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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV: A First Listen

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 11:58 AM


Lil Wayne is the greatest. Even if I don't like this -- and I'm told I won't -- it would take some falling for a bad Lil Wayne album in 2011 to sink below the best Cam'ron or Game (or for that matter Gucci or Wiz Khalifa) has to offer. Lots of people listen to him for the right reasons, but many people are sick of Wayne for all the wrong ones ("Lollipop" was a triumph, I Am Not a Human Being was ignored entirely, and even Rebirth contained the underrated "Drop the World" and "On Fire"). I'll take 800 subpar Wayne songs over one more listen to, say, 50 Cent's Before I Self Destruct. Here's hoping these 18 don't challenge that notion.


This is super-basic, low-rent orchestral bombast and not bad for it. If "I'm going in like my water broke" and "A nigga's countin money/ You niggas counterfeit" were by anyone else -- well, they'd be the best lines Fat Joe ever wrote, for instance. Wait it out and meet the much more rewarding "Hercules/first degree" rhyme and the we-have-a-winner "Life's a crazy bitch/ Grace Jones." Wayne's still repeating himself though: "I'm Me" hinged on the far superior "I'm married to that crazy bitch/ Call me Kevin Federline."

"Blunt Blowin'"

This is a little more basic and a little more low-rent orchestral bombast. Muddy kicks replace the previous track's frantic shaker-scribbling. Pizzicato plucks and ominous synth brass eventually come in -- this resembles the diamond-cut Carter II more than any of the stoner depths Wayne reached at his height. But it's five minutes long, and the catchy chorus is kind of irritating. Still, Wayne could never get through a five-minute track without something tossed out to make you pause: "All hail Weezy/ Call it bad weather." I don't know what "Polo drawers showin'" is supposed to signify at all -- is he middle-class now?


These tracks are getting progressively fast, claustrophobic, opaque, and, uh, threatening. "All my bitches nasty like a cold dinner" is one of many lines I've heard in the last ten minutes that I just wish was funnier or at least more angularly voiced. And comparing himself to Steve Harvey before "I don't see no future in your fronting" is just begging for Tyler, the Creator to embarrass an aging legend. This track was pretty nothing.

"6 Foot 7 Foot"

A lot of people cried "comeback" with this one, but I found it frustratingly difficult to parse then. It's only minimally easier now. Love his cracked delivery, and his dedication to "A Milli" retreads equaling his necessity for "Lollipop" ones. This is the first time I feel like Tha Carter IV is genuinely waking up to impress me, rhyming "gelatin," "elephant," and "predicate" in succession and finally pulling out some laughs: "Talking crazy like they jaw broke"; "Real G's move in silence like lasagna." But contextualize the triumphant credo, "The fruits of my labor/ I enjoy em while they still ripe" and this just sounds like the tribute to coasting that it is.

"Nightmares of the Bottom"

Until his signature 808 kicks in, the stately piano sounds like a stray Roots track or Prince ballad. "Weezy F Baby/ And the F ain't for flaw" is the mark of consistency but not necessarily consistent excellence. We already know he's married to the money, only God can judge him. He's starting to sound like Every Other Rapper. "Don't call me sir/ Call me sur-vival" only earns half a smirk -- and why all this worrying about longevity? Spoilers: "On the wire/ Like Stringer Bell" provides the other half of that smirk, and the 'F' in Weezy F Baby stands for "fuck yourself."

"She Will"

I like this beat; tense hi-hats and a spooky sample that could've been lifted from Endtroducing...DJ Shadow. And I love "I tried to pay attention/ But attention paid me." But this one should be playing the deeper grooves on a great album, not straining to pick up a middling one. As for Drake, he improved on his blasé debut with his I Am Not a Human Being contributions, but adds little here except one of the only true choruses so far. The Jay-Z diss is as vaguely committal as everything else he can be bothered with.

"How to Hate"

I miss T-Pain and I love the big hit "How to Love," so how could its evil twin miss? Well, if it's possible to imagine, this is Auto-Tuned to the point of unrecognizable jelly. Every single syllable is divided into sliding glissandos -- it's almost seizure-inducing. The lyrics are worse. "I guess I'm single for the night/ And you can sit right on my middle finger for the night" leads into a chorus that really is hateful: "You're the one who taught me how to hate a bitch." The most charmless Wayne's been since "Snitch" (see the first Carter ), which was (uh-oh) more melodic.


Is this what Wayne's reduced to, using mediocre albums as a platform to sit out while other (re: hungrier) rappers stomp all over his beats? Tech N9ne and André 3000 sound great on the "Intro" beat but Wayne's inconsequentiality, once his greatest asset, is becoming a head-scratcher. This doesn't need to be here.

"John (If I Died Today)"

Again, who needs this more -- Rick Ross or Weezy? "This game is a bitch/I've got my hand up her dress," shut up already. Rawss wants you to know that he's got a chopper in the car, but Ross not rapping about boats is about as useful to me as Curren$y not rapping about planes. Adds approximately one Game Boy synth wiggle to Ross' original "I'm Not a Star." I'm aggrieved to not know if it's an improvement. I do know it goes on for fucking ever.

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Dan Weiss


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