Had all gone according to plan, Friday would have been the Triangle's most intriguing Halloween night in recent memory. But it was not to be -- rapper Lil Wayne's Raleigh show was canceled with no explanation, so that's that. I had already written a short preview story about Wayne's ubiquity on the charts and airwaves of America; and since I hate letting anything go to waste, that is below.
When Grammy nominations and year-end critics polls start rolling out in the coming weeks, there will be a lot of talk about who deserves to be "artist of the year." But there's already no question who that is, at least in terms of ubiquity -- rapper Lil Wayne (Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.), whose modern-day chart dominance rivals that of the Beatles in their heyday.
He plays a Halloween show at Raleigh's RBC Center tonight.
It's not just songs by Wayne himself, although he's had massive hits off his album "Tha Carter III" (Cash Money/Universal Motown Records), which has sold an impressive 2.6 million copies in a soft market. It's his role as go-to artist for cameo performances, adding his raspy drawl to other acts' singles.
Check the charts, and you'll be amazed. Wayne is on seven songs in the Oct. 25 pop top-40, including collaborations with T-Pain, Jay-Z and Akon. Wayne's presence is even more dominant on the r&b/hip-hop chart, where he holds down 10 spots out of the top-100 (three of them in the top-10).
Normal rules of audience burnout just do not seem to apply to Lil Wayne.
"Burnout never applies short-term, but certainly very few people can keep up that level of ubiquity," says Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming at Edison Media Research. "He's been everywhere for a while on the urban and r&b side, and if anything he's improved his level of creativity. It helps that he's got an album with so many great songs on it. This is not a world where people tend to go buy an album looking for a song. It's to his credit that he's made r&b radio and audiences do that."
Wayne has also done cameos on releases that are farther from the commercial mainstream. He contributed a verse to local hip-hop duo Little Brother's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" from their independent-label album "GetBack," which peaked at a modest No. 89 on the Billboard 200 last year.
Little Brother's Phonte Coleman says they met Lil Wayne at the NBA All-Star game in Houston two years ago, when they were both doing interviews at the same radio station. After Wayne told Coleman was a fan, they hit him up for a vocal. They sent him a track, and he knocked it out and sent it back two days later.
"His work ethic is really inspiring and amazing," Coleman says. "I don't think I could ever be that prolific. I mean, if you take 100 shots, not all 100 are gonna be good. I'd rather take 10 or 20 focused shots and try to hit 'em all. But to each his own. It's really working out for him. Plus it just shows how the record labels are kinda off. In the past, if you asked labels, they'd try to shut all those collaborations down. But they're what's made him hot, so it's all good."
Meanwhile, Wayne's chart deluge shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
"It's only over-exposure if he remains as prolific as he is now and it's not as good, and someone else fresher and more interesting comes along," says Ross. "At this moment, he's sort of the artist that all contingents of hip-hop fans can agree on -- like what Jay-Z was 10 years ago. Everyone at least respects him."
ADDENDUM (8/7/09): Finally.