Lil Wayne is, in one word, legendary.
I don’t use that word lightly, but he fits the bill to a T. I’ve been a fan of hip-hop as long as I’ve been a suburban white boy, and Wayne’s four-year stretch from 2006 to 2009 remains the hottest I’ve ever seen from a rapper. He was absolutely inescapable. His 2008 magnum opus “Tha Carter III” ended up going triple platinum and for great reason. The album was stuffed with hit after hit: “A Milli,” “Lollipop,” “Mrs. Officer,” the list goes on.
On top of his acclaimed album, Wayne formed record label Young Money, birthing rap superstars Drake and Nicki Minaj. Throwing a Weezy feature on your song would almost assure it soared to the top of the charts, no matter how garbage the track was. Remember “Let it Rock?” Neither do I. There was no limit to Wayne’s star power.
Wayne seemed unstoppable, but over the past decade he’s fallen into the backseat of rap. This can be for a number of reasons: New rap sounds pushed Wayne’s brash style out of the limelight. A string of lukewarm to average releases loosened his grasp on the rap crown, allowing his own protegé Drake to claim the role (in my opinion). His partnership with Birdman collapsed and led to years of legal turmoil which prevented the release of “Tha Carter V.”
The wait is over. “Tha Carter V” has arrived.
Arguably the most anticipated album of the 2010s, TCV brings a fierce-spitting Wayne we’ve scarcely heard in recent years, spare some mixtapes. In a time where legacy rappers are either hitting big (Jay-Z) or completely falling apart (Eminem), Wayne confidently joins the former category. Clocking in at a thick 87 minutes, “V” will surely please even the pickiest rap fan.
Tracks like the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Mona Lisa” highlight the tight lyricism and selective featuring that pushed Wayne to the top of rap in the first place. Kendrick, who has a tendency to botch features (love you Kenny, but it’s true), nails the track with a bullet-like flow.
If there’s one thing Wayne is stellar at, it’s picking the right features. That trend continues with “Don’t Cry,” aided posthumously by XXXTENTACION. With its sticky flow and X’s simple yet infectious chorus, I’d be shocked if it isn’t the hit of the long tracklist.
The album isn’t without its glaring flaws, however. My biggest concern coming into the album was if its near five-year production cycle would end up with a dated sound. The answer to that is: In parts. Like too many albums nowadays, “V” is bogged down by pointless filler tracks, particularly in the second half of the album. “Problems” is a rough cut showcasing Wayne trying to play catch-up with new trap trends that have surfaced since his late 2000s peak. Pass. “Perfect Strangers” tries to call back memories of Weezy love songs of the past, but ultimately feels as romantically genuine as a Tinder pick-up line.
Even with its flaws, “Tha Carter V” is a welcome return to form for the former king of rap. Songs like “Don’t Cry” and “Mona Lisa” will remind you of his peak. Time will tell if Wayne can retain this renaissance era in the twilight of his career, but this is a hell of a start. Weezy’s back, baby.
Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.