Weezy F. Baby.
Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.
Or as he proclaimed himself in 2005, “The Best Rapper Alive”, released his fifth and final studio album on September 28th. Tha Carter V has been one of the most highly anticipated Hip Hop/Rap productions in the past decade.
Wrapped in controversy, the album originally was scheduled for release in 2014, but was delayed due contract issues between Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records, as well as personal conflict between Carter and Birdman, the head of the label. However, after over four years of legal clashes, Wayne was released from his contract in June of 2018, and announced the album’s release date in early September.
Tha Carter V is Wayne’s most personal project to date, and portrays his growth from an aspiring 9-year-old musician, to a 36-year-old veteran of the rap game. On the album, Wayne reflects on his experiences and discusses the topics of fame, his suicide attempt, fatherhood, and addiction.
The album starts with a heartfelt monologue by Wayne’s mother Jacida Carter, titled “I Love You Dwayne”. This simple two minute interlude is perhaps the most powerful and striking piece of this album, as it embodies and sets up the mood for the rest of the piece. The shakiness of Jacida Carter’s as she reassures her son and commends his diligence – all while crying – serves as a reminder that although he’s a superstar Wayne is still just a human being at the end of the day The repetition of ‘I love you’ is sure to have any Wayne fan in tears.
The the second track features the late XXXTENTACION, who was murdered earlier this year. The song features mournful vocals from the deceased Floridian, with hard-hitting verses from Lil Wayne that defend his relevance even in the emerging Souncloud Era rap scene.
“I am not number one, it’s true I’m number 9-27-82.”
“But if heaven’s as good as advertised
I want a triple extension on my
Rest in paradise.”
Lil Wayne, “Don’t Cry”
Wayne juxtaposes his status in the realm of Hip Hop with his very own birthday, and spits out a slick play on the featured rapper’s name with a double entendre – Wayne wants an extended stay in heaven and displays comfort with the idea his death.
The production on this album is versatile, packed with hypnotic beats on tracks like Uproar produced by Swizz Beatz, a single from the album that even started its own dance challenge on social media, reminiscent of the “Shiggy Challenge” that arose from Drake’s In My Feelings.
Wayne even raps over new, experimental sounds while maintaining his own signature flow on the Travis Scott trap-produced Let it Fly. How Wayne manages to assimilate himself with the evolved sound from his last album while still remaining true to himself is just a testament to his rapping ability cements him as the most respected rappers of all time.
The versatility on the album also plays a huge factor as to why it’s so unique. The track listing features pop style sounds (Dark side of the moon), R&B (What About Me), pure rap (Open Letter) and party-based sound (Start This S**t Off Right), and of course, the retro-nostalgic feeling of Dr. Dre’s XXXplosive sample on Wayne’s collab with Snoop Dogg: (Dope N****z).
The most notable song on Tha Carter V would have to be Mona Lisa, featuring Kendrick Lamar. A metaphor-packed, double-edged story, the song was recorded in 2014 and was listed on the album’s original tracklist. The song marks Kendrick’s and Wayne’s third collaboration, and the magical duo go bar to bar for five minutes of pure lyrical satisfaction. The song is somewhat a passing of torches as Wayne, arguably the best rapper of the 2000’s rapping with Kendrick, who has thus far proved himself to be the greatest of the 2010’s. Mona Lisa is undoubtedly a bonafide modern classic.
“They started french kissing so he didn’t see moi
And then she let him in, they stopped on the couch
Music up loud with his head in the cloud
Turn that sh*t down and I scared the p*ss out of him
Piss a ni**a off, put a gun to his frown”
Lil Wayne, “Mona Lisa”
The only flaw with Tha Carter V is that it may be too long, which seem to be consistent with some previous installments in the Tha Carter series. From a long-time listener’s perspective, the only instalment to have a fully balanced track listing that doesn’t seem too dragged out would be Tha Carter III.
The album likely would’ve had the same emotional farewell feeling if some songs were left out, which Jay-Z did masterfully in The Black Album. It satisfies the listener but still compells you you to come back for more. But but as Wayne himself said in the announcement video for the album, “You don’t have to love it, You don’t even have to like it, just hope you enjoy it every time you put it on”.
In all honesty, the more I listen to the album, the more I enjoy it and truly understand how much of Wayne’s life he has dedicated to music. Each song feels new in a sense – even the ones that I think should have been left off the album.
Tha Carter V isn’t better than II or III, but it is Wayne’s most cohesive project in years. It’s impossible as a Hip-Hop fan to hate this album. The album experiments new sounds and maintains a nostalgic feeling at the same time. Wayne still has the musical ability and lyrical prowess to reclaim his position in the rap game anytime he wants, but after decades of his legendary musical journey, Tha Carter V brings fans closer and more personal to Wayne than ever before.