Friday was a historic day for the hip-hop industry. It had been seven years since Lil Wayne, a legend of the industry, dropped the fourth edition of his signature projects. In that time period, a lot has changed with hip-hop, but Wayne remains the same, keeping his gruff southern sound, quick flows, and crazy rhyming patterns. Tha Carter V brings me back, that is for sure.
Growing up in a household where rap was from the 80s and 90s, Lil Wayne was never on my radar until middle school. I recently found my first MP3 player from those years and realized one of my first introductions to rap was the clean version of “A Milli” off Tha Carter III. As you can imagine, this latest album really brings me back to 2011 when I was discovering “new” rap. With it being such an important record for hip-hop, I have decided to cover the whole album instead of cherry-picking certain tracks for this time around.
Wayne starts the project out with a message of love and support from his mother. Nothing overly edited or with even a beat in the back, just straight, raw, emotion-filled words from his mom about how much he has done for her and his family. He immediately follows it up with a very fitting track “Don’t Cry” with a feature from the late XXXTentacion. It’s a powerful entry into the project, with Wayne discussing some of his most difficult times for himself and his family. The beat is haunting and eery with this very abstract outro that leads into a funky, bass-lead beat on “Dedicate”. The third track itself doesn’t stand out too much minus the sample of a President Obama speech and the transition into possibly one of the most popular songs off Tha Carter V, “Uproar.”
Swizz Beatz constantly exceeds expectations when he makes a beat. This track is no exception. The beat is hard, the chorus is hard, and Wayne makes sure every rapper knows not to f@&k with him. Trust me, when that beat drops, you won’t be able to not sing this chorus.
“What the fuck though? Where the love go?
Five, four, three, two, I let one go”
Suddenly, after such a great, traditional Lil Wayne song, we are met with 808s, dark piano loops, and the autotuned voice of Travis Scott. Sven Thomas was the producer of “Let It Fly” and this track literally sounds like it was an unused beat from Astroworld. Luckily, Wayne cleans it up on “Can’t Be Broken” with some top-class rhyming patterns on his verses. With his quick and powerful verses that feel like a flurry of jabs in a ring while offering flows that differ in pitch and speed, the transition into “Dark Side of the Moon” is odd. Featuring Nicki Minaj, a long time friend and collaborator, they slow things way down talking about their love for their significant others.
Now one must recall that this record is an hour and a half long. That is a long time to keep a listener’s attention. In arguably the most powerful, energetic piece on the album, “Mona Lisa,” Wayne brings another the lyrical powerhouse Kendrick Lamar to lay out a story of deceptive women. Wayne opens his half of the five-minute track with a story of using a woman to set up for a robbery. Then, in a very abrupt transition, we hear a switch to Kendrick, who unravels his story of a suspect lover. Both have such fiery and poetic flows that vocals alone just pull you deeper and deeper in. Kendrick adds his vocal manipulation talents to the mix by creating different sounds and pitches to change his flow and rhyming schemes up, almost forming a “skit” of sorts within the story. The beat was produced by one of Wayne’s most trusted producers, Marco Rodriguez Diaz, which features tons of little intricate piano loops behind overlapping bass kicks.
Then after such a powerful track, the album slowly falls away from me. I start to lose interest and attention, causing me to lose focus. It has nothing to do with the quality or the sound. Following “Mona Lisa,” we still see quality beats and production, but as a listener, you have just listened to twenty-eight minutes of top-quality Weezy and that’s a lot to unpack. There are some good deep tracks in the back half, looking particularly at “Took His Time,” “Famous,” and “Open Safe.” Yet, there is a lot here that isn’t anything special. “What About Me” feels like a stripped down, poppy love ballad. Snoop Dawg just feels like a reach to be featured on “Dope N****z,” just coming in on the chorus with his signature sound which is so distinctly different than Wayne’s. If you make it to “Used 2,” its a high tempo beat with some very strong verses from Wayne, however, the high pitched piano instrumental just doesn’t feel like it fits.
“Uproar,” “Mona Lisa,” “Can’t Be Broken,” “Don’t Cry,” and “Took His Time”
This album had a ton to go through. From the lyrics to the beats to the samples and features…there is a lot there. This review would be close to 2000 words if I tried to go through everything. Is this the best Tha Carter? Hell no. That is still reserved for the third edition in my opinion. However, this album still has some great tracks. With that said, Tha Carter V receives a:
It’s fun to hear Wayne back making music and proving why he is a legend. He is one of those rappers that will forever remind me of my introduction to modern rap music. Let’s just hope that if a sixth edition gets released at some point, it won’t take another seven years.