*lighter flick* *inhale*
Five years. Five seemingly long years since Lil Wayne’s last album, I Am Not a Human Being II came out. (Technically it’s been three years, but does anyone really count Free Weezy Album since it was released exclusively on Tidal?) After years of delays, talks of retirement and an ugly battle with Cash Money Records, we are finally endowed with Tha Carter V.
For starters, it’s a long album. If you like to listen to records in consecutive order then stow away one hour and 28 minutes of your time for this trip to Wayne’s world. Interestingly and surprisingly enough, a good portion of it is rather emotional. If you’re in your bag lately: be warned. I don’t know who hurt Lil Tunechi, but he really came through with the feels on this one. (See: “What About Me” and “Perfect Strangers.”) Aside from the lovey dovey, there is also plenty of self proclamation, ego strokes and hype hits. (See: “Dedicate” and “Hittas.”) Being as lengthy as it is with 23 songs, it’s only right that Weezy gives us almost everything from crooning ballads to spitting straight bumps, truly reflecting whatever has been going on in his life since Tha Carter IV.
Well, technically, the first track isn’t a song; it’s an emotional spoken-word recording from Wayne’s mother, Jacinda Carter. Done in classic voicemail style as every rapper has to do at some point, she gives her beloved son, and the rest of the album, her best wishes, encouragement, and approval. “I Love You Dwayne” is exactly what we all want to hear from our parents. (I know what I’m going to be listening to during midterm meltdowns.) This isn’t the last of Weezy’s nods to his mother. In the chorus of “Took His Time” he sings about how “Momma said God took his time when he made me.” How sweet. The entire album sounds like he has her to credit for it. So, thank you, Jacinda, without whom we may not have ever gotten this record.
Next on the queue is a bit of a surprise. Out of the songs that stand out on this album, “Don’t Cry” is one of them. Wayne opens up the record musically with the late rapper/singer XXXTENTACION in a bellowing plea for a lover to stay. For Wayne it is a letter to his fans and loved ones about himself. He tells us not to cry for he is back, and to stay tuned. XXXTENTACION, on the other hand, delivers a heart wrenching chorus he actually wrote for someone else.
There is something touching in X’s voice and simple lyrics that soothes any aching part of the soul. Prior to making this record Wayne had never even known of the controversial artist, but he ends the outro with, “rest in paradise,” respectively.
Skip a song and we come to “Uproar.” Here is where we start to feel good about ourselves, and when I say feel good I mean feel like a NBA star running on to the court. Produced by Swizz Beatz, Wayne maintains a head-bobbing flow to their rendition of G. Dep’s 2001 “Special Delivery.” The simple yet catchy rhyme. The simple yet clean beat. It’s songs like these that never get old no matter how many times you pregame to them.
After a decent enough feature with Travis Scott on “Let it Fly” comes a power ballad only Weezy could do. From the man who gave us empowering lyrics such as, “confidence is a stain they can’t wipe off,” he now giveth “Can’t Be Broken.” It is exactly what it sounds like: the song that will gets us through Friday classes. On a serious note, the uncredited singer of the chorus and cowriter, Thomas Troelsen, mends his passionate and soft voice perfectly next to Wayne’s growls and breathless rap. It’s every pent-up frustration of self doubt unleashed to an incredibly mean beat.
Up next is what we were all waiting for: a Weezy and Queen Nicki reunion, and in what better way than an RnB love song? “Dark Side of the Moon” brings out the sweet notes in Nicki Minaj and those feel-good early 2000s vibes. The piano, the slightly auto-tuned repeating of “intergalactical love,” I mean, Lil Wayne and Nicki, they really did that. This, this is the one to play for your bae. Matter of fact, listen to it now, text your lover and tell them you’ll be waiting for them on the dark side of the moon. Better yet, call them.
Anyway, once that’s over we get “Mona Lisa” featuring Kendrick Lamar. It’s dynamic, it’s progressive, it’s a story, and at five minutes and 24 seconds, the longest song on the album couldn’t be long enough. You’re almost left without a breath just listening to it. By the time Kendrick comes in with barely two minutes left, he can’t be tied down. He delivers several personalities with his voice changes. You can’t really tell what’s going on. (Thankfully we have Rap Genius, am I right?) Finally, we’re teased with an outro that could’ve been half a song in itself. It’s quite a rollercoaster. But you’ll wanna get back in line and hit repeat.
The next three tracks is where you’ll wonder how sad Weezy can really get. Listen at your own discretion. (Pro-tip: avoid “Mess” unless you’re emotionally ready for sad boy hours.)
To end that sad spell, we have the OG old school bop on the album, “Dope Ni**az” with none other than the OG himself, Snoop Dogg. There isn’t much to say about this track but that it’s just a laid back classic with downtown LA feels. Enjoy at your own discretion.
Now, with all this talk of features you might be wondering– where’s Drake? I know I was. The only peep out of him we get on this album is a grand total of eight words. Eight. In “Hittas” Drizzy chimes in as the voice of the world asking, “Weezy, where you been? The people miss ya.” And that’s it, folks.
This next song is the biggest ode to the early 2000s vibes we just don’t get anymore. One of the best things millennials have is that we experienced that era. With Ashanti on the record, “Start This Sh*t Off Right” takes you right back to those days. Also featuring Mack Maine, it bumps those old school hip hop sounds. Not a bad thing to be said about this one. Did I mention Ashanti? Classic.
All in all, the verdict on Tha Carter V? Good. No song is bad, but with 22 of them there are bound to be a few that get overshadowed, and if they’re lucky, which they are, end up serving as good background music. The songs aren’t arranged in the most concise way either, but rather they can take you from tears to hitting the club real quick. Each one, however, is unique and a feeling on its own. Honorable mention goes out to “Dope New Gospel.”
Things he did right? Less auto-tune and less bathroom humor one-liners. Lots of meaningful lines instead. Things he could have done differently? “Demon” would have been a great song to feature Childish Gambino. Biggest disappointment? The utter absence of Eminem. Best part? The complete vulnerability and time clearly given to craft each song. Whether this really is Lil Wayne’s last album, it’s a commendable piece.