CD Review: Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


mojo-photo-lilwaynecarter.jpgDelays are never, ever a good sign. If the release of your highly-anticipated creative work keeps getting pushed back, it’s pretty much a given that when it finally emerges, it’ll be bloated and uneven, overcooked in spots and raw in others. I’d hoped mixtape master Lil Wayne would prove the exception to this rule, but the long-delayed Tha Carter III (in stores today) is more mixed bag than mixtape, with brief hints of the head-spinning magic that made his bootleg releases so exciting marred by dull (if financially successful) attempts at mainstream appeal.

For a while yesterday, The New York Times web site had Weezy on the tip-top of the front page, and in the article, Jon Pareles claims that the 25-year-old rapper is finally aiming for accessibility, having “already gone as far as he can within hip-hop.” He’s right to call lead single “Lollipop,” with its auto-tune melody and straightforward beat, a piece of easy-to-digest “bait” meant to draw listeners into Lil Wayne’s world. Okay, I’ll bite, and Tha Carter III definitely has more satisfying fare. “A Milli,” with its glacial beat and insistent vocal loop, provides a perfect canvas for Wayne’s wild lyrical turns: “I don’t owe you like two vowels / But I would like for you to pay me by the hour / And I’d rather be pushin’ flowers / Than to be in the pen sharin showers.” Sometimes surreal and often hilarious, Wayne claims his lyrics are improvised, and while their stream-of-consciousness flow seems off-the-cuff, their complex rhymes and quick puns are often astonishing.

Wayne’s strange, soaring lyrics were a highlight of his mixtapes, which were also exciting for their choice of unlikely-to-ever-be-legally-cleared samples, from Mims to the Beatles. However, on Tha Carter III, that populist instinct seems to have led to middle-of-the-road pablum like the Babyface-featuring “Comfortable,” a generic slice of sunny R&B whose “twist,” lyrics that tell a girlfriend not to take Weezy for granted, just feels cheap. The multicolored diversity of the mixtapes seems to clash here: the album features no less than 13 different producers on its 18 tracks, ending up scattershot and overextended.

Wayne still may be right to proclaim himself the “best rapper alive,” and there are enough clever lines and tongue-twisting acrobatics on Tha Carter III to justify Jay-Z’s calling him his “heir” in a guest appearance on the somber “Mr. Carter.” When it’s straightforward, it’s great: the Kanye West-produced “Let the Beat Build,” with its basic gospel loop and piano line, hints at a New Orleans-referencing style, at once playful and mournful for Wayne’s hometown. But too often, the album has been over-polished, to the point that Wayne’s sharp wit has been dulled. But hey, I’m sure he’ll have another brilliant mixtape out in a few weeks anyway.

Tha Carter III is out now on Cash Money/Universal.

Lil Wayne feat. Jay-Z – “Mr. Carter” official fan video (explicit lyrics)

Lil Wayne – “Let the Beat Build” (audio only)

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate