Mr. Carter is back again

Lil Wayne's twelfth studio album, "Tha Carter V" lives up to expectations after five-year wait

tha-carter-v

Album: “Tha Carter V”

Artist: Lil Wayne

Label: Young Money Entertainment, Republic Records, Universal Music Group

Release Date: Sept. 28

Grade: B

 After a period of label-limbo, Lil Wayne’s highly anticipated “Tha Carter V” has come out after delays, unknown release dates and a feeling that the album release was out of Wayne’s hands. After just one announcement on Wayne’s YouTube account on Sept. 25, the album is suddenly out.

Thanks to lyrics that signal both growth in the artist and a changing outlook on his own fame, Wayne’s “Tha Carter V” is a worthy sequel and one of Wayne’s most acclaimed works.

Starting with a recording of a heartfelt message from his mother, the first track “I Love You Dwayne” sets a more personal tone that feels refreshing for an artist who has struggled to do much in the way of innovation since “Tha Carter III.” 

Instead of going over old ground or attempting to create a mid-2000s hip-hop hit that no longer has a space in 2018, Wayne returns to commentating on social and personal issues while trying to find what binds them together.

This fame commentary has changed since past albums. Now, Wayne is fully aware his influence has affected many of today's rappers (and other members of pop culture) for over a decade. Wayne cemented his legendary status in 2008 when he was only 26. Such a change has plagued Wayne’s grasp, as rapping on his riches can no longer be new for a man surrounded by them for so long.

That is where the lyrical core of “Tha Carter V” differentiates itself from all of Wayne’s past works. In “Famous,” Wayne uses lines like “I ruined relationships before my image, but all I ever wanted was everybody’s attention” and “I was your main man ‘til I went mainstream” to show how both himself, fans and those around him have changed so drastically over the last decade.

For a rapper who would never talk ill of his riches before, he seems to no longer know what they really symbolize about the life he’s lived and that dynamic is alluring. As things remain concrete like his unwavering love for his mother, the expensive cars that once littered his music videos seem to do nothing for him now.

Wayne’s collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on the track “Mona Lisa” is an incredible high point in the album. The rappers use the track to detail the relationships they have had with women and how their own fame changes their outlook on them and themselves. Lamar has made no secret the influence Wayne has had on his own work, something that echoes through the industry with the rise of “Lil” rappers over the last five years.

The collaboration acts with Wayne commenting on how his icon status is enough to make people kick others to the curb, all while looking at the actions of everyone else. Its an isolating position that helps to give him tremendous perspective. Lamar acts as a voice that can now relate but has also been on the receiving end of betrayal for someone looking to pursue an icon.

Lamar’s line of “B––––h, gimme your phone. No, let me take this call … lick me like a lollipop, He on your f––––––g ringtone?” shows the elements of humor, heartbreak and effects of changing perspectives that both rappers handle brilliantly in the song.

For Wayne fans, “Tha Carter V” is something to celebrate after multiple efforts that at best felt like 50/50 albums with most leaning towards mediocrity.

The problem lies in that Wayne isn’t so much going over old ground as he is using old methods. We’ve heard Wayne be both emotionally revealing while giving a social commentary before, its just refreshing to see Wayne not lose sight of the lyrical and production poinuesecy he had employed for the first three “Carter” albums. 

“The Carter V” feels like a culmination of all the styles he has played with, but Wayne succeeds on more songs than he fails on. For every “Let it Fly” that fails to be more than another trap song lacking a meaningful core, there are lyrically sharp and emotionally poignant songs like “Can’t Be Broken” and “Dark Side of the Moon” that immediately follow it.

This is where Wayne shows lyrical growth and almost a return to form for an artist that has overly relied on the word “p–––y” since his 2008 song “P–––y Monster.”

What makes the “Carter” album name so prolific in a genre that rarely does sequel album, is that these were the records where Wayne both established himself as a lyrical presence commentating on multiple forms of life in America while still getting mass airplay.

His lazier lyrical habits are still there in songs like “Dope N––––z,” but it is the exception for the album, not the rule. I applaud Wayne for just how ambitious the album is. Twenty-two songs makes it feel more like a double album and, even on the lyrically weaker songs, the production remains top notch. 

“Tha Carter V” may not reinvent the industry in the way the original albums in the series did, but it does live up to its name while acting as a milestone record for the artist. It may have a few songs that fail to inspire, but it remains consistently strong. 

The songs that reach the emotional highs also come with Wayne’s best commentary on the album and make for some of the best work of his career –– something that seemed out of grasp for the artist when he announced the project five years ago.

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Thomas_Spectrum.