Lil’ Wayne channels Eddie Van Halen on new Jon Batiste single Uneasy – but it’s not quite our 21st-century Beat It moment

Here is the pop-cultural crossover moment that we never saw coming: Lil’ Wayne picking up an Eddie Van Halen signature guitar to deliver a smokin’ solo on the new Jon Batiste single, Uneasy. 

Well, in a sense. Weezy is quite literally smoking – and something strong by the look of it – but the solo might need a bit of work to reach the dictionary definition of "smokin’", as in, one that could be described as as "lively and exciting". Either way, it’s definitely a strong choice for the rap superstar, who also lays down some guest verses on the track.

Uneasy is taken from Batiste’s new album, World Music Radio, an recording that saw him welcome a laundry list of musical collaborators from across the globe. 

Joining Lil’ Wayne are the likes of Native Soul, the South African duo appearing on Raindance, Kenny G, who plays on Claire De Lune (prediction: Pat Metheny will not like this track), Lana Del Ray is on bonus track Life Lesson, and you’ll find Jon Bellion, Fireboy DML, Heroes, J.I.D, NewJeans, Camilo and more on the credits.

“A range of collaborators in locations all across the globe made this a reality,” said Batiste. “There was a lot of joy in making this, and it definitely translates to the listening experience.”

Jon Batiste

(Image credit: Emman Montalvan)

We'd like to think that Lil’ Wayne’s choice of electric guitar for this video spot would seem 100 per cent deliberate. The pop-cultural associations are of that red, black and white striped double-cut momentarily out of its element in a pop song are undeniable and call to mind Eddie Van Halen’s show-stopping turn with Michael Jackson as he laid down the solo for Beat It. 

Recorded in ’82, released the following February, 1983, as the third single from Thriller, it was a break-out moment for rock guitar and pop music alike, breaking down the doors. Why couldn’t you put a ripping guitar solo on a big budget pop arrangement, bringing together the two great box office talents of their day?

Perhaps, then, 40 years on, it makes sense for Lil’ Wayne to subvert expectations. This is not Eruption 2.0. No one’s going to out-Eddie Eddie. Instead, we have eight bars of fingerstyle lead, and Batiste on the piano to handle the audience’s appetite for virtuosity. 

After all, let Lil’ Wayne be Lil’ Wayne, blunt in mouth, supplying the poetry and giving this Batiste arrangement an edge. That’s what the people want, and maybe also a guitar tuner to be on hand at all times… Y’know, belt and braces.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.