September 28, 2018: After four years of patiently waiting, the fifth installment of Lil Wayne’s ‘Tha Carter’ series has finally seen the light, and shortly right after made it on top of the Billboard Charts. Officially his 12th studio album release, fans were sighing from relief: The wait was over. It took some time but ‘Tha Carter V’ was finally there. Possibly the last of ‘Tha Carter’ series, the album was already announced in November 2012 and originally planned to be released in 2014. The process was a headache: Multiple delays, partly caused due to contractual disputes between Lil Wayne and his label Cash Money Records as well as personal conflicts with label-head Birdman. To compensate for the long-awaited album, Lil Wayne released the mixtape ‘Sorry 4 the Wait 2’ in 2015, which is also a sequel for ‘Sorry 4 the Wait’ in 2011, served as the same purpose when 2011’s ‘Tha Carter IV’ was delayed.
As much as people were longing for the album, the main issue was the doubt if the record’s content would match with today’s music standards and style after many years of delays. The struggle that he carried on his shoulders were addressed on an interview with BET:
“The thing was, the music is almost 7 years old. So, it was almost like, you know, I even had to ask some of the artists ‘are you okay with your verse?’ These people laid the verse down almost four years ago. But we were saying things in the songs that was going on at the time – we might have said a name or something to where if you hear it now you’d be like ‘woah, what was that?’ So, that was a big big issue, the music and the era in the time.”
Wayne continued how the artists, the ones that chose to stay on the album, did not change their verses, including his own. The only thing Wayne did was maybe tapping around or switching a few lines of his own raps: “Other than that the answer to the issue was timeless lyrics.”
After 30 weeks on the chart, the album is still present in Billboard lists and keeps having an impact. This underlines the response of his fans after the long wait, but also could mean that the content is, as Wayne mentioned, timeless. Let’s dig in and find out.
With a sobbing voice Jacinda Carter, the mother of Lil Wayne, introduces the listener to the album with 2 minute ‘I Love You Dwayne’: “Everybody asks when the album comes out […] I know it’s going to be good”. Crying and being thankful for her son, the album right after continues with ‘Don’t Cry’: With links to the afterlife (“rest in paradise”), the track features deceased rapper XXXTentacion, who sadly already passed on before the song’s release. Unfortunate reality is therefore underlined thereafter when a snippet of an Obama speech is shared in ‘Dedicate’: “They might think they’ve got a pretty good jump shot or a pretty good flow. But our kids can’t all aspire to be LeBron or Lil Wayne!” – which can be seen as an honor to Wayne for being used in his speech, together with the Lakers’ basketball player, as someone who made it. In ‘Delicate’, a sorrowful piano takes over a sad but foresightful vibe, which also continues the tone in ‘Can’t Be Broken’ and ‘Perfect Strangers’. Similar feelings go on in ‘Uproar’, the lead single of the album features Swizz Beatz and borrows hip-hop beats from the 2000s. There, he changes his tone in between with a draining voice as if he’s being annoyed: “What the f*ck though? Where the love go? Five, four, three, two, where the ones go?”
Even though ‘Tha Carter V’s hard and serious approach takes over frequently throughout the album, Lil Wayne managed to create a sensual side with the help of female features. Nicki Minaj, for example, shows a totally different vibe in ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. Loveable and sweet without her famous in-your-face attitude, Nicki rather shows soul in duet form with dreamy R&B sounds, singing about an ‘intergalactic love’, and continues ‘I’ll be waiting for you on the dark side of the moon’. Similar rhythmic grooves are given by Ashanti’s humming in ‘Start This Shit Off Right’ – like a 90s house party having similarities to an old school happy tune by either Tupac or Biggie, with Tupac also being referred by Wayne (“all eyez on me, I had a Pac moment”). The track also features Mack Maine, and the trio – Wayne, Mack & Ashanti – work perfectly together, with all three of them having standout moments without stepping on each other’s feet. Sensuality then shakes hands with sexuality with the help of Nivea in ‘Dope New Gospel’ which also mashes up gospel influences. But also solo wise Lil Wayne shows off a more sensual (or dreamy) side. ‘Mess’ is the perfect example: Romantic guitar gives spring feels with outside birds chirping but makes it more surprising when out of nowhere Wayne switches from singing to rapping in fast-forward mode with a hard beat. These moments make ‘Mess’ a standout track, just like ‘Mona Lisa’, a collab with Kendrick Lamar that magically attracts attention: Adventurous and mysterious background music in a dark set tone with guitar. Kendrick aka ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ starts off the song with a short intro while Wayne tells a long story like a drunkard. As the lyrics are based on women who hide secrets – just like Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and her ambiguous smile – Kendrick, later on, takes over in fire pace out of nowhere – just when it seems the song was over – telling the story as if his girl is cheating with Lil Wayne, flipping in a high voice when in between his girlfriend receives a call from an alleged Wayne as the girl’s ringtone plays Wayne’s hit single ‘Lollipop’. Serious but also playful silliness creates a 100% rap solid track from both Wayne and Kendrick, and therefore makes it one of the strongest tracks from ‘Tha Carter V’.
The album then cools off from a heavy rap in ‘Mona Lisa’ to pop-influenced ‘What About Me’, featuring Sosamann, then questioning the meaning of life in ‘Open Letter’ and analyzing fame with Reginae Carter in ‘Famous’. Wayne’s thoughts then go deeper into himself, just like if he’s writing a novel about his thoughts (‘Problems’), that compare past and present (‘Used 2’) sometimes underlined with mysterious background beats (‘Open Safe’). Drug abuse is also indicated in ‘Dope Niggaz’. The song features Snoop Dogg and samples Dr. Dre’s ‘Xxplosive’, linking drug history and environment. Snoop Dogg makes a small entrance with an old school Snoop ‘hustler’ rap similar to his older records. The sample is mixed with depth, reverberation and distant guitar strings. This almost works, but his loose way of rapping makes the lines between the sample, the added instrumentalization and the rap a bit chaotic and unfitting. Different than ‘Let it Fly’ for example, featuring Travis Scott, where trap music and different rap techniques are fired up after the second half of the song, quoting Bob Marley with the lyrics “let it fly like the birds in the sky”. Rhythmic beats perfectly switch from singing to rapping, like in ‘Took His Time’, and turning energetic in ‘Hittas’ where rapper Drake makes a small cameo in between (“Weezy, where you been the people missed ya”). With a huge track list of 23, Lil Wayne then finishes off the album with ‘Let It All Work Out’ where the beats bring depth and hopefulness with Sampha’s hook while Wayne’s mother ends ‘Tha Carter V’ with a simple ‘love you, boy’ message to her son.
With an 8 years distance between the last ‘Tha Carter’ album, Lil Wayne did as much as he could to, first of all, please the audience with a quality project but also trying to keep the style of the album as it was supposed to be. According a planned tracklist that was previewed in 2014, some features like Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Mikky Ekko, or Christina Milian (who supposed to be the feature for ‘Start This Shit Off Right’), as well as tracks like ‘Scottie Pippen’ or ‘Velvet’, did not make the album. Maybe due to publishing reasons or a different album focus. However, the many years of delays surprisingly did not make the album sound outdated or out of place. Many styles and ideas collide in ‘Tha Carter V’. Lil Wayne has more to say than ever and offers his fans the music that was hoped for.
Even though the album is indeed a long album with verses that often go beyond length (his style is ad lib instead of writing down the lyrics), it’s what fans want from him, being admired to keep going forward instead of abandoning the project. This makes ‘Tha Carter V’ definitely a pleaser, and worth the wait. Therefore, leading up to 30 weeks in the charts does not surprise. If this will be Wayne’s last ‘Carter’ project (or last project after all, as he hinted retirement a few times the recent years) is unclear, but you may never know. But it’s sure that he is still able to please with full energy and creativity – his rap style going hand in hand together with his instrumental music. So while the album tested itself in time before even being released, it might also continue to do so, too.
Full Track List:
1. I Love You Dwayne
2. Don’t Cry (feat. XXXTentacion)
5. Let It Fly (feat. Travis Scott)
6. Can’t Be Broken
7. Dark Side of the Moon (feat. Nicki Minaj)
8. Mona Lisa (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
9. What About Me (feat. Sosamann)
10. Open Letter
11. Famous (feat. Reginae Carter)
13. Dope Niggaz (feat. Snoop Dogg)
15. Took His Time
16. Open Safe
17. Start This Shit Off Right (feat. Ashanti and Mack Maine)
20. Dope New Gospel (feat. Nivea)
21. Perfect Strangers
22. Used 2
23. Let It All Work Out
What About Me (featuring Post Malone)
In This House (featuring Gucci Mane)
Hasta La Vista