Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Lil Wayne ft. Kendrick Lamar – Mona Lisa

A famous work by Leonardo da Tunechi…


Julian Axelrod: When you see the words “Lil Wayne ft. Kendrick Lamar” on a tracklist, you expect a shit-talking word salad from two of the most motormouthed MCs working today. So I commend Wayne and Kendrick for upending expectations and choosing to go the narrative route. I could do without the tired two-faced vixen trope, and the song (like most story songs) doesn’t hold up as well to repeat listens. But it’s still such a thrill to hear these guys string words together, and unlike Sosamann or Mack Maine, Kendrick raps like he relishes the honor of appearing on Tha Carter V. Plus, when’s the last time a star of this stature rapped in character as a helium-voiced psycho getting cuckolded by Lil Wayne?

Tobi Tella: It’s like a hood fairytale — one of the greatest rappers of our time and Lil Wayne telling us a story. I love how long and drawn out this is, how we get to see the story from multiple sides, and also any song where Kendrick uses his squeaky voice will get a high score from me.

Alfred Soto: On the radio “Mona Lisa” sounds on first listen like Meek Mill, thanks to Wayne’s high, hectoring tone. Then the phlegm-clogged voice is unmistakable. Yet it’s hard to listen to this #2 hit without recoiling from the pettiness if not cruelty: Wayne’s first three verses record a catalog of venal sins committed by the bitches whose halos — the halos he put up himself — he treats like Frisbees. Kendrick adds polish, narrative flair, phrases (“Poetry in a pear tree,” “Woke up in the morning to The Great Gatsby“), even stronger technical command, and about six years of critical halos. 

Ramzi Awn: I wanna like Lil Wayne, I do. I’ve always liked him on features. There’s some fun in “Mona Lisa” and a whole lot of “b******.” The spooky undertones make their point, but overall, it feels like Wayne is wasting his talent on the same old sonic message. He’s better than this. The fact that the end of the song is actually really good is unfortunately too little too late.  

Taylor Alatorre: Hmm. That seems like a needlessly convoluted way to rob someone. But this is an after-school special for the “Can’t Trust These Hoes” awareness campaign, so a bit of outlandishness is fine as long as it fits the pedagogy.

Andy Hutchins: I am unsure that Wayne and Kendrick understand the agnosticism of La Gioconda, given the eventual “Fake smile, fake smile” refrain. But “Mona Lisa” stretches their interpretation of the power of women over purportedly weak men over the chassis of a car on a roller-coaster ride piloted by two of the most talented rappers to ever live. Wayne, the old hand, sounds as inspired by narrative as he’s ever been, and is occasionally enthralled by rhyme and meter like he was at the dizzying heights of his Mixtape Weezy reign. Kendrick, the logical heir to that throne despite having different (and higher) aspirations, nearly steals the show from one of music’s great show-stealers by toggling from heist stories to a parallel narrative of a man unraveled by his own jealousy. It’s not as well-paced or twisty as “Stan” nor as easily categorized and canonized as “Children’s Story” or “They Reminisce Over You”; it’s disappointing in how it gives only some agency and even less voice to the women it makes central. (Put 3D Na’Tee on this song, and it might be even better!) “Mona Lisa” is still a thrill, still destined to be a starred entry in the Wayne discography, still a reminder that the powers on display here have lain dormant, rather than diminished.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A pulpy cinematic experience whose film adaptation could find its screenplay in the hands of Gillian Flynn. As far as the listening experience is concerned, “Mona Lisa” rests completely in the hands of its two leads and the results are mostly fine. At his best, Lil Wayne is a captivating raconteur, able to help us envision the slowly forming grin on his face as he witnesses his plan unfold. While this is the general impression we get of his verses, it’s blemished by moments where he’s just churning out information to get the story across. Kendrick, on the other hand, provides the familiar issue of providing a theatrical performance that doesn’t always feel necessary. Upon repeat listens, hearing “Mona Lisa” only makes me wish that it was even more ambitious. The reference to “Soldier” fleshes out the relationship between Wayne and the woman, and allowing the “Lollipop” ringtone to be a moment of realization for Kendrick is a wonderful detail, but these things point to how too much weight was placed on the rapping alone. Considering the rappers involved, “Mona Lisa” shouldn’t have been anything less than a large-scale production.

Reader average: [8] (1 vote)

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One Response to “Lil Wayne ft. Kendrick Lamar – Mona Lisa”

  1. I love this song! (Michael Jackson voice)