"I could change the world, I'd rather change to beast mode."
Lil Wayne Tha Carter V
Weezy seemed to have gotten into a mode during his peak when he thought the only way he could create was at full speed. Maybe that is best for his creative process when it comes to rapping and getting actual bars into Pro Tools, but when it comes to putting together an album the magnitude of one from the Carter series, all great things take time.
The Carter IV felt rushed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great album. There were songs on The Carter IV that got massively under-appreciated. Take “Up Up & Away” for example. Some of the hardest bars of 2011, on a Diplo beat no-less, and yet because the expectations for Lil Wayne were so great, people didn’t even appreciate the greatness they got.
Take an example like the intro or “Blunt Blowin.” These are songs that Weezy fans love, but how do they compare to songs like “Dedicated” on Tha Carter V? It just feels like if Wayne had been given more time to finish The Carter IV instead of having to push out the next money maker for the labels, he could have had just that much better of songs on Tha Carter IV.
But on this album, he had PLENTY of time, and it will be compared to The Carter III and debated as to which was the best album.
It’s tough to compare the two. Tha Carter III was Lil Wayne’s crowning glory. At the moment when the feature killer was being loved by new fans and doubted by new haters at the same time, he delivered in a major way. Not only with the 1 million copies sold in the first week, but with the outstanding quality of the work. There are songs on Tha Carter III that instantly felt like classics. Songs like “Let the Beat Build” “Mr. Carter” “Misunderstood” and “A Milli.”
But Tha Carter V is its own crowning glory. While the third Carter album signified crowing Lil Wayne “The Best Rapper Alive” the fifth Carter album signified Lil Wayne cementing his legacy as “The Greatest Rapper of All Time.” That’s a hugely important step in his career.
And of course, The Carter V has its own instant classics. “Mona Lisa” “Dope Ni**az” “Famous” and “What About Me” all have the same stop you in your tracks level of excellence as their Carter III counterparts. But what makes them different? What is it that makes this album feel like something a bit more significant?
It could be the delay. There’s nothing like a 4-year delay on an album to make you want it, and of course, that level of anticipation can alter your reality. But the double-edged sword for that is that it could’ve worked against Weezy as well. All that build-up and hype for The Carter V could have led people to have such impossible expectations that nothing could meet them.
And to be fair, they probably did have that high of expectations. And Weezy knocked them, the park. He delivered a 23 piece classic that any music artist in history would be proud of. This is a moment, within an era of quick-fleeting, streaming, 3 minutes of fame superstars, that made the world stop. It brought everything back to the orbit of Weezy for an amount of time that he commanded.
At a time when all that’s on CNN is Trump news, Lil Wayne was the cover story. The USA Today reported about him, The New York Times sang his praises. And even Kanye, who was in the middle of his press-commanding spotlight, took a moment out to admit that Lil Wayne would outsell him with this album.
He was the number one trending topic on Twitter, and he was all that anyone was talking about. Even LeBron was asked about him in his first day of Lakers training camp. Lil Wayne once again made sure everyone knows his rightful place in the hip-hop world:
It’s seemed like at times Weezy has still felt like he’s had something to prove. When he slowed down a bit and took a step back, a slew of newcomers stepped up their game. Everyone from the beloved K.dot and Chance the Rapper to beef-mongering Young Thug, they took certain styles that Tunechi had perfected and then pushed those styles in directions of their own.
In Sorry 4 the Wait 2, you can see Wayne pushing the style that Young Thug had made popular, to show the world that it was his style and he could do whatever he wanted to with it. In No Ceilings 2, Tune was then working with the style of his that birthed Future’s. Lil Wayne seemed determined in these projects to not be out-innovated. He wanted to continue pushing the limits and show he had still not met the boundaries of his career or skills.
But as he got to Dedication 6, there was something so uniquely Weezy about that mixtape. It didn’t feel like he was trying to mark his territory over a particular style or trying to sound different from himself, or imitators. It felt more like him being him. Him doing something that just sounded 100% Weezy. It was trap, it was fast, it was heavy, it was make you rewind the track punch lines. It was top-shelf Lil Wayne.
Tha Carter V took that to an even higher level. Not only was he being uniquely himself in a style all his own, but he was also perfecting songs. He was producing original works of art, not a rendition of someone else song. These were songs, emotions, and energies that would not have existed without these songs, and without him making them.
Songs like “What About Me” sound like “Take Care” era Drake, but a bit less Emo. But who was “Take Care” Drake with a bit less Emo if it’s not Lil Wayne? Drake basically emulated Lil Wayne’s flows, and then added his much better singing voice to Weezy’s already hot rap/sung creations. “What About Me” is what Lil Wayne has been wanting to create for years. A true song of perfection, that doesn’t have to overdone like “How to Love.”
Or how about “Dope Ni**az” with Snoop Dog? Not many rappers can jump on a song with a legend of this caliber and make him look like a backup singer. Don’t get me wrong, Snoop’s part was dope, but there was no part of me that wanted to hear any less Weezy than we got.
Apart from all the points above, the subject matter of The Carter V is mature as well. The concepts are timeless and word choice is elegant. Wayne raps about love and relationships, hustles and cons, and everything in between, and still manages to have you thinking about it as an adult.
Besides Lil Wayne’s mother, having his daughter on the album with “Famous” was a treat as well. Further, combining the two on the “Famous” track was brilliant and more than special. To start with Miss Cita and then lead into Reginae singing that beautiful hook, it felt like a song from a man who really does value the women in his life.
Reginae’s appearance was powerful. To be featured on Tha Carter V is an honor for any artist, even a bucket list item. But to be Lil Wayne’s daughter and kill it at that level? It’s mind-blowing. It’s mind-blowing for Weezy himself to have a daughter that talented who doesn’t sacrifice quality being on the track.
It reminds me of recently when LeBron talked about the potential of playing in the NBA together with Bronny one day. I believe this is at that level. To share this crowning achievement with your family, it’s a gift.
Fans loved the triumphant return of their favorite rapper. The man who gave us Drake and Nicki Minaj showed us there’s a reason why he soared so high in the music world in the first place.
Lil Wayne fans started making sure the world knows they believe this album crowns Weezy as the GOAT. Media outlets like Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, The New York Times, Billboard, and XXL, all showed love to the huge fan base that made themselves known upon Tha Carter V’s release.
Variety and XXL turned in the highest reviews, both giving it an 80/100.
XXL felt the album was solid, but not the best we’ve ever seen from Weezy.
“At 23 tracks, it’s on par with the length of Young Money protégé Drake’s Scorpion, but unlike the OVO’s founder’s latest, C5 doesn’t shamelessly offer songs in abundance as a strategy for pleasing everyone (and dominating streaming with its sheer bloat). Rather, it feels like a necessary form of catharsis, a conscious clearing of Wayne’s archives from the past seven years. It’s the sort of album that might not be remembered as Wayne’s greatest (which widely varies depending on who you ask) but it certainly has the potential to be deemed one of his most personal and passionate.”Variety’s review was a bit more positive, feeling that musically Lil Wayne had come full circle through the album's delays and drama with a triumphant end to the saga.
XXL, XXL Staff
"Musically, despite the age of some of the songs, “V” is fresh, flush and even frenetic at times, with the crunch of the Southern trap and ropey rap-rock sounds that Wayne pretty much started in the first place.”Rolling Stone’s review seemed a bit fake to me. They give it a positive 70/100 and admit that Lil Wayne is one of the GOATs in hip-hop history, saying he belongs on hip-hop’s Mount Rushmore with Rakim and Jay Z, however, their negativity was plenty.
“It doesn’t matter that his first retail album since 2013’s desultory, depressing I Am Not a Human Being II is haphazardly sequenced, with the best tracks arriving somewhere in the middle and the end, and that its 87 minute running time can barely be consumed in one sitting. Lil Wayne is back on center stage, back on top. That’s all that matters.”Anyone who actually enjoyed the album and believes that Lil Wayne is one of hip-hop’s GOATs would not complain that the album’s length is 87 minutes. It’s 87 minutes because it’s a masterpiece that is full of incredible, consumable greatness from beginning to end.
Rolling Stone, Mosi Reeves
The New York Times turned in an outwardly unfavorable review. With a 60/100, the Times said:
“Excess was always a part of his proposition, but this album drags and seeps, with long stretches of shrug in between moments of invention.”While devoting half of their review to Logic’s new album, the Times review seems to be from a viewpoint of someone who’s in denial about the resurgent relevance of Lil Wayne. Instead, it seems they had a review already written somewhere ready to pronounce the rapper’s career dead and hand of the crown to “teacher’s pet” Logic.
New York Times
However, after the 3rd most streamed first day of any album in history, and total sales that more than doubled Logic’s, it seems they weren’t quite happy about rewriting their review to account for the actual greatness or insane fan response.
For the negative reviewers, it’s easier to just blame Tha Carter V’s success on fan loyalty and not have to actually accept that a southern rapper from New Orleans outshines their beloved washed-up old heads and cerebral wannabes.
I hope they enjoy themselves by holding out hope for Weezy’s downfall as much as I do when the rest of us are bumping “Dope Ni**az” in our headphones.
Snoop Dogg also made a standout appearance on the album. His hook on “Dope Ni**az” made the song arguably the 2nd best track. The moment where the beat changes, bringing in the Erika Bydu sample and Snoop pops in with “I get money I’m a hustler….” there’s a level of epicness that makes you immediately aware that you’re listening to an instant classic. The power of the flow and word choice Weezy puts on that track paired with the OG status of Snoop providing a classic West Coast hook, on top of an incredible beat; you just can’t find a better example of hip-hop than that.
Travis Scott provides his own flash of notable style with his work on “Let it Fly”. Travis had previously voiced his disappointment about the possibility of Tha Carter V not coming out because of his work he’d put in on the song, noting that his “mama gone cry” if the album didn’t come out and the song not get heard. However, lucky for Travis, the album did come out and the song is straight flames. Travis turns in a trademark hook and verse, and Lil Wayne finished the song off with an out of this world verse where he rhymes the words “mind” and “line” about 10x each. It’s an insane verse that fits right in with the intensity of the track.
Nicki Minaj turns in a beautiful singing performance on “Dark Side of the Moon” in which Weezy and Nick sing about “intergalactic love” and all of the feelings that come with waiting for a lover you’ve been separated from. It shows Nicki’s true range when singing, and also shows Lil Wayne’s ability to produce love songs that are still true to what his fans crave from him.
Reginae Carter is perhaps one of the brightest shining stars on the album. Her hook for “Famous” has a beautiful and unique sound that honestly will remind the listener a bit of her father. Her singing is impeccable but there’s just something so distinct about her voice. Having a father/daughter collaboration, on a song about a subject that has surely affected all the members of Wayne’s family, seems to fit perfectly naturally. Adding in the intro from Lil Wayne’s mom Cita adds the icing to the cake as well.
Perhaps the most interesting inclusion of all Tha Carter V’s features is Sosamann. There’s so little buzz around the Taylor Gang rapper that he doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. The rumors are that Post Malone and Drake were supposed to be featured on the song “What About Me”, but due to technical difficulties, their verses didn’t get included on the final version of the album before the deadline. So somehow, the little known Sosamann got a spot. He turned in a good performance, reminiscent of something a Hoodie Baby feature might sound like, but it’s an incredible song none the less.
Lil Wayne also rekindled an old flame on this album with the appearance of the mother of one of his children, Nivea. Nivea once had a very successful R&B career, and you can hear Weezy declare his love to her on one of the skits on Dedication 3. She provides a lovely hook on “Dope New Gospel” and Wayne said in his #CRWN interview in New Orleans he thought she sounded "like an angel" on the track.
Taking it back to New Orleans with some true bounce courtesy of Manny Fesh, Wayne tapped Mack Maine and Ashanti for “Start This Sh*t Off Right.” Mack Maine has been featured on plenty of Lil Wayne’s songs throughout his career, last notably on the “Got Money (Remix) that was included in the music video. But Maine sounds natural in a hook/hype-man role, especially on a New Orleanian produced beat. Ashanti doesn’t make many appearances on top Billboard hits these days, but her effort on this song was perfect. She instantly transports the listener back to the early 2000’s gives you a wonderfully nostalgic longing for the sweet songs of that era.
Last but not least was the surprise appearance of XXXTENTACION. The recently deceased rapper/singer was huge news in the past year due to his tragic murder and musical success. He had two platinum albums in 2017 and 2018, and after his devastating death, his most recent single at the time shot from 52 to 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He rapped notably about depression and mental health issues, and his metal guitar featuring instrumentals gained him critical acclaim.
His appearance on Tha Carter V was slightly controversial as some accused the inclusion as being a stunt to gain streams and garner an emotional sentiment for support of the album. Some do have a case when they point to the fact that the track is included as the first song on the album, and sets it up to capture your emotional reaction from the very beginning of the album.
However, speaking from my own experience with the album, I felt it was magically done. There is real emotion coming from that song that can be felt from XXXTENTACION as well as Lil Wayne, and I’m sure Mack Maine was trying to make sure that emotion was felt. This is an emotional album that touches on some deeper levels than most of Weezy’s albums, and this song and feature fit perfectly in with that narrative.