pet Sounds–style response (the Marshall Mathers LP is probably already that), but the gauntlet has been thrown down, and whatever happens it's a win-win for us.


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