Lil Wayne is among the most influential and provocative figures in rap music. Since coming onto the scene at age 15 and releasing his first solo album at age 17, Wayne has been an unstoppable force in the industry. His latest release is a culmination of over twenty years of rap conquest.
For Lil Wayne fans, the wait for Tha Carter V was seemingly never-ending. The initial release date for the fifth installment of his “Tha Carter” series was May 5, 2014, but a series of legal issues involving Cash Money Records resulted in the album being continuously pushed back over the next four years. The wait came to an enthusiastic conclusion on September 27; Wayne’s 36th birthday.
Tha Carter V had a lot to live up to, and it is evident after one listen that Wayne poured his soul into it. A serious and reflective tone permeates the album, and the bawdy humor and braggadocios attitude one comes to expect are kept to a minimum.
The CD begins with a message from Wayne’s mother, Jacida. She exclaims her love for her son while clearly trying to fight back tears. It’s poignant, touching and it excites the listener as to what’s coming next.
There are numerous noteworthy tracks on the album, the first being “Don’t Cry,” which features the late XXXTentacion. The lyrics are intense and emotional, with Wayne rapping, “If I die young, blame the juice. Bury me in New Orleans. My Tombstone reads ‘Don’t Cry, Stay Tuned.’” XXXtentacion’s sung chorus is haunting and earnest.
Sung choruses make multiple appearances on Tha Carter V. “Dark Side of the Moon” centers around being there for one another amid an apocalypse. Frequent collaborator Nicki Minaj delivers a stunning chorus that serves as a reminder of her vocal talents. Wayne’s delivery is mellow and refreshing.
Although the album features many deep tracks, there are bangers as well. “Dedicate” is a boastful track with a fun flow and head-banging chorus. The bubbly beat and well-executed punchlines on “Start This S**t Off Right,” which features Mack Maine and Ashanti, make for an effective party-anthem.
The dominant issue with Tha Carter V is its length. The album spans almost ninety minutes and 23 tracks. Although Wayne does an admirable job of giving each song a unique sound, there are a handful of unremarkable songs that need not be included. Also, Wayne’s grimy voice can become droning after a while.
The album’s most intense and groundbreaking song, “Mona Lisa,” is riveting enough to revive any flagging interest. This Kendrick Lamar-assisted track tells the story of a deceptive woman who is setting up her partner for an armed robbery. Wayne and Lamar each provide two distinct narratives to the story and they are both told with a raw intensity that cannot be understated.
The honesty, vulnerability and boldness of Tha Carter V are exemplars of a matured Lil Wayne who wants to learn from his mistakes and move forward. Wayne certainly lost no fans with this record. His genuine reflection regarding his struggles make him seem more relatable than ever.