Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lil Wayne / "Tha Carter III"

Where to begin with "Tha Carter III"? Thanks to a plethora of stellar mixtapes since Lil Wayne's last studio album (2005's "Tha Carter II"), more than a handful of inspiring guest spots, and more internet buzz than perhaps any hip-hop album ever, it was easily the most anticipated album of the year (and last year, as well). After selling approximately one million copies in its first week alone, receiving praise from all kinds of critics, and dominating music discussion across the web, it has become more of an event than an album. What's interesting is the album is surprisingly predictable. Your view of Weezy F. Baby isn't likely to change significantly after this album. If you came in thinking he was (as he claims) "the best rapper alive", there's enough white-hot couplets to fill a review and back up your claim. If you entered thinking he was overrated, all the hype tied with the album combined with its inconsistent nature will do little to sway you. If you think he's shit, you're just bitter and there's no talking to you anyway. As for me, the album is far better than "Tha Carter II" and while it does very little we haven't heard from Wayne before, it's still his best album to date, although it's still erratic and not without its dull moments.

Working with a flurry of producers (The Alchemist, Shondrae "Mr. Bangladesh" Crawford, Cool and Dre, Andrews "Drew" Correa, David Banner, Darius "Deezle" Harrison, D. Smith, Infamous, Jim Jonsin, Kanye West, Maestro, Play-N-Skillz, Rodnae, Robin Thicke, Swizz Beatz, StreetRunner) Lil Wayne flows with great fluidity across a variety of beats and sounds. His talent, as always, is unquestionable. His gift of thinking up the most creative and witty similes is seen throughout the album. On "Mr. Carter" (featuring Jay-Z), the album's second track and early highlight, Wayne shows up Sean Carter himself by stringing together lines like "I got summer hatin' on me cause I’m hotter than the sun. Got Spring hatin' on me cause I never sprung. Winter hatin' on me cause I’m colder than y’all, but I will never I will never I will never fall." Unfortunately, each time he hits his stride, he runs into either dull production ("Comfortable") or else kicks into auto-pilot ("A Milli").

However, the highs manage to outweigh the lows significantly. "Phone Hom'" with its space-age beat suiting perfectly Lil Wayne's raps about being "a martian", claiming "they don't make 'em like me no more. In fact, they never made 'em like me before". It's arguably the best track on the album. "Mrs. Officer" is both humorous and an effective slow jam, thanks to a great guest spot by Bobby Valentino. "Shoot Me Down" has a beat (produced by Kanye West) which could work in either a Sergio Leone film or the next Eminem movie. "My picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition of 'definition'" raps Wayne. As he builds more drama and emotion in his vocals throughout the performance, you believe him. He even brings out his guitar, and while he's no Eddie Hazel, he's also better than I would have guessed. The inescapable "Lollipop" is either the jam of the year or a waste of space, depending on your point of view. I hate auto-tuners, so naturally I'm not sold on the song, although the beat is extremely club-ready. Finale "Dontgetit" opens with a sample of Nina Simone's 1964 classic "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" before Wayne takes off with it and raps over a simple-but-effective beat. The album closes with the beat repeating as Wayne discusses his thoughts on politics, racial discrimination, drug enforcement, and sex offenders, among other things. It's an excellent (albeit long at nearly ten minutes) and logical close to the album, one which gives the listener further insight into the twisted and brilliant mind of Lil Wayne.

While it may be the best hip-hop album thus far this year, and certainly the biggest event in hip-hop (or popular music, period) that 2008 will offer, I still think the best is yet to come from Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. While he might claim (on "Mr. Carter") "next time you mention Pac, Biggie or Jay-Z, don't forget Weezy Baby", this album is far from the overall consistency and quality of "All Eyez on Me", "Ready to Die", and "Reasonable Doubt" respectively. However, it's well within the realm of reason to think he can make an album every bit as compelling as those genre-defining works, and "Tha Carter III" only adds more leverage to his case.

Rating: 8.2


Josh said...

bitch i'm heavy metalin

i like it but i agree about some of the more r&b songs getting dull toward the end. gotta love a guy who records 500 songs about how great he is for an album though.

i think his best stuff is on the mixtapes though

Josh said...

oh yeah what about the end of let the beat build that shit should convert anyone

The_Janitor said...

Lil Wayne is solid, but even talking about him in the same sentence as Pac, Biggie or even Jay-Z is ridiculous. I guess you could count me into the "he's overrated" category. As far as best rapper alive, he is, in my opinion, behind Jay-Z, Lupe, Common, Talib Kweli, Nas and Kanye among others. Weezy will never be close to 2Pac, ever.

Josh said...

weezy is way better than lupe and common, over time better than kanye and talib kweli. nas, jayz, tupac and especially biggie are all better