2011 eventually will be remembered as one of the best years in Lil Wayne’s career. Tha Carter IVnearly sold a million copies in its first week, 2011 was his first full year free after spending a good chunk of 2010 in jail and with that restriction it is amazing to look to see the number of songs (big and small) he was able to appear on in 2011. Yet none of that makes Tha Carter IVa good rap album, because if it did the album would shown better that its middling critical reception.
The album is only 15 songs, and two of them don’t feature Lil Wayne, which would be an interesting conceit if interesting rappers were put on them. Andree 3000, Rick Ross, and Drake who all have a good connection and understanding of where Lil Wayne’s currently is in the world sound great on the album, but the rest of the guest verses sound out of place and not sure what do on such a big album.
Those three guests in particular offer a unique lens which to view were Lil Wayne is right now. Andre 3000’s biggest hit “Hey Ya” was barely a rap song, and from that point on stopped rapping thus making all of his verse a cause for great applause. Lil Wayne is far too much of a recording machine to slow down that much, but it isn’t hard to imagine a world people are actually surprised to see a Lil Wayne verse instead of taking it as truth. Drake usually raps about the struggles of the life on the top, which is all that Lil Wayne deals with on this album expect more metaphorically. Rick Ross won’t be mistaken as a more interesting rapper than Lil Wayne, but in 2011 he commands tracks in a way that only Lil Wayne right now could compare to and on “John” Rick Ross bests Lil Wayne on his own song (Yes, this is ignoring the fact that “John” samples from Rick Ross’ “I’m Not A Star”).
This album is a purely Lil Wayne project, and more than that it is an “I can still sell a million album in my opening week of sales and I’m going to still record a dozen more songs this week” project. Lil Wayne’s lyrics on this album go from intensely personal with the “Faded off the kush, I’m gone, only two years old when my daddy brought them hookers home” on “Megaman” to completely nonsensical “Life is the bitch, and death is her sister, Sleep is the cousin, what a fucking family picture” from “6 Foot 7 Foot”. But, within those extremes are Lil Wayne’s constant references to having everything he could ever want and still not being satisfied.
It is easy to make fun of his constant metaphors of fucking the world, but contrasted to Andre 3000’s “Hello Lord, it’s me again. I just want to make love to the globe and all her girl friends” on “Xplosion”. Andree 3000 sounds exuberant and excited at this prospect making love to the world, where Lil Wayne doesn’t an ounce of glee when saying he wants to fuck the world. Lil Wayne might have a song titled “Nightmares of the Bottom”, but he always sounds confident and never fearful of the falling off throughout the album. Which, might explain why a song like “How to Love” can end up on this album and be its most successful single, as for any other rapper it would be a risky single to release, but for Lil Wayne at least in the music world there is no such thing as a risk.
There has been a quick rush to say this is the final proof that Lil Wayne has fallen off from drugged up 2006-2008 high, not only is it premature when he recorded one of his best guest verses of his career (“Look At Me Now”), it is even more unwarranted when he released dealing with the fact he is still the king of the rap world even if some have already taken away his crown. The album shows that Lil Wayne isn’t climbing for the top or even fighting to hold the top position; he is the top and everyone is reaching for him and while that might be as interesting to some as the hunger of wanting to the best it is still makes a great album.