While NYC residents are relieved to have been spared the worst of Hurricane Irene (we’re thinking of you, Vermont), I must admit to shallow disappointment in her pulling a robbery on my social life this weekend. Forced to stay indoors, I was able to spend some time with Lil Wayne’s recently-leaked Tha Carter IV while suffering through meteorologists and weather anchors overusing words like “hunker [down]” and “pounding [wind and rain],” wanting to throw a thesaurus at my television. After closing the MTV VMAs last night, the New Orleans native, who is unfortunately all too familiar with hurricanes, officially dropped his ninth solo album digitally before running off to host an after-party that coincided with Tha Carter IV’s release.
Because it’s dropping in such close proximity to Jay-Z and Kanye’s Watch The Throne, Tha Carter IV is a an easy target for direct comparisons. Wayne is a one-man show, and despite having a bushel of features (from the likes of Andre 3000, Nas, Bun B, and
Bob Rick Ross), facing off against Jay and Kanye’s well-marketed collaboration LP certainly isn’t apples to apples, but the pot will inevitably be stirred! One of the songs on Tha Carter IV contains a verse directed at Jay-Z and talks about kidnapping newly pregnant Beyoncé, so speculations were high that some sort of altercation would occur at the VMAs last night. Likely retaliation for Hov’s “baby money” verse on “H.A.M.” back in January, Wayne’s verse on the C4 track, entitled “It’s Good” (also featuring Jadakiss and Drake), sounds like it’s just come to term; the passion in Wayne’s voice and use of verbs in the present tense suggest it was recorded many months ago, not recently. That, mixed with the fact that Jay didn’t respond publicly last night, might mean it’s water under the bridge.
On the album, Weezy F. mentions that the “F” in his nickname “ain’t for ‘flaw,'” but as a fan of his solid mixtapes and albums of the past, I’m regretfully inclined to disagree. Achieving perfection is obviously impossible, but Tha Carter IV comes off a bit disjointed, balancing a bunch of strong stand-out tracks with others that are significantly less impactful. Perhaps nodding at the identity crisis that embodies Wayne’s current genre-juggling career path, the album hops around from radio-friendly pop/rap ballads “How To Love” and Bruno Mars-featured “Mirror” to hyper-aggressive, more ratchet, Mixtape Weezy songs like “Megaman” and “Two Shots.” The cobbled-together “Interlude” and “Outro” feature other rappers who arguably best many of Wayne’s own verses, but that doesn’t mean that the 28-year-old emcee doesn’t still anchor the record by exhibiting his signature spastic punchlines. You just have to find them underneath the noise created by a poorly-arranged track sequence and a few less-than-stellar beats. Weezy’s raw talent that fans have come to know and love remains present but stifled, and from the looks of it, might be suffering from the effects of playing catch-up after his prison sentence, being sober and more comfortable with his competition, being surrounded by a circle of more YMCMB Yes Men than objective team-members, and (yes, I’ll say it) pandering to a younger, pop-leaning audience. T-Pain on the album, for instance; he and Wayne were going to do a project together a couple of years back, but it’s 2011 and the un-evolved auto-tune from 2008 on C4’s “How To Hate” borders on inexcusable, even for a skinny jeans Blood like Wayne.
There are things we love about the album though! The fact that Wayne ashes blunts in his Grammy award, and his “beneficial, been official” bravado on “President Carter” (and the Jimmy CarterInaguration speech it samples), and his relentless need to discuss cunnilingus on multiple tracks besides super-suggestive favorite “So Special” (featuring John Legend). The exhaustingly silly amount of metaphors having to do with “clocks” and “time” — all lovely. The guest verses from Tech N9Ne, “Mr. Benjamin,” Nas and uptown thorough-bred thoroughbred Cory (son of Peter) Gunz are refreshing, and the unflinching confidence of Drizzy the Stripper Slayer on his “She Will” hook will inspire dudes in the club to boldly ask their dance partners for a one night stand for decades to come. And since it’s the King of Pop’s birthday today, I’m bound by music-lover law to also salute Wayne’s “Man In The Mirror” reference on introspective, Snow White-beckoning track, “Mirror.” Well done, good sir. Almost makes me feel better after your disorienting, “not the guitarrrrr!” VMA performance last night.
We all know that Hurricane Irene was certainly not a joking matter, and because NYC officials didn’t evacuate Rikers Island in most-dangerous Zone A, I’m curious what might have happened if Wayne was still serving his sentence there over the weekend. Would his fans have been up in arms and pressured El Bloombito to move prisoners elsewhere? Weezy F. is a free man now, so we’ll never know, but that question and the insubordinate storm outside my first-floor windows made it impossible not to notice when “water” was mentioned on the former inmate’s album. And with that, I leave you with the Top 5 Water References on Tha Carter IV. Enjoy!
5) “Been in that water, but I’ve never been sea sick.”
-Wayne, on “Blunt Blowin'”
4) “Two bitches at the same time, synchronized swimmers.”
-Wayne, on “6 Foot 7 Foot”
3) “Boy I’m going in, like my water broke.”
-Wayne, on “Intro”
2) “Sucka, you cannot sustain the rain!”
-Tech N9ne, on “Interlude”
1) “When it Waynes, it pours.”
-Wayne, on “How To Hate”