Point/Counterpoint: Is Lil Wayne's Newfound Sobriety a Good or Bad Thing?

Lil Wayne emerged from Rikers Island late last year. Now, owing to the terms of his probation, he must lay off drugs and liquor for three years or return to prison. And, by all accounts, he's kept kosher.

And yet something doesn't quite sit right. For the man who once composed a love song to his purple drank, this is roughly the equivalent of stripping Bill Gates of his keyboard, or Wonder Woman of her bracelets.

There are few artists more associated with substance abuse than Weezy; in the years before his incarceration, he was almost never seen without his Styrofoam cup of prescription cough syrup, and he famously refused to go into recording studios (or even hotels) where they wouldn't let him smoke his weed.

But rather than just a source of recreation, drugs informed Wayne's musical style itself. After a relatively forgettable stint in Cash Money super-group Hot Boys as a teenager -- when he was presumably sober most of the time, and outshone by Juvenile and B.G -- he came into his own as a blunted twentysomething, dropping hazy, out-of-body-sounding, ultra-vivid rhymes.

Sure, they were often self-indulgent and full of the faux-deep rambling common among stoners, but that was part of the fun. His burnt timbre, croaking cadences and disjointed flow made you feel a contact high. Yes, he could be mercurial and egomaniacal -- he once insisted an interviewer speak to him the way he would to Martin Luther King Jr. -- but, just as often, he played the whimsical, delightful oddball.

His eight months behind bars, however, have changed everything. While in prison, Wayne took to actually writing down his lyrics; he'd previously just recited them off of the top of his head. On "6'7"," the first single off of his hotly anticipated upcoming album Tha Carter IV, his rapping is crisper and quicker, his voice has lost some of its raspy edge, and his lyrics are obviously more considered (whether they're better, however, is debatable).

His sober performances, meanwhile, are noticeably different. Reports from early dates of his "I'm Still Music" tour, which comes to the American Airlines Center tomorrow night, speak to a particularly energized Wayne.

MTV News notes that he appears "agile," and "trimmer" than before prison. The word "lucid" has also been used.

But is this what we want? Has sobriety infused Wayne with renewed creative vitality, or has it stripped him of the spark that made him so much fun before? One could really argue both points here, which is what I will hereby do after the jump.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ben Westhoff
Contact: Ben Westhoff