When the release date of “Tha Carter V” was confirmed two weeks ago, I retweeted the link with the mindset of, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
It arrived at midnight on the 27th true to its word, unlike another promised album from another artist this weekend.
Seven years since “Carter IV,” it depicts a man who has been to the top of the mountain, been through a lot, and managed to come out on the other side.
The album begins with a tearful profession of love from Carter’s mother, telling the five time Grammy winning artist that “I am so proud of you, I can’t wait for your album to come out…. You have always been my rock. I love you.” That transitions into the song “Don’t Cry” with a sample from the former south Florida rapper XXXTentacion on the hook.
The classic wordplay that longtime fans know came out in “Dedicate,” a third track that abruptly shifts the mood of the album.
Swiss Beatz, the highly acclaimed Bronx DJ and producer brings out the best of the New Orleans rapper on Uproar, a fast, upbeat track reminiscent of songs from the early 2000s.
A signature lighter flick in the beginning of “Can’t Be Broken” is followed by the line “You cannot break down what can’t be broken.” A defiant Carter raps over a piano track and 808s about the struggle and redemption of a man who has overcome everything from seizures and court battles with his former mentor over his contract with the Young Money record label.
“Mona Lisa,” featuring Kendrick Lamar, is fitting of its title. The two bring out the best of each other on the track. Wordplay from Carter pairs perfectly with the flow and cadence of Lamar. The only regret of this song is that the two don’t pair up for an entire album.
Another lighter flick track and Carter delves into his romantic pain on “What About Me.” It is as close to his protege, Drake, as he gets on this album. The opening line,”If you saw me, would you understand. That I can’t stand you with another man?” hits home with anyone who has ever felt the pain of losing a lover.
The next song, “Open Letter,” finds Carter reflecting on a myriad of topics and plays like a therapy session over a back to basics beat by Ben Billions, who produced Beyonce’s Lemonade.
“Demon,” my favorite track on the album, is cut with a gospel sample from the Crowns of Glory, their 1974 track “Hold Me In Your Arms.” The raw personification of his inner demons along with a masterful opening flow by Wayne makes this a great song.
Romantic struggle continues to be a theme on the next song, “Mess.” “My life is a mess of happiness; Lust, sex, obsession, desire with no love” encapsulate the struggle of dating, marriage, and romance in today’s culture.
The most powerful track on this album is saved for last with a final flick of the lighter. A chorus sung by the soulful Sampha, “Let It All Work Out” is the final therapy session for Carter.
It’s a gripping parting shot, lamenting the delay of the album’s release, admitting that there were days he didn’t feel like himself anymore, and addresses the suicide attempt with his mother’s pistol at 12 years old. It ends with Carter reminding everyone, that it in fact, did work out for him.
Overall, the album is impressive with a wide range of features, production credits, and a masterful flow by Carter. The only weakness is the lack of cohesion, which is to be expected, as some songs feel as if they should be in different places on the track list, such as “Start This Shit Off Right.”
If this is the last album by Lil Wayne, it’s a great place to end a career. It may not outsell the classic “Carter III,” or have instant classic appeal like the “Carter II,” but it holds its own.
According to Billboard, the album is set to be number one on the Top 200 Streaming Chart, with the third largest streaming week ever.
Out of five stars, this album deserves a solid 4.5.
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