Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV
Record Label: Cash Money Records
Release Date: August 29, 2011
Much has happened in the world of Lil Wayne since the release of the last Carter album, Tha Carter III. Afraid to continue the series so soon after its release, Wayne pushed out Dedication 3, a mixtape weighed down by excessive autotune usage, and Rebirth, which included a more rock and roll oriented sound. While charges of criminal possession kept him from the studio for eight months, he managed to release I Am Not a Human Being, a sort of prelude to the upcoming Tha Carter IV that included tracks from the same recording sessions. But even with his stay at Rikers and a collection of poorly received releases, hype for this fourth installment continued to rise. Promising singles “6 Foot 7 Foot” and “John” showcased an impressive evolution in Wayne's delivery alongside Rick Ross and newcomer Cory Gunz, as well as compelling production that filled in a few gaps left by the vocals.
If anything, Tha Carter IV feels like a party, one that Wayne is throwing for his contemporaries in the hip-hop scene. Sure, the spotlight is stolen by a few of the artists invited, but they only help to enhance the celebration. Wayne preludes the festivities with the aptly named “Intro,” his signature chuckle introducing one of the few moments he's completely alone on a track. Rattling production provides Wayne with the perfect backdrop to his jubilant return to the music world, triumphantly declaring, “Mr. Carter's home!” as a segue to the next track before losing every ounce of momentum he managed to build. “Blunt Blowin'” is bland in every sense of the word, with weak vocal rhythm that's matched in mediocrity by the asinine chorus. This complete turnaround from the momentous opener lends an uncaring air and feels plain lazy when all is said and done.
Fortunately, the aforementioned single “6 Foot 7 Foot” makes an early entrance, combining the smooth yet foreign qualities of Bangladesh' production with three strong verses split between Wayne and the impressively in-your-face Cory Gunz. Like Tha Carter III's “A Milli,” the track is carried by a repeated vocal sample, chunky bass, and clap-heavy percussion. It stands out as one of the few highlights the album has to offer, catchy and effective while still showcasing a surprising evolution in Wayne's style. The album's other pillar comes in the form of another single, this time “John” featuring Rick Ross. Essentially a sequel to Ross' own song “I'm Not a Star,” this track borrows the original's hook as well as a few production pieces with a sprinkle of atmospheric keyboard and horn work to even things out. Rightfully inspired by Ross' presence, Wayne steps out of his vocal comfort zone to expand beyond his typical punchline delivery. Although he falls back into his old ways as the track lengthens, “John” is a great way to gauge the growth Wayne has experienced in the years between Carter releases.
But they can't all be winners. For every fantastic track we're greeted with two from the opposite end of the spectrum. “How to Hate” features heavy portions of T-Pain and his characteristic autotuned vocals as well as distressed rhymes from Wayne himself. A tale of romantic deceit and heartbreak, he details the circumstances of how he learned to hate women, an obviously hyperbolic statement that finds its companion in the acoustic guitars and saccharine-laced lyrics of “How to Love” later in the album. While both are emotional and interesting in their own way, neither demand attention in the same way some of the stronger tracks do, causing them to fall through the cracks a bit with their pedestrian presentation.
“How to Hate” and “How to Love” form the basis of an odd, underlying theme of love and romance that I was never expecting to hear on Tha Carter IV. This layer is fleshed out a bit by “She Will” featuring Drake, who contributes a soulful chorus that tends to grind near the end of the track. “She Will” unfortunately fades into the background during initial listens, but quickly makes an impact with it's haunting production and the maturing teacher-student dynamic the artists exhibit. The lyrics recount experiences with strippers, but carry an emotional weight as the event seems to provide a means of escape from the mental anguish of a bad break up. While not the most romantic of settings, Wayne lives in the moment, relishing any form of solace that comes his way.
But overall, Tha Carter IV is framed by three tracks. “Intro” opens the album with a solid introduction, leading to the mid-point marking “Interlude” featuring Tech N9ne and a surprise appearance by Andre 3000. Both artists admirably assist Wayne during his strange absence, laying lyrics over the same victorious production started in the intro. This continues in “Outro,” the final track on the album as well as the most weighed down. Bun B, Nas, Shyne, and Busta Rhymes act as the celebration's final entertainment, adding verses of their own to slightly altered production. From Busta's intense roars to Nas' smooth delivery, “Outro” is the most varied track on the album but, like “Interlude,” sees the eponymous artist hitting the bench in order to give others the spotlight.
I had every intention of finishing this review with the common closing paragraph, detailing the ways this album disappointed me and how it could have been better. In all honesty, my first few runs through Tha Carter IV were full of head shaking and groans, as the negatives of this album are far more visible than the things it does right. But as I began to dig into the album, the moments where Wayne hits his stride shone through. It would be hard for me to say this is a great album because of the multitude of missteps, but it's far better than what he's offered us recently. Is this fourth iteration deserving of its name? That's one thing I'm still not sure of. Tha Carter IV is a jarring ride, no doubt, but Wayne is clearly headed in the right direction.
Nas is the best part of this album. It's sad to see how far Lil Wayne has declined.
I think for me the worst part of this album is the over-usage of the "clap" beat. It's on virtually every track and makes everything kind of sound the same. People are praise the production value of this, but honestly i can't get behind it.
I did enjoy a few tracks off this, Megaman and 6 foot 7 foot were my personal favorites. Would have probably enjoyed She Will more if Drake actually had a verse but yeah, a lot of the album is forgettable.