Alright, I'm back. And unlike the last Reader Review, I think the chances are pretty good that today's post won't elicit any response from the artist himself.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I get it. You're wondering how in the fuck can I essentially disappear for a month (although those Reader Reviews didn't post themselves, you know) and come back with this shit, especially since everyone and their mother was contributing suggestions for my comeback (*cough* Lord Finesse *cough* Immortal Technique *cough*)? "But you're trying to prove that hip hop isn't dead!", you would say in this one-sided conversation taking place exclusively in my mind. "How in the hell can you write about Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter IV? Are you just fucking with us at this point?"
Let's be honest with ourselves here. Unfortunately for hip hop as a whole, Dwayne Carter is actually one of the most popular rappers out right now, and no true discussion of our chosen genre can take place without us mentioning him at least once. Regardless of your opinion of the man (and everyone who reads this site knows I don't think much of him), the man keeps getting work for a reason: people seem to like him. There are a lot of folks in the world who seem to respond to his New Orleans-tinted brand of Southern syrupy wordplay, which, admittedly, is a bit more clever than some of his brethren. Not for nothing has the man managed to turn his beginnings as a kiddie rapper (he was fifteen years old when he joined up with his Cash Money labelmates the Hot Boyz, so that counts) into a multi-million dollar empire, although most of that money is surely spent on cars, tattoos, tattoo removal services, and more tattoos.
So today we're going to talk about Lil' Wayne's ninth full-length album, Tha Carter IV, the fourth in his series of attempts to get the average hip hop head to take him more seriously as an artist. For some of you two, this may make you happy: finally you'll get a chance to see just how Max would react to an album of this nature, since the only other Weezy write-up that has been published on HHID as of this writing was a Reader Review for Tha Carter III. For the rest of you, well, check back in two days, and I promise there will be something that you''ll want to talk about.
Tha Carter IV follows the previously mentioned Tha Carter III, two additional albums that I don't care about enough to list at the moment, and a prison sentence for Dwayne, in which he served time for illegal possession of a firearm. It has been highly anticipated by Wayne's fans ever since whatever the last cameo appearance the guy made (and the dude has done a lot of cameos since his release), and it is probably the only album on store shelves at the moment that has the capability of diverting attention from the Jay-Z/Kanye West debacle Watch The Throne. Somewhat inexplicably, Wayne has become known for his lyrical wizardry behind the mic as of late, and I didn't use that word only because Weezy calls himself random fantastical shit like a "goblin" or a "Martian": this is a far cry from the guy who sang the chorus on B.G.'s "Bling Bling" (a song I will cop to liking back in the day: hey, I may not be a fan of Cash Money, but their old in-house producer Mannie Fresh had some beats.)
It won't surprise anyone to discover that Tha Carter IV is the first Lil' Wayne album I've ever listened to from start to finish (or even started, to be honest). I fear that I will immediately be lost when it comes to the story, as I'm not familiar with any of the events that transpired during the first three chapters. (And before you ask, no, I didn't pick up this album just so I could write about it. You two don't buy nearly enough stuff from the scattered Amazon links for me to start throwing money around like that. I borrowed this from a friend who's been trying to convince me that Weezy is a better rapper than I believe.) I'm not encouraged by the contributing producers (a bunch of no-name musicians, for the most part), but I am excited by the fact that the only person from Wayne's excreable Young Money collective to appear on here is Drake. (Apparently Nicki Minaj was too busy touring with Britney Spears?) The other guest stars on here range from questionable names like Cory Gunz (on the first single "6 Foot 7 Foot", which I swear has been on the radio for the past three years) and Shyne, to A-list talent Nas, Bun B, and Busta Rhymes. It's admirable that Lil' Wayne chose not to fill his project with guest roles filled by his weed carriers, but that just means that I'll have to hear more from him.
I hope this is at least funny.
Credit where credit is due, I guess: although the generic-as-fuck title indicates otherwise, this is actually a one-verse wonder from our host. Sadly (or “as I expected”, depending on your personal preference), it is lacking in every single category. Willy Will's beat sounds appropriately anthemic at first, but once the drums kick in, the listener suffers from instant whiplash, as the instrumental moves much more slowly than you were anticipating. This wouldn't be an entirely lost cause for a better rapper, but Weezy adapts his flow to a crawl to match it (his first mistake), throwing in awful one-liners (number two) and terrible Drake-esque metaphors (he nails the hat trick with lines such as, “Now watch me go retarded / Yellow shark bus”), sounding as though he's simply coasting, which tends to happen to artists who release so much goddamn product in a very short period of time. I wasn't exactly hopeful before I started this review, but now I'm downright concerned. What have I gotten myself into?
2. BLUNT BLOWIN'
For those of you two who were worried that Dwayne had already succumbed to the popular rap album trope of rhyming about the stickiest of icky, rest assured that isn't really the case: over another dramatic backdrop with a mismatched drum loop (this time handled by something called DVLP), our host takes three long verses to spout random lines about who he is and what he is to you, and smoking out is but a facet of the diamond that makes up the cap on one of Lil' Wayne's bicuspids. This probably should have been the intro, especially since he spends the track's final moments inexplicably welcoming himself home, even though he's been out of prison for the better part of a year now. Color me confused. Oh, the song? Not that great. Why do you ask?
Sadly, this wasn't an ode to that little blue robot whose games on the original Nintendo back in the day were really fucking difficult (but not Ninja Gaiden difficult). The first upbeat song on Tha Carter IV features a peppy Megaman beat (hence the lazy title) with sprinkles of booming bass that all but guarantees that the jackass in the space next to you at the carwash wiping his vehicle down with what looks like a baby blanket drenched with Turtle Wax will be blasting it at full volume. Thankfully, Weezy doesn't embarrass himself with a crappy chorus as he did on “Blunt Blowin'”, instead choosing to deliver two verses with a short intermission, both of which sound like (written) freestyles, as they discuss abso-fucking-lutely nothing. Wayne brags about having that “fuck y'all money”, though, so he could give a damn about what I have to say about Tha Carter IV right now. This wasn't the worst song I've ever heard (and the instrumental would probably slide right into place on radio airwaves, for better or for worse...nah, for worse, definitely), but it was impossible for me to listen to this without imagining Donald Glover as Childish Gambino delivering the lines.
4. 6 FOOT 7 FOOT (FEAT. CORY GUNZ)
This track has been around for so long that I've actually already written about it, so I'll just add some more notes for contextual purposes. This isn't a terrible song: Weezy (when the fuck did everyone start calling him Tunechi? And what does that even mean?) obviously attempted to be clever, as most of his bars are entertaining enough, so on that end, he succeeds. The Bangladesh beat is slightly less annoying than his work on Wayne's “A Milli” from Tha Carter III (except for when the sound bite from Harry Belafonte's “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” kicks in during the “chorus”), but I understand that, just like for “A Milli”, he hasn't yet been paid for this instrumental either, which, let's be honest, he should have seen that shit coming. Cory Gunz, who has suddenly morphed into the first guest star on Tha Carter IV, remains unimpressive: not for nothing has he not managed to parlay this cameo into a successful solo effort, even though “6 Foot 7 Foot” has been out since December of last year. I'm also still puzzled as to how visiting urinals abroad makes him more of a “man”. There. That's all I got.
5. NIGHTMARES OF THE BOTTOM
Lil' Wayne isn't known for forging a coherent narrative in a songwriting capacity, so this track, which could be about Weezy's apprehension about going to prison or about how he has frequent bad dreams of the days when he had not a dime to his name, devolves into yet another declaration of how much richer he is than you and how that makes him the better person, one who would have “fucked [his] attorney” had he known he was already set up to go to jail in the first place, regardless of how she actually felt about the matter, because all women want to sleep with Lil' Wayne at all times. An introspective only works if you treat it as such, Dwayne. And this incomplete-sounding track (backed by a boring instrumental) doesn't freaking work.
6. SHE WILL (FEAT. DRAKE)
I'm trying my best to not be overly negative with this review of an artist that every reader of this blog knows I'm not the biggest fan of, so let me begin by saying some positive things: T-Minus's instrumental, while repetitive, is actually pretty decent, a great combination of drums and strings setting a darker tone that forces you to look at everything in your life a tad bit differently. Also in the “plus” category, Aubrey “Drake” Graham, making his first of two guest appearances on Tha Carter IV, only appears during his overlong chorus, even though our host tries his best to trick you into thinking otherwise toward the end. (That might just be a remnant of the original version of this track, "Maybe She Will", which also featured Rick Ross, but I digress.) Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me say what I really mean: I didn't care much for this song, as Wayne's hyperactive Gollum isn't the right fit for the beat. I'm going to call it right now: Lil' Weezy will never be capable of writing a serious-enough verse for a beat with this artificial level of depth, and he fucking knows it; why else would this track contain almost nothing but requests for bitches to “pop that pussy”? Just because she will doesn't mean that anyone else has to hear about it.
7. HOW TO HATE (FEAT. T-PAIN)
I thought T-Pain had mentioned recently that he was going to stop using Auto-Tune. You know, because everything he has done since The Lonely Island's “I'm On A Boat” has bordered on self-parody. Kudos to Weezy for actually staying on topic during the entirety of “How To Hate”: every one of his bars actually makes sense on this post-breakup moment of clarity. Ted “Theodore” Pain doesn't help matters with his contribution, a really long chorus (and intro) that only tangentially connects with the subject matter (and the beat); when you emote into Auto-Tune, you end up sounding like a malfunctioning computer who is stuck repeating nonsensical phrases such as “bitch-ass bitches”. Speaking of the beat, it's far too minimalist to commit to feeling a certain way about your ex. But hey, Weezy didn't fuck this song up: he actually did an alright job. Didn't see that coming.
8. INTERLUDE (FEAT. TECH N9NE & ANDRE 3000)
Over the same beat used for “Intro”, Lil' Wayne devotes an entire track to his industry friends Andre 3000 (from OutKast, although if you didn't know that by now you should probably stop reading this blog) and Missouri-based stalwart Tech N9ne, allowing them to essentially justify the existence of Tha Carter IV without burdening the listener with an actual performance. Yep, that's right: Weezy doesn't appear on this track. As you can imagine, my spirits were automatically lifted, and then they were shot into the fucking stratosphere with Tech's balls-out contribution, which is just batshit crazy. 3 Stacks, who is curiously uncredited on this track, closes out “Interlude” in his trademarked and patent-pending casual way, but the real star of this show is Tech N9ne, who blows every single other track on here out of the water with a monster of a verse. Remember how, during the review of “Intro”, I wrote that an anthemic instrumental that runs slower than you were anticipating wouldn't be a lost cause for a better rapper? “Interlude” features two better rappers. I can't believe I'm actually writing this, but here goes: I just found something worthwhile on Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter IV. (The fact that Weezy himself doesn't appear is just cherry.)
9. JOHN (FEAT. RICK ROSS)
I didn't realize until very recently that this second single was basically stolen from the Rick Ross song “I'm Not A Star”, right down to the comments about John Lennon: it's almost as though Officer Richard was invited to contribute just so Cash Money/Universal could avoid a costly lawsuit. This track is just plain silly, but hearing these guys rap about the choppers they keep in their cars (nice job being discreet, you two) could be a lot worse. I would even go so far as to say that the hook on “John” is mildly contagious. The video is fucking stupid, though: has anyone ever explained why Richie Ross's lazy ass is rolling around in that pimped-out wheelchair?
Although the titular word is actually used during the overly wordy chorus, this song isn't actually about abortion, unless you look at Tha Carter IV as a metaphor advocating the right-to-life for really shitty rap music: I imagine that our host retained the title for shock value purposes only. And god damn it, his ploy worked: “Abortion” isn't a bad song. The Commission's beat sounds more organic and lively than anything else on here thus far, and Wayne makes you believe that he could indeed thrive with some live instrumentation backing him up. (I still have no yearning to look up his MTV Unplugged performance, though.) The hook makes no sense when held up to scrutiny, a criticism that could be levied at most hip hop songs today: remember when artists used to write their choruses at the same time that they wrote their songs? Or is that just me?
11. SO SPECIAL (FEAT. JOHN LEGEND)
R&B crooner John Legend's transition from an acclaimed solo artist to someone who provides hooks for hire was so gradual that I didn't care to notice it until just now. Legend appears to be asking a lady friend to let him sleep over in her vagina, but Weezy takes that concept to its obscenely graphic next level, although he does brag about eating pussy and letting the woman cum first, which has just won the man about five hundred and ninety-seven new female followers. Anyway, this song blows.
12. HOW TO LOVE
The title of this track leads you to believe that it is a companion piece to the earlier “How To Hate”, but you'd be wrong: “How To Love” is a bizarre acoustic love jam, featuring Lil' Wayne's singing voice and a guitar, coldly calculated to appeal to the parents of Weezy's teenage fanbase, who will hear this and be tricked into buying Tha Carter IV for their young charges. Weezy tackling the love rap isn't surprising in the least bit: every rapper in existence will go this route if his or her career lasts long enough to allow it. But some artists sound more sincere than others, and this dude, who has been consistently asking girls to pop their respective pussies at every other point on Tha Carter IV, does not. Ladies, lock up your daughters: there's an insincere sex-addicted Martian on the loose.
13. PRESIDENT CARTER
It's an idea so goddamn fucking obvious that it's mind-boggling that Jay-Z (real name: Shawn Carter, no relation) hadn't thought of it first: a team of three producers (Infamous, Christopher Allen, and Angel Aponte) sample a sound bite from Jimmy Carter's inauguration and turns it into an annoying-as-shit hook that uses the titular phrase. However, Lil' Weezy's shit-talking is actually held to a minimum over this otherwise -interesting beat. He still boasts like a motherfucker, but for the very first time on Tha Carter IV, I can almost understand why he's been able to keep his own career going when all of the other artists he came up with have long since fizzled out. (Juvenile, we don't exactly miss you, but there is some cleanup needed on aisle eleven.) It helps that he delivers his bars in a much calmer manner than what I'm accustomed to, thereby eliminating the high-pitched squeal that typically accompanies his performance. Huh.
14. IT'S GOOD (FEAT. JADAKISS & DRAKE)
This already-infamous track is notable for Lil' Wayne throwing barbs toward Jay-Z, while the other two participants quickly backpedaled and claimed that they didn't want it with Hov. Dwayne's darts (okay, “darts” is a relative term; this is Lil' Wayne we're talking about) were initiated by Shawn's supposed subliminal shots at Cash Money on The Throne's “H*A*M” (off of Watch The Throne), and they sound so ridiculous that I would be truly shocked if Jay actually decided to respond (especially since he has a child on the way). Jadakiss (from The Lox) sounds awkward as fuck over Cool & Dre's beat (remember them?): the man has to learn how to politely decline guest appearance requests. Drake, with his other cameo of the evening, fares a bit better (this is his wheelhouse, after all), but I'm still left holding the bag, wondering how such a crappy song garnered so much virtual ink in the first place.
15. OUTRO (FEAT. BUN B, NAS, SHYNE, & BUSTA RHYMES)
Using the same beat as both “Intro” and “Interlude”, the vanilla-titled “Outro” includes even more guest stars singing their praises about Lil' Wayne in between actual bars, although unlike the relative unknown (Tech N9ne – let's be honest, most of Weezy's fanbase has no idea who he is) and the recluse (Andre 3000) who assisted on “Interlude”, this outro brings out the A-list big guns with Bun B, Nas, Busta Rhymes...and Shyne? What the fuck? How many hand jobs did he have to administer to get into this studio session? And doesn't he realize that switching up his flow only makes it more painfully obvious that his Notorious B.I.G.-esque delivery of the past was just a marketing ploy, and that he has never forged a true identity for himself in our chosen genre? Anyway, Wayne sits this one out (one would imagine he would have probably been destroyed on the mic by the three name-brand guest stars anyway; he had worked with all of them before, but never all at once), and everyone on here who didn't shoot up a nightclub in an attempt to protect Puff fucking Daddy sounds pretty good. Put this with the “Interlude”, and you would have the two best songs on Tha Carter IV, and Weezy is nowhere to be found on either. Curious, that.
The deluxe edition of Tha Carter IV contains the following bonus tracks.
16. I LIKE THE VIEW
The first of three bonus tracks illustrates one of the many problems I have with Dwayne Carter: it is impossible to take him seriously as an artist because of his voice (a petty complaint, I'm aware) and his penchant to write cotton candy-esque rhymes. Unfortunately, a lot of critics read his style as having more depth than the man truly does. Look, Lil' Wayne is just a guy who raps, one who lucked into a successful late-career boost that he's still capitalizing on today, one which I still believe to be a practical joke played on the hip hop community by the music industry trying to prove that people will buy absolutely anything. Oh, and this song sucks, too. Groan.
17. MIRROR (FEAT. BRUNO MARS)
Poor Bruno Mars. After releasing his highly successful solo debut Doo-Wops & Hooligans, he has appeared on the very worst song on Bad Meets Evil's Hell: The Sequel, been dropped from Watch The Throne, and now has found his collaboration with Lil' Wayne on what is going to be one of the biggest hip hop releases of the year reduced to bonus track status. (At least his cover of Amy Winehouse's version of “Valerie”, which he performed at this year's VMAs, was pretty good.) Wayne's attempt at reflection (get it? Because the song's called...oh, fuck off) doesn't connect as much as he would have liked (does Weezy really look like his father? You mean to tell me that there's a taller version of that ugly motherfucker? That just replaced the whale in my nightmares); even though our host plays it completely straight (to his credit), Bruno's vocals and his work on the minimal beat both drag this effort down significantly.
18. TWO SHOTS
This glorified freestyle, laid over a laughable “beat” that consists of every sound effect the normally-sane producer Diplo could find on his hard drive, signals the end of Tha Carter IV. Fucking finally.
There are more bonus tracks from Tha Carter IV to be found depending on where you purchase the album from, but I don't have any more than the above three, and I kind of want to stop writing this anyway.
THE LAST WORD: This Gut Reaction piece didn't really work out the way I wanted it to. I was hoping for funny, and I think there are goofy parts in here, but Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter IV isn't a hilariously awful album: it's just bad. Only a handful of the tracks showcase any sort of discernible talent from the onetime Hot Boy, and even those performances are lost in a sea of poor production choices: one would think a guy as rich as Lil' Tunechi (again, why?) claims to be would go out of his way to procure beats that actually sound like they contain a musical element. Weezy's high-pitched register grates on the ears when presented throughout a full-length project, so it's a godsend when guest artists appear to break up the monotony: unfortunately for our host, most of the guests turn in more coherent and entertaining verses, and the two tracks that don't even feature our host (“Interlude” and “Outro”, ostensibly included to help frame the project) are absolutely the best ones on here. That's never a good sign. I'm done with this experiment now, and I'm through pretending that Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter IV even exists. Onward to more important shit.