REVIEW: Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter V” succeeds after wait

Illustration by: Jake Barnard

Illustration by: Jake Barnard

Tha Carter V has finally been released to the world, and as Weezy F. Baby raps on “Dope New Gospel, “Thank God Weezy back, order is restored, all's right with the world.” The undisputed king of a generation has returned.

The last five years of Lil Wayne’s explosive career have been largely deafened by canceled concerts, missed release dates, drug-related hospitalizations and a seemingly never-ending legal battle with Cash Money Records and label boss, Birdman. Despite originally being slated for release in 2014, legal disputes between Wayne and Cash Money Records had many fans wondering if Tha Carter V would ever see the light of day. According to Billboard, Wayne filed a $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money in 2015, claiming that the label violated his contract terms and were intentionally delaying his albums. After years of dispute, a settlement was finally reached in June, releasing Wayne from his contract with the label and awarding him $10 million.

Wayne announced the C5 release date for the final time on Sept. 25, just three days before its release. The self-proclaimed ‘Best Rapper Alive’ posted an online video telling fans with a grin on his face, “I will be releasing the Carter 5 on my birthday. If you don’t know when my birthday is, Wikipedia does.” He goes on to acknowledge the time and effort that he’d poured into the album, saying, “I’m giving you more than me. This is years of work that you’ll be listening to. I hope you enjoy it. You don’t have to love it, you don’t have to like it, but I hope you enjoy it.”

Finally, on Sept. 28, hours after Wayne’s 36th birthday, Tha Carter V was officially released to the world. Weezy’s 12th studio album came seven years after The Carter IV dropped, and is the first album he’s released without Cash Money Records. The album features include XXXTentacion, Travis Scott, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Ashanti, Mack Maine and Nivea, as well as uncredited vocal snippets from both 2 Chainz and his longtime protégé Drake.

Much of the C5 shows a softer side of Wayne, with lyrics referencing depression, self-hatred and even suicide. The opening of the album, “I Love You Dwayne,” is an emotional message from his mother, Jacida Carter, who expresses how much her son means to her and how proud she is of all his accomplishments. “You are my rock, you’ve always been my rock,” says Jacida, “I love you Dwayne.”

The second song on the album, “Don’t Cry,” features XXXTentacion, a 20 year-old rapper from Florida who was recently murdered in June. As X hauntingly sings the chorus, “Don’t cry, don’t go,” Wayne’s lyrics make it even more clear the album will touch on serious topics, rapping  “I see death around the corner, and the U-turn signs lookin’ like a smile.” He also makes reference to his long addiction to promethazine codeine cough syrup, rapping “I sip from the Fountain of Youth, so if I die young, blame the juice.”

However, it wouldn’t be a Carter album if Weezy didn’t take the time to remind you of his greatness. The song “Dedicate” serves as an ode to Wayne and the impact he’s had on the rap game. 2 Chainz and Wayne can be heard rapping back and forth about the ways Wayne has influenced younger rappers, including getting face tattoos, screaming “Suu whoop,” and buying Bugatti’s. The song closes with a sample from a 2009 speech by Barack Obama, in which the former president says, “Our kids can’t all aspire to be Lebron or Lil Wayne.”

A clear fan favorite of the album is the long awaited and much anticipated “Mona Lisa,” which features Kendrick Lamar and tells the story of a deceptive girl named Mona Lisa, who helps set up men for robbery. The track first appeared on a tentative C5 track list that Wayne previewed in 2014. However, the real hype around the song began in 2016 when ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli previewed a snippet of the track on Periscope. Shkreli claimed that he obtained a copy of the album from a man who had bought a Bugatti from Wayne and found the CD in the car.

The C5’s first week streaming numbers alone have proved one thing, people haven’t forgotten about Wayne. According to Billboard, The C5 is set for the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart and also had the third-largest streaming weekend of all time.

“Tha Carter” album series has been nothing short of a dynasty, spanning over 14 years and producing classic album after classic album. “Tha Carter V” is no different, with 23 tracks that come together to tell you the story of a 36 year old father who has put his heart and soul into his music since before many of his listeners were even born. Wayne opens up to fans and friends about the dark feelings he often experiences in “Open Letter”, rapping “Sometimes I feel like I ain’t  sh—," and asking “What is my meaning? My reason?”

Despite waiting over five years for an album many people thought may never be released, it was all worth it in the long run. ‘The Greatest Rapper Alive’ has done it again, and continues to cement his place in history as one of the most iconic rappers in history.

CultureJustin Flesher