October 28th and December 9th... Wayne fans know. These weren't enjoyable days. As hype built towards the expected (initial) release date of Tha Carter V, which was to be Wayne's magnificent return to form after the frankly laughable IANAHB2, keyboard residents were sent in to a nervous fervour. But the day came, and passed, and as is par for the course with Young Money, Cash Money, whoever they now are, a pushback was inevitable. By December 9th it became clear that this was a project destined for the Detox joke circuit, and we were desperate for new Wayne material, overplaying his offcuts like Gotti and Off Day until the individuals words lost all meaning.
Thankfully, through a couple of PSA's and videos, Wayne teased and tormented us but ultimately delivered, and Janury 20th we were graced with a huge 15 tracks of new Lil Wayne music.
And holy hell did the boy deliver..
We were all a bit concerned. I am a reviewer first, but I am also a Wayne fanatic, and despite constant ribbing from my rock-oriented friends, I am regularly seen driving around Sydney with my windows up and the aircon blasting, rapping along to Wayne. So I was worried. His voice on Off Day was back to his auto-tune heyday of the mid to late 00s (think Lollipop), but he was rapping about SEX!!! Sex sex sex. The man has more ways to describe a vagina than there are words in the dictionary. We all know what happened on his last studio album.. Wowzers. Enough said.
Still, with the impending implosion of Cash Money records, and the bad blood between Wayne and his father and mentor Birdman, we were awash with new material. And boy, did Wayne not disappoint. The opener, Coco, a remix of the OT Genasis track of the same name, went in. And I mean he went in hard. The first verse went something like this:
Who kept this shit together? Nigga, me, that's who
Who was there when niggas left us? Nigga, me, that's who
Cash Money is an army, I'm a one man army
And if them niggas coming for me, I'm going out like Tony
Now I don't want no problems, I just want my money
Ain't gotta hold no conversation or my luggage
Tell whoever's countin' that I'm on a hundred
Woo, Birdman Jr., more like Ugly Duckling
Yeah. Hardcore. Birdman just spat in to his double cup. To put this in to perspective, Wayne and Birdman have been tight since Wayne was a snotty nosed kid. He took him under his wing at the age of 9, and Birdman sat by and watched Lil Wayne become the best rapper alive, and then slowly decline, all the while selling truckloads of records, truckloads of trukfit, and signing certifiable superstars like Drake and Nicki Minaj. Basically, Wayne and Birdman built an empire from the ground up, one that has stood the test of time and remains the one true label that has endured (think of the death and decline of Rocafella, Shady Records, G-Unit Records, Murder Inc etc and you realise how much of an achievement this is). So for them to part ways was dramatic.
That's not to say S4TW2 is an expletive based tirade aimed at Wayne's father and mentor. In fact, the situation seems to have snapped Wayne out of his vagina-induced perma-haze, and finds him at his most lyrical since the classic mixtape No Ceilings. We missed mixtape Weezy.. Whilst Dedication's 4 and 5 were solid projects, they lacked the energy and enthusiasm that he displays here.
Some of that can be attributed to his delivery and his auto-tune, although anyone who claims Wayne is aping the style and delivery of Young Thug needs their head examined. Wayne and T-Pain fathered the auto-tune generation. But it's more than just that.. He sounds vicious, he sounds hungry. When he claimed the throne of Best Rapper Alive on Tha Carter II, you felt it, you felt he was embodying that role, he believed he truly was, and that no-one could touch him. On S4TW2 he is in peerless form.
"I don't know how you like your steak but I'm in rare form"
Indeed. On Trap House, he is breathless, relating his hectic lifestyle back to the imperious Michael Jordan. On Selsun Blue, over the top of All About The Money by Troy Ave, Wayne goes in and murders the original, spitting an elongated single verse about his lyrical abilities and the crack dealing past he sometimes revisits. Lines like "li li li lick my lollipop like it got gum inside / miami in the winter, cali in the summertime / my bitch independent, she don't ask me for a dime' is just straight on the fly brilliance, in the same vein as classic A Milli or Upgrade U. On centrepiece Fingers Hurting, a thumper produced by Metro Boomin, he again follows the narrative of cocaine selling, cocaine taking, and just general free association rhyming.
The thing about Wayne is that he just raps. He goes in the booth and raps, and he has bars for days and days. He doesn't stop, he doesn't quit, he works, he doesn't even bother writing his words down because it slows him up. Watching him work during The Carter Documentary was intriguing. He would work through the night, carry a microphone with him so that whenever inspiration hits he lets it flow out of him. It's been years, though, since he has spat with such quality, for so long. The way he trades verses with both Drake (Used 2) and 2 Chainz (Preach) is indicative of his status. He murders them. And their verses aren't bad, but Wayne, as he said, is in rare form.
"Never seen my car before, it’s like a unicorn in traffic
Too much fucking talent, rap Shakespeare go Hamlet
You other boys could kiss the game goodbye, be romantic
Please don’t worry Nancy, all my weed is organic
If my children end up smoking
I'll whip they ass if they don’t pass it"
What also becomes evident is a large part of his initial run of wins during the mid 2000s, syrup, or lean, has come back in to his life. No Type is a straight love song in the vein of Pussy Money Weed, or I Feel Like Dying, and whilst it contains the odd corny line (It was love at first sprite), it's easily the equal of more famous dual-meaning love stories, like Jay-Z's I Know, or 50 Cent's Baltimore Love Thing. He even shouts out Katniss Everdeen.. I mean come on!
The only downside to the tape is the beat selection. Most of these beats have been played ad-nauseum, and remixed repeatedly. Whilst Wayne's versions are generally better quality, it does get tiring listing to Hot Nigga again, or Tuesday. The only other true misstep is Drunk In Love, with his new girl Christina Milian. Whoever is telling those two that they have chemistry in the booth is straight lying. Their previous collaboration, Start A Fire, did anything but, and in fact may have been the very reason Carter V was not released on it's new date of December 9th.
What can we take away from this tape? It is more coherent and focused than the original S4TW. It features a rejuvinated Lil Wayne. It features a Wayne that is at his most lyrical for years, and it once again solidifies him at the very top tier of the rap game. He is a punch line rapper, so he cannot be mentioned in the same sentence as Lupe Fiasco or Joey Bada$$, but as a punch line rapper he is absolutely top of the tree.
Sorry for the wait? Thank the gods for it. Carter V, if it is anything like this, will be well worthy of his Carter series, and could possibly be the best installment yet..