“Thank God Weezy back, order is restored, all is right with the world,” raps a replenished Dwayne Carter alongside his ex-fiancee, Nivea. The irrational beef with Birdman and Lil Wayne had grown tiring as hell, and after the project got delayed again for a year, I had honestly given up hope on the project coming into fruition once 2015 came to an end.
Well, those days are long gone, and I couldn’t be happier to say that Lil Wayne is free and sounding as exceptional as he has since 2010. (Side note: That’s not me hating on the stuff he did in the interim, but the drop off in quality and colossal increase in p—- puns grew dull and uninspired at times.) That version of Wayne didn’t seem to show its face very much throughout the new project, however, as he’s nose-dived deeper into his personal life than he ever has before.
On “Dope New Gospel,” a nasally, autobiographical standout cut that shines through the latter stretch of the album, he raps about the man in the mirror, hashing out the harsh realities between him and his drank. “You always see me with the white cup / Some people say that is a bad look, but take a good look at what you’re lookin’ at / You never know when it’s your last look.”
He continues, talking about his quintessential rapper persona, rapping, “It’s written all over my face, these tattoos, they can’t be erased / One of a kind, I can’t be replaced, in case that mirror breaks.” These pair of bars genuinely sting knowing what could happen to the guy at any given moment — knock on all types of wood.
He dives into the topic of death and regrets a lot over the course of the album, as his past four years, which have been filled with trust issues, have taken a toll on the Best Rapper Alive. It’s nothing Lil Wayne can’t put into words, though, considering he is the mental lexicographer that he is.
On the smoky, Mannie Fresh-crafted “Perfect Strangers,” Wayne spills his soul to “the man in her mirror,” and admits that the lifestyle of lively sex in countless cities has grown monotonous and mundane.
This is the most drastic shift that may have ever come about in the history of music. Though I’m sure slivers may remain, this is no longer the man who recorded “P—- MVP” in 2007, let alone “P—- Monster” in 2008. From rapping about f—— every girl in the world to crooning about how he and this girl are too attentive to their phones to pay attention to one another is an entirely new side of Lil Wayne that you can bring into the G.O.A.T. conversation.
This carries on to songs like “Open Letter” and “Demon,” the latter of which sets the table for an elaborate analogy comparing the random women in his life to the demons that have taken it over. “Took her demon by the hands, asked the demon, “Can we dance? / Found a halo in her trash, but she don’t talk about her past.”
While the album does maintain its ominous tone rather cohesively, Lil Wayne is no stranger to your premier club hit. With each installment on “Tha Carter V,” he’s gifted the public with an over-the-top, obnoxious single that sticks out like a sore thumb. From “Fireman” to “A Milli” and now “Uproar,” the Swizz Beats-curated cut is ignorant and aggressive, sampling “Special Delivery” by G. Dep, an instrumental that Wayne has rapped on in the past and even claimed he didn’t like, right before he rapped on it.
The hook is infectious as hell. “What the f— though? Where the love go? / 5, 4, 3, 2, I let one go, BLOW.” The song is simply ridiculous from start to finish. On top of all this, the song tacks on a dance challenge to his lengthy list of accolades, and that’s the one way you can tell that you’ve got a hit in 2018; but, also one that reminds everyone that Lil Wayne is alive and well.
Another gem that will take many people back to the early 2000s lies within “Start This S— Off Right,” which is sadly the only other song on C5 produced by Mannie Fresh. But Wayne does it justice and there’s no doubt about it, rapping punchlines circa 2002. “She said I will like ill with an apostrophe.” It also pays homage to his roots, as he should: “Fresh, can you please, tell these n—– I’ve been rich since tha Hot Boys!?”
It seems as if though whenever one of these beloved rap icons from yester-decade delivers a new project, the fanbases and Twitter-verse automatically rush to compare bundles of songs to a sonic point in the artist’s career. It happened when Kanye West fans listened to “The Life of Pablo” and claimed that each song drew inspiration from his whole discography, and it happened when JAY-Z fans labeled “4:44” as “The Blueprint 4.” These comparisons have failed to cut it in the past, which is genuinely what I was expecting to be the case with this project.
On the contrary, I couldn’t be happier to say that it genuinely feels like he’s found his voice for the new era of his career, while fusing strands of influence from his old book of hits. Whether he is able to live up to his younger self’s standards or not, the awesome underlying factor about this whole rollout is that he literally doesn’t even need to. Listeners just want some new Wayne, and the result was above and beyond expectations.
And while “Tha Carter V” will never be up to par with the series’ three, critically acclaimed initial installments, it will be remembered as his most personal to date. Considering how hard the greatest rapper of the generation needed to fight in order to release his own body of work, I thank God he stuck with it.
Weezy is free, as he should be.