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Monday, August 29, 2011

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter IV (Release Date: 8-29-2011)

        Unlike many controversial mainstream artists like Kanye West and Lady Gaga, the public's love and/or hate of Lil Wayne seems to come from the right place. Where Gaga's overwhelming (and potentially over-calculated) eccentricity and Kanye's massive ego prompt people to pick sides before hearing their music, the battle of Lil Wayne has always been about his art (which, considering his sizable criminal record, is interesting). There's no denying that the man has his finger on the pulse of what people like, his record label, 'Young Money,' employing about half of the radio's most popular artists, including Drake and Nicki Minaj. But for someone with as big of a name as he has, there's a certain tendency for Wayne to pump out generic, beat-heavy tracks that sell millions and remain primarily undistinguishable from other airwaves fare. Those who know him better know better, but the semi-uninitiated (myself included) struggle to grasp the man's range, an aspect of the his creative process that is at the forefront of his newest release, Tha Carter IV.

       As Rebirth, Wayne's 2010 turn-this-off-RIGHT-NOW attempt at rock 'n' roll, can readily attest, the MC isn't afraid over-reaching, an aspect most readily attested to by his frequent stabs at R&B. IV sure has plenty of them, How to Hate featuring an even-MORE-autotuned T-Pain interspersed with verses that Weezy practically seems to be sleeping through, Nightmares of the Bottom only boasting of the latter. We're talking, "You used to be the s***/But now you ain't s***, B****," style lazy rapping, Wayne leaning with all of his weight on some lamely profane lyrics, apparently believing that courting censorship is, in and of itself, edgy (which, of course, it is not). I'll hand Wayne that his views on women prove interesting because of their sense of confusion and perpetual contradiction, as lines include:
        "Now you're grown up/So fly, it's like a blessing/But you can't have a man look at you for five seconds/Without you feeling insecure." -How to Love
        "Had my heart broken by this woman named Tammy/But hoe's gunna be hoes, so I couldn't blame Tammy" -6 Foot 7 Foot

        "I spent the night in heaven/I Slept with an angel/And when we finished/I swear that p**** said, 'thank you... I go down south/Louisiana." -So Special

        And, finally, the album's opening line: "Man, f*** them b******/And them Hoes/And them n****s' p******/Camel toes." And you wonder why that One girl feels insecure...

        In my limited experience, Lil Wayne has yet to prove himself capable of consistently producing thought-provoking lyrics, but to say that the guy can't string together a clever line or Two would be a down-right lie. They pop out here and there, begging to be noticed, in the form of, "I pay these n***** with a reality check," "detrimental on any instrumental/I say you rappers' sweet/I pay the incidental," or, my personal favorite (referring to his Eight-month prison stay), "You n***** are gelatin, peanuts to an elephant/ I got through that sentence like a subject and a predicate." These lines, when paired with Wayne's occasionally feverish and insane flow, make for some great tunes, along with the disc's many cold, hard, street beats (though these instrumentals become hugely repetitive during the deluxe album's 18-track, 72-Minute runtime).

        A strangely complete summation of the disc's rap tracks can be found in the sequence of the first singles that preceded the LP. 6 Foot 7 Foot makes my jaw drop on a regular basis, it's beat so heavy and so catchy, Wayne's flow seemingly unstoppable until Cory Gunz comes in at the end to chip in One hell of a guest verse. It's far and away One of my favorite hip-hop songs of the year, and second single John, featuring a similarly weighty beat and just the right amount of Rick Ross (see: One verse), ain't half-bad either. Then there's the recently released She Will, wherein Weezy flows at mid-tempo and elicits mild interest over a gritty groove. It's not a poor song, but, like Drake's monotone hook, its complacences boarders on pleasantness, which I can't imagine is ever what Lil Wayne is aiming for. Finally, the most recent leak, It's Good, is impossible to pick out amidst the album's second half, all fury and familiarity underneath rhymes so insistent on their hardness that you start to question if some underlying insecurity issues exist. Much like this trajectory, Tha Carter IV is an album that becomes less and less interesting as it goes on, the opening trifecta of furious Blunt Blowin, maniacal Megaman, and pulse-pounding Six Foot Seven Foot proving absolutely electric, the middle section appearing pretty hit-and-miss, and the back third prompting listeners to revisit those first Three aforementioned songs. A mixed bag, to be sure, but there's gold in it.

Grade: B-

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