Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV
Even though he never disappeared, Tha Carter IV feels like it’s Lil Wayne’s comeback album. He may have released I Am Not A Human Being during his stint in prison, but many saw it as a holding pattern, anticipating the next entry in the Tha Carter series, where Weezy routinely releases his best material. Instead, he released a stopgap mixtape Sorry 4 The Wait, only increasing the already enormous expectations for Tha Carter IV. In most cases, an artist in this position would pull out all the stops to meet those expectations, or at the very least try to avoid delivering a disappointment. The weird thing is that, when the album finally did arrive at the tail end of August 2011, Weezy not only shows a lack of ambition, he just sounds bored.
Make no mistake: there may be talk of facing haters and making a grand return after his time in jail, but there’s evidence all over the record that Wayne just doesn’t have his heart in it this time, from how his flow lacks personality to how his superstar guests outshine him on almost every song, picking up his slack. Indeed, there’s two tracks where Wayne doesn’t even appear, “Interlude” and “Outro,” tellingly featuring some of the more interesting verses on the album, courtesy of a heavy-hitting roster including Nas, Tech N9ne and André 3000 (oddly uncredited). But all these big names are there to distract you from Tha Carter IV‘s primary problem: Weezy’s words. What has made Lil Wayne famous and successful in the past was never his subject matter, it was his knack for the quotable turn of phrase, spitting clever jokes and rhymes, stringing together surreal wordplay. He retains that style here, but he alternately sounds uninspired or just plain preposterous, like he’s tracing over his own work—and not particularly well. For every line that stuns, there’s one that is utter nonsense. Things might seem fine for a while, but when Weezy says something like “I just built a house on I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck Avenue,” your eyebrow may begin to raise.
A few tracks though, particularly in the first half, are able to overcome to this obstacle, not only because there’s a greater ratio of hits to misses in the lines, but because there is an energy and looseness that makes Wayne at least sound like he knows what he’s talking about. “6 Foot 7 Foot” is far and away the best track. Grooving on an old Harry Belafonte song and full of loose, quirky jokes (“Real G’s move in silence like lasagna” — think about it), it’s the kind of single fans were hoping for. “Blunt Blowin'” follows suit, since Weezy has a bit more of the passion sorely lacking from the rest of the record. Strangely, a few of the R&B moments, specifically “How To Love,” end up being more distinctive, mostly because their smooth melodies end up being much more memorable (and less ponderous) than many of the rap songs. Still, much of the record is flavorless, simply going through the motions, even if a few of the productions here and there are worth listening to. Wayne’s lack of drive throughout the record makes the album a bit of bore, which is perhaps its biggest sin. Tha Carter IV could have been a blockbuster achievement, but Wayne seems to have just shrugged it off. And when listening, it’s hard not to do the same.