It’s introspective, honest and just what hip hop needed.
Tha Carter V could very well be the most anticipated hip hop album of the past five years. Since Tha Carter IV was released in 2011, a series of highly publicized and contentious legal disputes pushed Tha Carter V’s release date from its scheduled one in 2013 to September 28, 2018, a full seven years after its predecessor. Due to the continued delay, Lil Wayne released mixtape after mixtape, including Sorry 4 the Wait 2, No Ceilings 2, the Free Weezy Albumand the 2 Chainz collaborated ColleGrove. Still, due to Cash Money Records label boss Birdman’s refusal to release the completed Tha Carter V, Wayne said he was held “prisoner” and was confined to self-released mixtapes and albums under Jay-Z’s TIDAL. In late January 2015, Wayne sued Birdman and Cash Money Records for $51 million and after years of diss tracks, legal feuding and moments where we thought Wayne might give up, the two reached reconciliation when Wayne was released from Cash Money Records in June 2018 and given a hefty, undisclosed settlement.
For fans, Tha Carter V’s release is more than another Carter studio album; it’s proof of Wayne’s win and will likely be his last album. However, known as the king of mixtapes, we can’t be sure there won’t be more music in Weezy’s future.
So, for being the most highly anticipated hip hop album in the past five years and taking millions of dollars and years to release, how does The Carter V stack up?
The album as a whole is magnificent. Wayne shows a lyrical and artistic development with his same playful double entendres over a whole new message. His lyrics are true to his age and skill level by displaying a maturity that some might argue lacked in top rap albums this year Scorpionand Kamikaze.
Its seven years in the making actually helped the project conceptually by making it timeless. Besides a reference to Mama June and a pulled quote from Obama, the album mostly abstains from topical name drops, making its themes and messages forever relevant.
Guiding the album from start to finish is Wayne’s mother, Jacida Carter. From the tear-jerking intro voicemail where she proclaims how proud she is of her son to admitting she still doesn’t know what really went down with his self-inflicted gun wound, she makes a powerful narrator that unravels each story as the album presents them and gives the listener a deeper look into the behind-the-scenes life of Weezy F Baby.
We see a different side of Wayne in this album—introspective, unsure, and at the end, satisfied. “Don’t Cry” featuring XXXTENTACION, “Can’t be Broken,” “Open Letter,” “Took His Time,” “Mess” and “Let It All Work Out,” convey self-awareness and honesty. “Don’t Cry” ends with a heartfelt tribute to the late XXX and “Can’t Be Broken” embodies the perseverance and exhaustion of releasing Tha Carter V. “Open Letter” confronts Wayne’s relationship with death and rings themes of mortality, purpose and thoughts Wayne might have had during his recurring serious health problems. “Let It All Work Out” is the perfect tear-jerker to end the album on, as it delves into the hot topic of Wayne’s self-inflicted gun shot wound, which he incurred at age 12. Wayne told Billboard he pulled the trigger of his mother’s gun into his own chest after she forbid him from signing with Cash Money Records at 9 years old. After he survived the gun shot, just barely missing his heart, Ms. Cita allowed her son to rap as long as he wouldn't swear, which is why his debut album Tha Block Is Hotis almost completely curse-free. Previously, Wayne has always labeled this injury as an accident but said that now, as an adult and with the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, felt is was time to come clean and lend his message to others who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Another example of Wayne’s newfound maturity is not only in his wisdom but also in some uncharacteristic vulnerability. For someone who’s always been Mr. “Money Over B**ches,” Tha Carter Vis as much a love song album as it is a coming of age. “Dark Side Of The Moon” featuring a beautiful signing solo by Nicki Minaj, tells tales of “intergalactical love,” while “What About Me” and “Perfect Strangers” confide the strife of broken relationships, heartache and falling out of love. “Famous,” featuring his daughter Reginae Carter on the hook, is a standout hit expressing Wayne’s love for his children, mother and life itself. The vocals and rhythm of “Famous” may remind true Weezy fans of “I’m Me” from Tha Carter III, sharing its playful cockiness and self-awareness.
The album isn’t without is trademark Weezy-ness, however, with “Dope N---az,” “Mona Lisa,” “Uproar” and “Used 2” brimming with contagious fast-paced beats and tongue-in-cheek storytelling. “Dope N---az” is a standout featuring legendary Snoop Dogg with references to his upbringing, marijuana and street politics atop “Bumpy’s Lament” by Soul Mann & the Brothers beats, which has been popularly sampled by hip hop artists like Dr. Dre, Erykah Badu, Lil’ Kim, Freddie Gibbs and T.I.. In “Mona Lisa,” Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne tell a story of a woman manipulating her admirers and setting them up for robbery. Over dramatic pauses and a fast, climatic beat, Wayne and Kendrick make fools out of the men that lust over women who are clearly devoted to them. The popping instrumental on “Uproar,” a recreation of G-Dep’s 2011 single “Special Delivery” produced by Swizz Beats and Avenue, has got people moving so much that it’s spurred a viral social media dance challenge.
Weezy’s albums have never disappointed. As a highly awarded, platinum-selling artist, he’s played a major part in hip hop history both with his own music and the other artists he’s brought up. Although it took awhile to come out, Wayne shows us with Tha Carter Vonce again why he resides on rap’s throne.
And to his haters… crickets.