Tha Carter III
By: Samir Siddiqui
He’s been self-proclaimed and dubbed by others as the ‘best rapper alive,’ has enjoyed over a year of being hip-hop’s go-to guest feature, and has been the most hyped-up hip-hop artist in recent memory, all without having a classic album to solidify his A-list status. Two-and-a-half years after the release of his last LP, the time has come for Lil Wayne to translate his success into a great full-fledged album, and his attempt comes in the form of Tha Carter III. But with some doubting Wayne’s ability to create excellent material on his own, the third instalment of Tha Carter series fails to land to a knock-out blow to Weezy naysayers.
The album kicks off on a high as Wayne brings emotion and energy to the fiery “3 Peat,” a simile-heavy declaration of superiority, which is complimented by a spacey backdrop and a dramatic strings arrangement. Wayne calls upon the other “Mr. Carter” for Weezy/Jay-Z collaboration number two, and the two emcees let loose over a light-hearted piano-and-horns production; while Wayne throws shots back at the haters, Jay-Z provides the calm confidence of a seasoned vet, “I’m right here, in my chair, with my crown, and my dear, Queen B, as I share, my time, with my heir// Young Carter, go farther, go further, go harder, is that not why we came? And if not, then why bother?” Wayne later shows off some innovative thinking on the other-worldly “Phone Home,” where he paints himself as a martian, and on the clever “Dr. Carter,” where he carefully revives a sluggish emcee from rap oblivion. On another creative highlight, “Shoot Me Down”, Kanye West’s simplistic, guitar-laden production creates a before-the-war-type tension for Wayne to drop some of the album’s most engaging raps over.
However, while Tha Carter III boasts a few left-of-center song ideas, far too often does Wayne veer into the generic and uninspired. “Got Money” not only features lame song-writing and a grating T-Pain hook, but the front-and-center synths sound almost identical to those on Lil Jon’s “Snap Yo Fingers.” On the following track, “A Milli”,” the dreadfully repetitive beat drowns out Wayne’s raps for the most part, and with gems like “we pop ’em like Orville Redenbacher,” producer Bangledesh was probably on the right track (pun intended). Even the super-catchy lead single “Lollipop” stands tall compared to the laughably-bad “La La,” a track marred by an awkward beat and corny one-liners- like Wayne says, it’s “wittier than comedy.”
The old tricks don’t always fall short, though. Wayne enlists Babyface to add a smooth throwback feel to the straight-forward love-song “Comfortable,” and when rapping alongside fellow mixtape staples Fabolous and Juelz Santana on the well-executed, Alchemist-produced “Nothin’ On Me,” Wayne seems at home. Previous collaborator Robin Thicke (“Shooter”) brings out Wayne’s most vicious lyrics for the second straight album, as Wayne lays waste to the minimal beat on “Tie My Hands,” with lines like, “Yes, I know the process is so much stress, but it’s the progress that feels the best// Cause I came from the projects straight to success, and you’re next, so try, they can’t steal your pride, it’s inside// Then find it, and keep on grinding, ’cause on every dark cloud, there’s a silver lining.”
For a guy who is supposed to be the “best rapper alive,” such showcases of lyrical excellence are few and far between, and the ambitious nature of Tha Carter II is replaced with a more complacent Weezy on volume three. While the artistic reception to Tha Carter III likely won’t have too much of an effect on his commercial status, the LP stands to be a career-defining album for Lil Wayne. So while Tha Carter III delivers in spades, it is surely not the project that will have hip-hop faithful adding Weezy to the list of “Tupac, Biggie, and Jay-Z.”