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‘Tha Carter V’: worth the wait

| Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ruby Le | The Observer

There is no more of that budding excitement in Lil Wayne. The last time he made an appearance in popular culture was with his feature on DJ Khaled’s chart-topping single, “I’m the One.” In a slurred and mumbled verse, Wayne chops out “I’m the best yet, and yet, my best is yet to come.” He was drowning in the white double cup he held in the song’s music video.

On “Tha Carter V,” Lil Wayne seems to escape from his vices as if they never held him back. In the song “Dope New Gospel,” he confronts his addiction: “You always see me with the white cup / Some people say that is a bad look / But take a good look at what you are looking at / You never know when it’s your last look.” The Lil Wayne that’s been incubating since “Tha Carter V’s” announcement in 2012 and its release now recognizes his worth, however great or small that may be.

The first half of the album is feature-heavy, with the late XXXtentacion, Nicki Minaj, and Kendrick Lamar providing strong performances. On “Don’t Cry,” X pops off the album with a strained plea: “Don’t cry, don’t go.” Nicki sings her way through “Dark Side of the Moon” in a YMCMB infused synchronicity with Tunechi. Bordering on a breakdown, Kendrick finds the multiple voices he knows so well on “Mona Lisa,” which is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the album.

“Mona Lisa” tells the story of the women who work with Lil Wayne to rob unsuspecting men from under their noses. It plays in a narrative: Wayne demonstrating his mastery and ruthlessness over all those who lack his skill and tenacity. Kendrick plays another victim of Lil Wayne, losing first his girl to Tune’s least efforts, then his mind.

From this highpoint, the tracks continue as typical Tunechi; “Dope N—–” and “Hittas” are both high energy brags. Of all the arcs this ninety-minute album rides, this middle bit is the least inspired, but easy listening nonetheless.

To finish, Lil Wayne stacks eight tracks that feel like they could fill their own EP. “Took His Time” features a lo-fi piano melody. “Mess” contains an acoustic guitar instrumental suited to a meadow frolic. Here, he’s sharing the condensed findings of a years-long study by himself on himself.

The final track, “Let It All Work Out,” caps what became a powerful album on the truth of Lil Wayne’s person. Sampha sings backup vocals, with his characteristic rich ability. Lil Wayne reveals the truth here about a gunshot wound he suffered when he was twelve: “I aimed where my heart was poundin’.” But here Dwayne is — still breathing as Sampha implores us to “let it all work out.”

Between when “Tha Carter V” was announced and its release — a six year difference — Lil Wayne did little worth remembering. He may have lost his touch, or he may have been saving it for something significant. “Tha Carter V” is what was promised; it is a real, telling look inside the mind of a beloved artist, delivered with impeccable skill. Although his best is likely behind him, Lil Wayne’s best is better than a whole lot else.

 

4.5/5 Shamrocks

Artist: Lil Wayne

Album: “Tha Carter V”

Label: Young Money, Republic Records, Universal Music Group

Favorite Track: “Took His Time”

If You Like: Meek Mill, Jeezy

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