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Lil Wayne kicked off his “I’m Still Music” tour last night in Providence, Rhode Island, four days before he performs at 1st Mariner Arena. (I’ll be in the nosebleeds with my crew. Say hi.) MTV News’ Jayson Rodriguez

, and this observation — obvious in a way, but telling still — stood out: “His dreadlocks appeared longer, and the rapper was lucid. As a result of an Arizona case, Wayne is forbidden from drinking alcohol or partaking in any activities involving drugs. The added clarity served him well. He was agile throughout his verses on ‘A Milli.’”

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A sober Lil Wayne could leave fans ambivalent. He sounds noticeably sharper post-prison, with a clearer timbre in his croak (smoking blunts has its downfalls, children). On the other hand, Wayne’s drug-period produced some of his finest, most defiant moments (

is an audio trip gone hazy; Wayne’s hook on Playaz Circle’s

could be the rapper’s most memorable guest spot).

This makes the hype for Wayne’s highly anticipated album,

Tha Carter IV

, that much greater. With a clear head, will he rap at an even higher level? Or do drugs — particularly weed — elevate his art in ways lucidity can’t?

As I drove to work this morning, my iPod shuffled to Young Chris’ collaboration with Wayne, “Paradise,” (off

Lil Wayne and Friends 4

). I’ve always loved this verse, and it was recorded around the height of Wayne’s syrup-sipping and constant blunt-puffing. It encapsulates how drugs fueled Wayne, and it serves as a reminder that we might never hear that Weezy again, but we’ll always have this verse:

"Welome to Wayne's world/party time, ecstasy

Higher than a bitch, see Young Chris flying next to me

Don't know where I'm going, no sense of directory

Smokin' on that s--- you can't produce, hysterectomy

Lecture me about my high, I don't want to hear it

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Tell me about the end, I may be near it but who's to say who's the nearest?

You might be listening to a spirit

And yeah I might be tripping but I feel terrific

High feels terrific and you know me

Mr. Soon to OD Off Mo-ney or Mo' Me, Motherf-----

I am the ultimate high

High 'til I walk up to the pulpit and fly

Yeah, that mean I'm high 'til I die

Why would I lie? 'Cuz I'm high right now

I could die right now…"

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