Monday, June 09, 2008

REVIEW: Lil Wayne, "Tha Carter II" (Cash Money/Universal)

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Backstory: First hitting the hip-hop scene as part of New Orleans Cash Money crew the Hot Boys in the late ‘90s, Lil Wayne has steadily come up through the rap ranks with popular solo releases and a high-profile cameo on Destiny’s Child hit “Soldier” in 2004. After blowing up the charts in 2005 with full-length album “Tha Carter II,” Wayne has spent the past three years on a determined conquest to become “the best rapper alive,” showcasing his increasingly impressive and abstract lyrical flow on a seemingly endless string of mixtapes and cameo verses on other artists’ records.

Why you should care:
Currently the “people’s champion” of hip-hop, Wayne’s in-your-face persona (including a high-profile drug arrest and a penchant for “syrup,” a homemade codeine cocktail) and ability to melt microphones with the hottest metaphors and one-liners this side of prime Eminem and Ghostface have made him the ultimate rock star of 2008. Already owning the pop charts and dance-floors with the mainstream R&B of first single “Lollipop,” “Tha Carter III” has the potential of putting Wayne in line with such hip-hop icons as Tupac, Biggie and his mentor/nemesis, Jay-Z.

While this uneven effort is far from the defining Lil Wayne album that he’s obviously capable of, “Tha Carter III” is still loaded with exemplary tracks. Hardcore numbers like “A Mili” and the jazzy swing of the Swizz Beatz-produced “Dr. Carter” show Wayne at his best, displaying a lyrical dexterity that’s undeniably brilliant. Kanye West provides a clutch of radio ready beats, like the smooth R&B of “Comfortable” and Motown mood of “Let The Beat Build” (Wayne should seriously consider making a whole disc with West). Sadly, those gems are cast amidst a slew of half-baked beats and meandering melodies, creating an unfortunate ratio of jams to rejects. Still, Lil Wayne is the most exciting rapper in the world today whose masterwork is ahead of him and can make even the wackest tracks at least listenable.

Wayne’s not afraid to take big chances, from teaming up with crooner Robin Thicke on the acoustic ballad “Tie My Hands” to profanely calling out activist Al Sharpton at the end of the politically conscious “Misunderstood” as “just another Don King.” Recently dissing mixtape DJs resulted in one of them leaking this CD a week before official release.

(Originally published on