This may not be the final version of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” remix, but even a sketch is worth breaking down. It currently lacks a West verse but the additions of Lil Wayne, Drake and Big Sean is a major development. How did the three MCs tackle one of last year’s most adventurous, larger-than-life instrumentals? Inconsistently, of course.
Wayne, who has slowly reclaimed his guest-spot beast mode recently (“Welcome to My Hood,” Ace Hood’s “Hustle Hard” remix) takes the lead with little gusto. The only aspect worth pointing out is his use of Auto-Tune, which will disappoint plenty of fans but not this one. The robot effect (Wayne learned how to smartly utilize the vocal program from its modern-day godfather T-Pain) isn't the issue but Wayne’s generic, face-palm flow is. It comes and goes with little notice.
The song’s biggest disappointment is Big Sean. I’m a cautious Sean fan: he has a handful of hilarious punchlines but a larger penchant for dropping unfunny clunkers. The latter version appears here. His unnatural double-time flow is a distraction, but even worse is how clever Sean thinks he is:
“Why every rapper named Big got bodied, huh?
But every rapper named Sean got money, oohhh
Well I guess my chances are 50/50
But my vision is 20/20 so I’ll be counting 100 hundreds”
After his attempt to redefine lazy writing, Sean keeps it coming: “You spent all day with her spooning/I spent all night with her forking.” The Detroit rapper should have kept the banal boasts on the shelf because an “All of the Lights” remix requires more.
The moment was not lost on Drake, the remix’s anchor. He bests his mentor and peer with an energized delivery that molds his typical lyrical stunting into a pent-up, necessary release. Like only Drake can, he offers a glimpse of stardom’s vices and successes. First, he’s riding with Wayne after a long night of paper tossing at a strip club, and then come the drugs (tame, but still there): “I spend all my time in Houston/Smoke that kush but I don’t do Whitney/I don’t do Britney, I don’t do Lindsay/I made $2 million since last Wednesday.”
Good weed, no coke and a payday. Unimpressed listeners complain about Drake’s ambivalence to success, but they won’t find any of it here. After hyping up Wayne’s Carter IV and his own sophomore effort, Take Care, Drake finishes the track with humor, cleverly winking at his soda endorsement as he pairs it with promethazine, a harder drug reference: “And I run this/And y’all know that/I take the purple and pour that all in a Sprite/All in a Sprite …” He laughs into the mic, acknowledging the joke and his domination.