‘Tha Carter V’ Album Review
Wayne doesn’t want to leave; he wants us to remember him as he was. And he almost did it.
After years of rumored release dates, a nasty legal battle with his stage father and former label, and a brief acquisition by Martin Shkreli, Lil’ Wayne’s twelfth studio album, Tha Carter V has been released. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the 36-year-old emcee. The once unanimous king of hip-hop has been everything but that in recent years.
The last time Weezy had a number one album, our Black president was gearing up for his re-election campaign, Snapchat was not available on Android devices, and The RIAA did not supplement digital streams for gold and platinum album certifications.
Since then, Wayne’s subsequent releases, coupled with his shrinking public profile have failed to elevate his existence as a titan in hip-hop ‘lore. Be that as it may, if the self-proclaimed martian decided to phone home, his legacy would remain intact. But Wayne doesn’t want to leave; he wants us to remember him as he was. And he almost did it.
Tha Carter V is an ambitious 23-track body of work that at first glimpse feels like a reimbursement for its nearly six-year delay. But as the album progresses through the first spin, it becomes a victim of its own anticipation. With glaring lapses between bangers, C5 feels like a heavy-handed compilation.
On the contrary, there are moments of brilliance that rescue Wayne from an anticlimactic pitfall. But that is not to Wayne’s credit alone. C5 features an ensemble of hip-hop’s brightest stars and producers: Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Mannie Fresh, Swizz Beats, and Travis Scott.
The album opens with a heartfelt message from his mother, Jacida Carter.
I just pray things go well with you in life
But I thank the lord, because I know you have been through a lot that I don’t even know about
Mama love you
I love you Dwayne, with all my heart
You is my life
I live for you
If you needed a refresher of Weezy's cultural impact, “Dedicate” is your one-stop-shop. The track is a glossy pat on the back that is no more arrogant than it is true. The screwed voice on the hook is no other than Atlanta’s own, 2 Chainz.
You tatted your face and changed the culture
You screamed suu-whoop and them gangsters loved you
You bought a Bugatti so you could flex
And most of the bad bitches your ex
To corroborate his story, Wayne also called on Barack Obama whose voice is sampled at the song's closing.
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!
Wayne also reunited with Nicki Minaj for a sultry ballad titled, “Dark Side of The Moon.” Though he’s never been an exceptional vocalist, Wayne’s ability to gently drag his worn and raspy voice across tracks is a testament to his artistry. That is also evident on “Dope New Gospel” (feat. Nivea)
Nicki and Wayne’s synergy is near perfect; complementing and elevating one another-hand over fist. The only disappointment is when the song fades out into obscurity.
Songs “Demon” and “Can’t Be Broken” though complementary, do a great job of rounding the album out in-between the bursts of nostalgia. The same however can not be said for “Don’t Cry” (feat. XXXTentacion) and an amended version of “Start This Shit Off Right” (feat. Mack Maine + Ashanti). Both tracks feel like fillers that would have served a better purpose on the cutting room floor.
But if there was ever a question of Wayne’s lyrical fitness, his performance on “Mona Lisa” puts that to rest. It is undoubtedly the standout song of the album, and perhaps Weezy’s best bars to date. His deliberate choppy flow builds like a quiet storm for two consecutive verses.
By the time he passes the baton to Kendrick Lamar, it is clear that he will not be overshadowed on his own track without a fight. It is a fun and hard-hitting exchange between two greats.
At its best, Tha Carter V is a delivered promise that fans- old and new alike can appreciate. It is neither exceptional nor underwhelming. But it has enough weight to tilt the scale of public opinion in his favor. If Wayne is chasing his shadow, he’s right on his dreads. But his ambitions of capturing the hearts and minds of a generation again do not seem likely.