"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Monday, June 2, 2008

Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III: Review

Cough syrup is a helluva drug...

Hype is a funny thing. It's an intangible concept because nobody can determine why some "events" warrant it but others don't. The basic premise behind it is predicated on the implied future success of an event that nobody has actually witnessed yet. Yet, it garners so much attention but the reason for this is often a complete mystery. In some cases, the hype is so massive that no matter what the actual event turns out to be like, it will fail to live up to expectations set forth for it; in other cases, the hype is so seductive that no matter what the final product actually is, people will convince themselves of it's brilliance. It’s human nature. We either consciously want something to fail or something to massively succeed. We cannot help it.

This contradiction creates an atmosphere where no accurate immediate criticism of an event can be judged. Our biases show through and thus we end up with a skewed perception of what the event actually is. Only the slow crawl of time can provide the necessary foresight to judge the merits of an artistic “event.” Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. has been assaulting the world for the last couple years of not only his grandiose claims that he is the best rapper currently breathing (better than Rakim, even!) but his upcoming album, Tha Carter III, would be his “Symphony No. 5 In C-Minor and be his great ostensible masterpiece that would prove to his rabid haters, foaming at the mouth at the thought of his artistic failure and comeuppance, that Wayne is not a fraud. Admittedly, I am an open Lil’ Wayne skeptic since I do not buy into the hype that Wayne’s the artistic messiah (Really? MTV? Did you just say he was messianic?) that some of my more unfortunate colleagues seem to want to convince themselves. Lil’ Wayne has always been to me, at least, an above-average emcee with a unique delivery but a weak grasp of lyricism and song-writing and a penchant for dropping mind-bogglingly awful punch-lines.

For me, at least, if Lil’ Wayne wanted to be taken seriously as an elite rapper than he would release the one element on his resume that thus far has eluded him: the classic album. For months and months, Tha Carter III has been delayed and delayed and Wayne has been guest featuring on the singles of the entirety of the South and releasing “highly-touted” (by people who inexplicably think Dedication 2 was some visionary work of art) mixtapes furthering the anticipation that his next album would be the masterpiece that was going to propel him merely from being the “hottest” rapper of his generation to the messiah of rap music itself. Well, Tha Carter III is here and it’s just merely good.

Tha Carter III is Weezy’s most ambitious and codeine-soaked album to date. It’s full of Weezy’s trademark non-sequitur style lyricism and head scratching weirdo-moments that have made him the hipster cult hero that the media adores and hardcore rap fans loathe. It’s clear that Wayne is tempting to consciously craft a masterpiece as the album has an epic but almost desperate feeling to it. Weezy’s taps Shawn Corey Carter himself for the feel-good epic track “Mr. Carter” and the song is clearly meant to be taken as a ceremonial passing of baton from the Golden Era’s leading pop superstar to the modern era’s leading pop superstar. This song should feel organic but it comes across as an extremely obvious move for both parties since Wayne has been touting his status as the Lebron James to Jay’s Michael Jordan for three years now. It feels sickeningly like a marketed ploy for Wayne’s perceived coronation which is a shame because under different circumstances it would be an awesome song, Just Blaze’s production is top notch and Jay-Z turns in one of his most inspired verses since he’s stop pretending to care about being a good rapper, anymore. It also doesn’t help that the beat and concept of the song is a naked bite of the Game and Nas’s superior “Why You Hate The Game” from two years ago, a song that is also meant to be a ceremonial passing of the torch between the older and younger generations.

The album for the most part is a fairly enjoyable series of Wayne’s cough syrup-infused rants about getting money, getting (wo)men to fuck him, eating rappers alive and his unspoken love for his secret lover, Birdman (I’m kidding about that last part but not really.). The problem with the record is the problem with every Lil’ Wayne mixtape since he started using a ghostwriter. Wayne simply isn’t that good of a songwriter. What makes Wayne, an even remotely interesting rapper, is his non-sequitur freestyles that litter his mixtapes and guest appearances. It works perfectly on songs like “We Takin’ Over”, “Holler At Me”, or “Uh-Ohhhh!” because the concept of the song provides Weezy, an outlet to prove his lyrical craft but like a New York mixtape rapper when push comes to shove Wayne falters when he tries to curb his outlandish freestyles into actual rap songs. Songs like “Got Money,” “Lollipop”, “La La”, “Mrs, Officer” and “Misunderstood” are a conceptual mess that really highlight Wayne’s shortcomings as a writer. Unquestionably, the best song on the record is the freestyle epic “A Millie” which in some respects is Wayne’s “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” or “Unbelievable.” It showcases Wayne’s ability to write rhymes over a beat without the benefit of sticking with a traditional song structure. Don’t get me wrong, though. There is a five song stretch in the middle of the album where I thought the Wayne could pull it off and become a good writer but then the apocalyptic combination of “Lollipop/La La” hits and kills any momentum the album builds. As Brandon Soderberg pointed out in his review of the album, sequencing is a problem on the record, as well, and had the record been sequenced slightly differently the momentum could have built to a creative peak and some of the faults in the record could have been avoided.

I can’t help but wonder if Wayne hadn’t wasted so much energy of his releasing mixtape after mixtape of discarded material, Tha Carter III could have been a much better record than it is. There a couple of brilliant gems that were wasted on pointless mixtapes like “I Feel Like Dying”, “I’m Me”, “I” or “Gossip” that had it been placed on the album instead of such quease-inducing wackness as “Lollipop”, “La La”, or “Got Money” the record would be much stronger. The album suffers from too many moments of blatant pop pandering that goes against the weirdo-cough syrup influenced tracks that are the highlights. “Phone Home”, “Dr. Carter” and “Shoot Me Down” are probably three of my favorite tracks on the album and all show that Weezy can be a great writer if he would just focus and write his shit down. As is, “Tha Carter III” isn’t nearly as good as “Tha Carter II” and so it some respects, it’s a failure because the conscious effort of Wayne attempting to make a masterpiece. It’s never a good idea to set out to be brilliant even as a writer, I find that my most inspired moments come from ideas that spring up in the middle of the night. Instead, Wayne chose to make a record that’s supposed to be “brilliant” instead of sticking with his strengths and letting the art stand for itself. It’s too bad for him but it sure going to be a pleasure for me in the next couple of months when I get to say I told you so to everybody.


Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

Unquestionably, the best song on the record is the freestyle epic “A Millie” which in some respects is Wayne’s “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” or “Unbelievable.”

i like the song, sure, but... really? i'm just too confused to write anything. i just don't feel like it's the essence of wayne (if such a thing exists/could exist).

Renato Pagnani said...

The best song on Tha Carter III is “Let the Beat Build,” and by a large margin.

Trey Stone said...

the guy on MTV referred to Wayne entering a stage in a messianic fashion and his fans treating him like their cult leader or some shit, didn't call him the messiah.

think you read a little too much into dude's Best Rapper Alive-ing. i mean, let's face it, "i'm the best rapper alive...with the exception of everyone who pioneered this shit of course, love y'all!" would just sound kinda lame, even if it was objectively true.

still holding out to Tuesday for this, though i like what i've heard (including the pop panderage) and from the sample i have a hunch "La La" is gonna end up this album's "Drunk and Hot Girls," where i'm the only motherfucker who likes it. we'll see though

DocZeus said...

"The best song on Tha Carter III is “Let the Beat Build,” and by a large margin."

Actually, I don't really care for that one. Kind of boring if you ask me.

C3 = needs more bangers said...

Interesting review. I noticed you almost always have different taste then Tom B or Brandon Soderberg which is nice. However, Phone Home is borderline circus kiddy shit. "PHOONE HOME, PHONE HOMMMEEE if you feel like you're the best then go head and do the weezy weee" come on man that's a brutal chorus.

And you would like Shoot Me Down, it's dark enough for you. But don't you see the comparisons to Shooter, but not being as good as shooter? I dunno just my thoughts.

I would've said the first few listens to "Let the Beat build" were AMAZING. But I'd agree with you, it's kind of gettin boring. I still get excited though the first time he says "Now THAT'S how you let the beat build biiiiiiiitch" and the bass comes in thumping. good shit.

Trey Stone, I'm pretty sure even YOU won't like La La. I remember you defending to your death "drunk and hot girls" but at least that song had a beat that didn't make you wanna pull out your hair. And had a funny moment when Kanye goes off yelling gibberish followed by "that's how the fuck you sound." But "La La": BRUTAL.

Christopher said...


Prepare to chuckle. You got a shoutout in the comments as well.

DocZeus said...


Prepare to chuckle. You got a shoutout in the comments as well."

Yeah, it never ceases to amaze me how easily impressed Tommy Boy is by rappers with Weezy. As if, he wasn't gonna fall over himself praising some mediocre shit.

I was this close to writing a review of this album last weekend called "What I Think Tom Briehan Thinks About Tha Carter III After The First Listen" but I thought better. I might end up wanting to steal his position at the Village Voice one of these days. You never know.

Disco Vietnam said...

Actually, Tha Carter III is a classic

DocZeus said...

"Actually, Tha Carter III is a classic."

Certified crazy talk.

tray said...

I might end up wanting to steal his position at the Village Voice one of these days. You never know.

They'd never take you. Brandon, maybe. You're right about too much. Anyway, I can't believe you compared "A Milli" to It Ain't Hard to Tell. He said "we pop 'em like Orville Redenbacher." I believe that's the 2386th time someone's used that line. Seriously, look it up. Method Man, Das EFX, Keith Murray, Will.i.am, Ludacris, CL Smooth, Bun B, and many others. Maybe the intro on Carter 2 is his "It Ain't Hard To Tell."

DocZeus said...

"Anyway, I can't believe you compared "A Milli" to It Ain't Hard to Tell."

Well I just meant it's a freestyle epic in those veins. It's Weezy's "It Ain't Hard To Tell" but it's clearly not on the level of either of those songs I mentioned. I just meant stylistically, it's in that manner.

Madman said...

La La is a banger. Wayne and Busta killed that track.

Renato Pagnani said...

Yeah but “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” isn’t a freestyle in any sense of the word.

Christopher said...

Dunno why I posted the Status Ain't Hood home page URL instead of the specific post. Ha.

You should've gone through with it. Although since the Voice is constantly restaffing in their downward spiral, protecting your neck is a good idea. Despite how LULZ-worthy that would've been.

DocZeus said...

"Yeah but “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” isn’t a freestyle in any sense of the word."

Yeah, it is. It's a song that has no topic and doesn't have a real hook. Plus, it's my understanding that Nas' literally freestyled that song.

tray said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think a lot of what he said on It Ain't Hard To Tell is on an earlier demo cut called "Nas Will Prevail." Which may have been a freestyle itself, of course.

avah royal said...

First let me say that the beginning of your entry about hype was great and very true.
I think that the Wayne skeptisc should go to bed. Why you ask? Well if Wayne isn't a talented or however you put it...then why for the past few years has this man been killing everybodys track with freestyles for the radio. Could this just be three years of okie dokes? Yeah that's what I figured. Shouldn't the "hype" have died down by now? I have been reading countless review about how Wayne sucks bc he always on syrup...whatever rock stars are on far worse drugs and they still pack concerts and I never see as manny hating reviews about them. I've also heard that this album is far too different from the mixtapes and the 1st 2 installments of Tha Carter series. Tell mer this...if Tha Carter III was like the rest of his work...would you be satisfied then?

Either way the dude sold "A Milli" copies in a week. What other Rapper has done that recently and been consistently on your radio for the past 3 years?

Even if you dont like it. A million plus mofos outchea do! LMAO

Anonymous said...

I'll be honest I haven't listened to Carter III because I've been waiting to get a handle on a hard copy from friend (just like Coldplay's Viva La Vida... that's another story though).

I have loved A Milli since it leaked and was awestruck when I heard the 'million sold remix'. I'm having trouble phrasing this... It did exactly what it should. Its like the nail on the coffin to the album, brushing aside any doubt that this would be the most commercially successful hip hop album of recent memory (I don't have the numbers but what was the last album to sell more than TCIII in the first week?) It's almost as if this 'I told you so' free download track was meant to be the original version on the cd... Hope that makes sense.

"a million sold/first day i went gold
how do i celebrate?/work on the carter 4"

"mad rappers look on the bright side/i sold 1.5, hip hop is aliveee!"

Anonymous said...

I just found this blog.

I'll be back on the basis of this review.

Sums up my feelings on Lil Wayne perfectly.

hip hop music said...

Tha Carter III is Unquestionably the best Album of the year!!!