Tha Carter IV (Deluxe edition) (released August 29, 2011 )
When it comes to Lil Wayne, my wife (and party hostess here at GeorgiaMae.com) is related to three men with widely varying opinions on Young Tunechi.
Jai's cousin: Lil Wayne superfan. Wayne could belch the phone book and he'd call it a classic.
Jai's brother: A former Lil Wayne fanatic, his fandom has died down in recent years. He admits Wayne has lost a step from his glory days but still considers him among rap's elite.
Jai's husband: Yours truly. Thinks Lil Wayne had one good album (2005's Tha Carter II) and a couple of decent mixtapes but overall is grossly overrated.
When Wayne's highly anticipated album leaked a week early it sparked three different reactions from the wifey's favorite guys:
Jai's cousin: Anyone who listens to that leaked album sucks. I'm waiting to buy it. YMCMB!
Jai's bro: Wow, Wayne leaked! I'm going to check it out right now.
Me: Wayne's album actually came out? Meh, what time does "Cheaters" come on?
After a yearlong vacation in the bing, Weezy is looking to reestablish dominance. Of course Jai's cousin would deny this, but Weezy's luster has definitely faded in the past couple of years. That HORRIBLE rock/rap album Rebirth and a couple of below-average mixtapes have cheapened his claims of being The Best Rapper Alive. He's even taken a backseat to proteges Drake and Nicki Minaj (and thankfully, Icki Garbaj is nowhere to be found on C4).
Wayne realizes that the pressure is on, and for the first time in years, he actually sounds hungry. Wayne is at his best when he prattles off his stream-of-consciousness flow, meshing bizarre punchlines with his screechy delivery. It's no surprise that C4's best tracks follow that formula. "Blunt Blowing," "6 Foot 7 Foot" and "She Will" won't increase your IQ, but what do you expect, it's a Lil Wayne album.
Young Tune just regurgitates punchline after punchline, beating you over the head with his wicked wordplay. Sometimes it's so bad it's good, like on "Mega Man": "Send those Bloods after your a** like a tampon," sometimes it's just weird: "I'm a diamond in the rough like a baby in the trash" but it's always entertaining, in a train wreck sorta way.
The track that will get the most attention is definitely "It's Good," where Wayne hocks a blatant diss at Jay-Z ( "talking about 'Baby money?' I got your baby, money/kidnap your b****, get that 'how much you love your lady?' money ) in retaliation to Jigga's verse on "H.A.M." earlier this year, where he poked fun at Birdman holding on to Wayne's checkbook. Too bad that will overshadow Jadakiss's guest verse, who drops one of his best verses in a long while.
Jada isn't the only notable guest. C4 features interludes that are essentially freestyles from rap heavyweights. The oddballs Andre 3000 and Tech N9ne turn heads on their collabo, but the real scene stealer is the "Outro," which features Bun B, Nas, Marge Simpson's older brother Shyne Po and Busta Rhymes. Wayne stays out of the way and lets the veterans engage in a lyrical assault.
Jai's brother will be happy to hear that Wayne and friends are in top form. But I can hear Jai's cousin chiding me now: "Tunechi ain't just freestyling. He has substance." Eh, he's right. Kinda.
Wayne's not known for introspection, but "Nightmares from the Bottom," his standout performance from his MTV Unplugged special early this summer, is a great narrative about his struggles. He reminds us: "Don't call me sir, call me sur-vivor." And even a grouch like me can't hate on the empowering message of "How To Love." But who was the genius who encouraged Wayne that it was OK to sing like Robin Thicke? Save your Eric Benet impersonations for the shower, playa.
Yep, Lil Wayne's detractors, like myself, will find plenty of ammunition here. "John" is essentially a remix of Rick Ross's "I'm Not a Star," and not a very good one. I don't think it's very bright to put someone else's song on your comeback album. "So Special" isn't too bad, but John Legend's hook and Wayne's flow is like oil and water - zero chemistry. The appropriately titled "Abortion" sounds like a Rebirth reject, and you know how I feel about that album. And on "How to Hate," Wayne destroys the goodwill of "How to Love" - it's the played out "deez wimmen ain't no good" track that's even MORE played out with the inclusion of T-Pain and that stupid vocoder. I wish he would choke on that thing.
Wayne's an easy target, and it's not hard to poke holes in pretty much anything he releases. But I'm a fair and unbiased reviewer (it's true!), and I can honestly say that Jai's cousin's enthusiasm is justified for once. Flaws and all, I enjoyed this album way more than anything he's done since Tha Carter II. I would suggest skipping the deluxe version of the album, though the extra tracks don't add much.
I think Tha Carter IV will win back those fans who were beginning to lose faith in Weezy. Curmudgeons like myself will still find stuff to complain about, but will begrudgingly go along for the ride.
Wayne's superfans? This is probably their Illmatic. But was there ever any doubt?
Best tracks: "Nightmares From The Bottom," "Outro," "She Will"
Jai's cousin's score: 11 billion stars out of 5
Jai's bro's score: 4.5 stars out of 5
My score: 4 stars out of 5