By Zach Colten
What comes to your mind when you think of the modern rap game? For many people, the current image involves face tattoos, autotune, drugs, and choppy flows.
Whether these progressions are good or bad is irrelevant.
What is important is that they all came from Lil Wayne.
The New Orleans rapper’s legacy was set in stone long before the release of this year’s album. Wayne has released 11 albums since 1999 that have all been certified either platinum or gold – including 2010’s “I Am Not a Human Being,” released while Weezy was incarcerated on criminal weapon possession charges.
“Tha Carter V,” in many ways, then, is a celebration.
First and foremost, it is a celebration of his sprawling body of work and “Tha Carter” series in particular. Wayne has an extremely devoted fan base, and knows how special this musical saga has been over the years for his listeners – and he made sure to deliver at his highest capacity.
Second, it is a triumphant uppercut to the legal trouble that had delayed the album time and time again. Finally in control of his label’s finances and creative direction, the Young Money Entertainment CEO was able to release “Tha Carter V” on his own terms.
OK, now let’s get to the music.
While Wayne may have been an originator of the staccato flows permeating today’s rap scene, do not be fooled. Do not expect anything remotely “Gucci Gang” on this project. This is a master at work –providing substance, narrative, and creativity on every track.
A perfect example of this is “Mona Lisa (feat. Kendrick Lamar).” Much like DaVinci’s painting, this song is a masterpiece. Both Weezy and Kung Fu Kenny deliver rhyme after rhyme, each line following a vivid story arc while simultaneously hitting every beat ferociously.
Other highlights include “Uproar,” a banger reminiscent of stadium rap hits such as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win.”
“Dark Side of the Moon” is a beautiful, poetic song featuring fellow Young Money rapper Nicki Minaj, whose powerful vocals add a heartbreaking warmth to the cold, outer-space themed song.
“Open Letter” is a reflective letter from the rapper to Life, in which he contemplates his past successes and possibilities for the future: “What is my meaning? My reason?”
This song is special perhaps because of its somber nod to the recently deceased rapper, Mac Miller. The pair had contemplated the same themes on Mac’s song, “The Question,” from the 2012 mixtape, “Macadelic.”
To me, the only thing lacking from this album was Drake. The Toronto rapper makes a brief appearance on the song “Hittas” to welcome Weezy back, saying, “Weezy where you been? The people miss ya!” but a full-length verse is nowhere to be found.
Ultimately, “The Carter V” is a crown jewel on an already diamond-studded mantle. With “I-wrote-the-damn-textbook” raps and superstar production from Swizz Beatz and several others, the album is basically flawless, which was admittedly expected given the 5-6 years of work put into it. I was just ecstatic to see it reach its full potential.
It seems that just like the title of the closing track on “Tha Carter V,” Lil Wayne has found the perfect balance in his life – the ability to “Let it All Work Out.”
“The album does slap...”