Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Album Review: Lil Wayne - Tha Carter V

Lil Wayne
Tha Carter V
***and1/2 out of *****

The Chinese Democracy of modern hip hop has finally arrived. Scheduled for 2014 Tha Carter V has been released after extended legal battles between Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records along with a personal feud with one time mentor Birdman. Wayne has gone through many personal up and downs during the last four years, including being hospitalized and shot at, and after years of promises the album is a long running journey which proves Wayne is still solidly in the game.

Opening with honest sentiments from his mother the record was designed to show growth and maturity from the artist and it does, addressing painful situations, personal failings, and even his 12 year old gun accident while still lamenting getting fucked up, going to parties and trying to be the best rapper alive.

Wayne’s verses come out super strong even if the first two songs “Don’t Cry” and “Dedicated” feature powerful statements from him personally around dull guest choruses. XXXTENTACION goes the singing route on “Don’t Cry” with rough results beginning on a bum note while 2 Chainz ode to Wayne works (barely) on “Dedicated” which gets a boost from a President Obama sample.  

The two best beats on the album come in the form of throwbacks as “Uproar” and “Start This Shit Off Right” by Swizz Beatz and Mannie Fresh respectively just miss being all-time classics surprisingly because Wayne’s rhymes are lackluster on these numbers. Weezy always seems to dive into the tracks with thinner beats that never really want to go anywhere instead of the real bangers.  

He successfully falls back into his auto tuned/trap/cheaper sounding beats safe place for “Problems”, the deeply personal closer “Let It All Work Out” and the strip club ready “Open Safe” which uses bumping and slapping from DJ Mustard around Weezy’s never ending flow. Great word play is everywhere throughout Tha Carter V as Wayne is open, giddy with his voice, flowing and letting everything hang out, one random example is “Hittas” which has both “Money in the air/Who said white men can’t jump?” and “I got paper, on top of paper, we gon' need rulers/I'm effective, been doin' numbers since Roman numerals”.

This is clearly Wayne’s vehicle but there are a few guest appearances. Nicki Minaj has the most eye opening turn, expertly pairing with her old partner in crime to deliver an unexpected affecting tune on mortality and the afterlife with “Dark Side Of The Moon” while Travis Scott gets blown away by an energized Wayne who spits fire on “Let It Fly”. On the dull side, Snoop Dog doesn’t add much to “Dope Niggaz” nor does Drake’s unaccredited appearance on “Hittas”.

Producer Infamous has worked with Wayne for over a decade now and the combo put together a few of the best tracks here as “Took His Time” his a rich tapestry of piano, bass and clicking snares, “Mess” allows Wayne to deal with his pain around gorgeous guitar lines and the creepy/dramatic music box lines in “Used 2” fires Wayne up for gangsta laced stanzas.

Infamous gets the hell out of the way with minimalist accompaniment over the richest word play and stand out track on the record, “Mona Lisa”. A five and a half minute story, the track is a sex and crime rhyme tale which is an expertly painted plan of attack regarding love triangles which could be made into a movie. Kendrick Lamar hops on board to play the role of spurned, psychotic lover on a track that proves Wayne and Lamar are par excellence; an instant classic.  

The talk of growth is legit as the sex rhyme and dick jokes are scaled back but the middle of the record drags into softer modern R&B sounds with a trio of relationship/life slow jams. “What About Me” is a self-centered woe is me number, before the brokenhearted “Open Letter” and the piano ballad “Famous” which does showcase the soothing vocals of his eldest daughter  Reginae Carter.

Things aren’t perfect but that is to be expected, for an album which has gone through such drama as this one; Tha Carter V shows its scars and Wayne proudly wears them. Four years is longer than most rappers careers and for Wayne to present a unified sounding record from tracks recorded in wildly different sessions is a success in itself. Lil’ Wayne manages to remain one of the most engaging artists on the scene as he continually dives deeper into his strongest subject, himself.
Support the artist, buy the record and peep some video below:

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