Just as you start to think you’ve seen everything there is to see in the guitar world, the universe launches us an almighty curveball. Case in point: Jon Batiste’s new single Uneasy, which features a pop-rock crossover so unexpected you’ll be rubbing your eyes in disbelief.
See, for Uneasy, Batiste has called upon rap superstar Lil Wayne, who briefly ditches the mic for a, erm, guest guitar solo.
Now, that alone would have us rather perplexed – Lil Wayne has previously showcased his six-string skills, but it’s fair to say it’s not considered one of his instrumental expertise – but the choice of axe here adds a further layer of intrigue.
For his solo, Lil Wayne wielded what looks to be an Eddie Van Halen, Frankie-inspired EVH Striped Series model.
At around the 4:00 mark in the music video, Weezy gets comfortable behind the EVH Frankie for eight bars for nonchalant bends, which are captured through the rapper’s thumb-only right-hand picking technique.
Although the whole thing has admittedly caught us a little bit off guard, a moment of quiet reflection puts Lil Wayne and Jon Batiste’s latest musical exploits into a clearer light.
After all, this same striped six-string (and, indeed, the master guitar legend who crafted it) featured on Michael Jackson’s Beat It back in 1982 – a milestone in music history that saw Van Halen team up with the King of Pop for the ultimate pop-rock crossover.
So, is Uneasy an attempt to be 2023’s Beat It moment? Well, probably not – it’s more than likely just a nice nod to the musical pioneers that came before them, and a conscious effort to show the blurred musical boundaries between ‘conventional’ guitar and rap music.
Whatever the case, it's definitely something you probably never expected to see.
As such, the quest for this generation’s Beat It continues, although according to Tom Morello, he and Post Malone – another pop-rap superstar with an appreciation for the guitar – almost cracked the code after working on an unreleased “phat jam” together.
Post Malone might be slightly more aligned with Van Halen’s guitar work, too, after he recently tripped up during a Tiny Desk performance because he was too busy thinking about EVH’s playing.
“I can,” the pop-rap superstar quipped at the time in regard to playing a Van Halen-like solo, “I just don’t really feel like it.”