With Eminem & Royce’s Hell: The Sequel being only an EP and Jay-Z & Kanye’s Watch The Throne purposely being released with a lack of promotion,
Sorry 4 The Album Tha Carter IV was definitely the most anticipated full length Hip Hop album that we knew was going to be released sometime this year. Although it is unfair to compare this album to what Tha Carter III did three years ago, when you’re an artist of his magnitude people start critiquing your work against what you have already done, as opposed to other artist’s work. This is a great point to use with his album because while it’s not a great album, it’s still better than a lot of the stuff out there already. It’s just that three years in between installments of Tha Carter series, we expected better.
A large part in C4’s critical “failure” is the degression of Lil Wayne’s rap skills. Wayne’s flow has been through numerous phases throughout his career. Most were for the good, but some weren’t. Hit the jump as I go in depth with the phases and talk about the album.
** Phase I – 1998 – 2003 – The Lil Wayne most people don’t know (Wobbidy-wobbidy-drop-drop-it-like-it’s-hot Lil Wayne) blossomed in the late ‘90s, when he played second-fiddle to Cash Money artists like Juvenile, Mannie Fresh, B.G. and even Baby aka Birdman aka Stunna aka My Daddy himself. Although he was on a few big records and released three albums solo albums (three more as part of the Hot Boys), current fans aren’t familiar either because they’re too young or simply because he wasn’t a household name outside of the Hip Hop (which I totally understand). Either way, he had some memorable parts in a few hot songs, but he was never praised for his lyricism, often laying down unclear, fast-paced verses.
Phase II – 2003 – 2004 – Weezy’s second phase showed a huge progression in his flow and lyricism during what I call the “Gillie Phase,” where Wayne’s rhymes became more complex, discovering multi-syllable rhyming patterns. Wayne hopped on the mixtape circuit during the down years of Cash Money preceding the release of Tha Carter. The enhancement in the rap skills he obtained between studio albums helped prepare him to stand alone on tracks instead of using the assistance of the Wu-Tang-esque posse cuts Cash Money used to do to carry their singles (Mannie was still on the boards, though). But his change in flow and similarity in style leaves me reason to believe Gillie da Kid when he mentioned teaching (not ghostwriting for) Weezy how to rap.
Phase III – 2005 – 2008 – This is the “Best Rapper Alive” phase, which can be split into two. The first half of the phase is where I believe Wayne peaked in his talents, while the second half is where take a downward slope, but his popularity skyrockets to the point he’s at now. He used what he learned from Gillie and made a style of his own, slowing down his flow and switching between different pitches in his voice often (similar to what singers do, which he’s mastered). This is where the long list of Wayne quotables began. His slowed down flow (people can hear his every word now) and the distinction in his voice made it easier for people to hear and remember his words. While these are the years Wayne rose to “Best Rapper Alive” status, the second part of Phase III is where I started noticing his rap skills deteriorate.
The first two years we received two albums, Tha Carter II (which I think is his best album) and Like Father, Like Son with Birdman, plenty of mixtapes (Dedication 1 & 2, I Can’t Feel My Face, Da Drought 3.…and those unofficial Empire joints, but don‘t tell Wayne that; his best work period. Increased his popularity more than his albums did) and a run of guest appearances that has never been done before, from getting Chris Brown’s feet wet, the DJ Khaled anthems and of course the insurmountable “You” with Lloyd. All of this built up the amount of anticipation for Tha Carter III.
The leak of the original C3 in the summer of ‘07 was when Wayne’s talents started to meet it’s demise. The C3 that was supposed to be had plenty of gems on it (the first “La La La,” “I Feel Like Dying,” and “1000 Degreez/I’m Me”) and was better than the official C3 that would be released a year later if you ask me. Weezy’s stellar performance of the (at the time) never-before-heard “Gossip” at the 2007 BET Hip Hop Awards (a song that was rumored to be his response to the disses 50 Cent was throwing at him at the time before it’s release. Come to find out it wasn’t) leads into the second half/last year of Phase III, where Wayne seemed to have forgot his talents on stage that night and went into 2008 to record C3 without the same flare and aggressiveness he would put on tracks and adopted a lazier, metaphor/simile-reaching flow that would just evolve even more in the next phase.
Phase IV – 2008 – Present – It would be modest to say that Tha Carter III did very well commercially. Critics even deem the album a classic. Even though I disagree, I don’t think there is any denying in the fact that his flow was indeed dwindling. I have 2008 as part of Phase III & IV because C3 does have it’s points. When he wants to he can ride a beat with the best of them. But mixed in with the previous phase, C3 and this phase, Wayne substitutes his flow for punchlines. He has a number of quotables, but all of a sudden he thinks he’s so clever that he attempts a punchline literally every other bar. He tends to get off topic a lot in favor of half-assed similes (“I wear bright red, like a girl toe.”). In fact, I feel I’ve committed a crime for even calling them “punchlines.” This new phase of his gets mixed reviews. Dedication 3 was bad, but We Are Young Money had listening quality. I Am Not A Human Being was ass (but those were filled with C4 throwaways, so we weren’t supposed to hear most of those anyways) and Rebirth was that experimental album every great artist does where they make it sound like the greatest idea before you hear it, and then they’re on that “I did that album for me. It wasn’t supposed to be good” shit after it’s released. **
Basically, Tha Carter IV is Phase IV in a nutshell (if you read the Phases, great. If not, you may be a bit lost). It’s very mixed. Mixed as in it’s not what we were expecting, but it’s not a bad album by any means. The first three tracks go in (and #4, “6 Foot 7 Foot,” but we heard it enough), but by the time you get to #5 I’m ready to hear something different, instead of him going in on every track (those tracks are cool, but not for an entire album). I mean, if you’re looking for a rapper with substance, Lil Wayne isn’t your guy. But he has cleverly crafted songs on C3 (“Dr. Carter,” “Shoot Me Down”). So when I see songs titled “Nightmares At The Bottom,” “Abortion” and “President Carter” (he tried a little bit on this song, but that’s just not his style), I’m thinking there’s some type of message or concept, and I got that from neither song. In fact, besides “How To Hate” (grudge on your ex), “How To Love” (the struggle for a meaningful relationship) and “So Special” (how hard could a song about sex be?) there are no themes at all. You can see this coming when “She Will” dropped a week before the album leaked. Aside from two or three bars, Wayne’s verses had nothing to do with Drake’s chorus at all. “Today I went shopping, but talk is still cheap.” WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? The song is about getting a female to do some freaky thangs, not giving back vowels and hula hoops.
As far as guest appearances goes, everyone is talking about the Intro/Interlude/Outro. The Intro is all Lil Wayne, but he doesn’t include a verse in the latter two. During my conversation with Tech N9ne, he made it seem like they were on the same track together (but if you’re on somebody’s album, who wouldn’t?). So I’m guessing separating Wayne’s verse from everyone else’s wasn’t the original plan, but if there are TWO songs on your album that didn’t include a verse from you – not coming to any conclusions – that’s pretty lame. And those were two of the better songs on the album.
But besides a weak verse from Drake and a surprisingly not-so-bad appearance by Shyne, all the guest rappers did a pretty good job (including stand out verses from Tech, the uncredited Andre 300, and Nas >>> ). As for the singers, T-Pain was pretty….average, and John Legend saved the day
To conclude, let’s compare C4’s commercial impact to C3 for shits and giggles. We all know C3 sold over 1 million it’s first week and over 3.5 million all together. C4 won’t see those numbers. Why? Well first of all, C3 was an incredible feat. Especially with it being leaked almost two weeks before it’s release. But it sold so much because of it’s commercial appeal and success of it’s singles on the charts. “Lollipop,” the Static Major (R.I.P.) written, auto-tune driven song, spent five weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and was the top-selling single of the year with over 9 million sold. Then you have a bass heavy, no chorus single in “A Milli” (impressive in it’s success due to the songs format) and another auto-tuned club anthem in “Got Money” reaching #6 and #10 on the chart, respectively (Mrs. Office also peaked at #16). C4’s singles aren’t as strong, but with “She Will” currently at #3, “How To Love” peaking at #5 and “6 Foot 7 Foot” at #9, they’re doing great. As a matter of fact, this album is non-commercial. Aside from “How To Love,” this album has no radio appeal that any other artist other than Wayne can get away with being such a success. In fact, I don’t see what the next single would be if it’s not the T-Pain feature (helps he’s trying to release an album soon. That would be a good look). C4 will debut at #1, of course, but not with milli. Actually, it is predicted to sell about 900K.
Did y’all see Lil Wayne’s VMA performance? Way to close out an incredible show….NOT! Maybe this weekend’s performance will be remembered as Wayne’s jumping the shark moment? Well, with his height of popularity right now, maybe not. But when you’re at the top, there is no place to go but
Best tracks (not including “Interlude“ or “Outro“): Intro, Megaman, How To Love (Y’all know how much I love this song)
Worst tracks: How To Hate, Abortion, President Carter
3.5 out of 5 stars