‘THA CARTER V’
Lil Wayne Is Back, Finally.
The long-awaited Tha Carter V dropped last night, and everyone I know listened to it. The celebration was one part Wayne’s 36th birthday, and one part album drop…or freedom from Birdman’s Cash Money Records (label).
A binding lawsuit ended earlier this year when Birdman and Wayne exchanged an undisclosed sum, and Wayne was allowed to sever ties with the label and release of Tha Carter V. The features include Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, XXXTentacion, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Ashanti and more.
“It’s alive, it’s alive, I’m revived, it’s C5/ Been arrived, kiss the sky, did the time/ Please advise it is advise or be advised and we advise/ You not fuck with me and mine/ And keep in mind, that we don’t mind losing our minds.”
— “Let It Fly” Feat. Travis Scott
It’s almost not even worth trying to quote his best lyrics from the project because you need to go listen to it yourself. It’s vintage Wayne with a few teaspoons of modern hip-hop swag, however, that’s expected of him.
The theme that persisted through the first half of the album is Wayne started a half-dozen of modern hip-hop trends, which is undeniable and is the reason for his staying power.
I won’t say he was the first ever, but Wayne definitely was an early purveyor of the face tat. It’s a damn near necessity in today’s rap game—seriously, can you even name an up-and-comer right now who doesn’t have at least one?
There isn’t anything in this album that can take away Wayne’s claim that he is the best rapper alive. The album is chock full of Wayne one-liners that are up to par with his earlier work.
I’d call Wayne the king of one-liners, and what we’re seeing in today’s rap culture is mostly swag rap. While the modern goons are trying to impress, it rarely goes farther than a one-liner and typically in the vein of Wayne. The storytelling days of hip-hop are long gone (save Kendrick and J Cole), and the “lyricists” of this modern era are the guys who can pull off a riddle in a bar or two, which Wayne is the king of this wizardry. Again, he didn’t invent the two bar metaphor, but he might be one of few who has mastered it.
The twenty some odd track album? Even though 2018 saw the mini albums of the Kanye power clique (Nas, Pusha, Cudi, Teyana), the Internet era has shown us that there isn’t anything wrong with quantity and sometimes it is best to let the fans pick the singles. In the CD era, you had to budget your funds and even buy singles if you didn’t have the confidence that an artist could deliver an album. Now for $9.99 a month, you get everything, and rap music reflects that more than any other genre.
Bugattis, Lean, baby pictures as album covers…the list of trends goes on.
Yet, I think the reason why this album is so strong is that it really has 23 quality songs. Most of all of that is a testament to Wayne’s lyrical ability (although, the production did not blow me away).
Unlike the mixed reviews Kamikaze got, the early feedback I am seeing is that this is another classic Carter album for Wayne and his team (or are they all classics?)
I ask though, where are the hits? I asked Kanye the same thing after Ye, and found myself liking “All Mine,” “Yikes,” and “Ghost Town” more and more as the album passed. However, none of these songs have passed 100M streams on Spotify, and I noticed minimal radio play. I anticipate the same thing will happen here: the album will grow on me as I listen more, people will call the album a classic, and there will not be any songs that surpass 100M in a short period of time. Drake and Travis Scott seem to be the only artists who can continually deliver hits album after album. Post Malone and Cardi B will be hot on their tails if they keep spitting out hits at this pace. The other hitmakers of 2018 go by the monikers 6ix9ine, Juice WRLD, Lil Baby, and Lil Pump, but these new faces may not stand the test of time.
Nevertheless, the hit song remains elusive. Surrounded by all the best writers and beat makers, 23 tracks later and I could not identify the radio song, which is a common theme in the Internet era. With so many people making music, the hit songs have become less formulaic and harder to attain.
Although Kamikaze got mixed reviews from the fans and terrible reviews from critics, “Lucky You” has over 100M streams and the album went #1 in 103 countries. I’m not sure how the Wayne album will stream just yet; I imagine similar, but with better reviews.
With most of modern hip-hop adopting Wayne-influenced bars and styles, Tha Carter V album sounds much more current than Kamikaze, even though some tracks are clearly five years old and Kamikaze was made in the last three years according to Em. Wayne’s style should translate more to today’s hip-hop youth, and overall it seems his style has aged better. Neither rapper evolved at all, they both dropped their major label debut albums in 1999, and they both dropped comeback albums in 2018, therefore it seems appropriate to compare them.
After my second listen, it remains a masterpiece with zero hits. If I wrote an article the day Astroworld came out, I might be eating my words now, and that might be the case here. Still, I don’t hear any radio songs on this album, which is a far removal from the Carter series that features hits, like “6 Foot 7 Foot” (Carter IV), “A Milli,” “Mrs. Officer,” “Lollipop” (Carter III), and “Go DJ” (Carter I). However, the fact that Wayne was able to deliver a highly-anticipated album that didn’t get chewed up by negative reviews after such a long hiatus is a testament to his rapping ability. Even if he didn’t pick the right beats or write the hookiest choruses on Tha Carter V, his bars alone keep him in the upper echelon of hip-hop artists, and I didn’t expect anything less. With that being said, it still is tied with Tha Carter II as worst album of the Carter series, but that’s just how good Lil Wayne and The Carters are.