Album: Tha Carter
Artist: Lil’ Wayne
Released: June 29, 2004
If you were alive from any time in the last decade, you not only know who Lil’ Wayne is, you also have an opinion on him. You might not listen to hip-hop, you might not even really listen to music, but short of being deaf or hard of hearing, you have heard Lil’ Wayne. It’s difficult to believe now, but there was a time when the man wasn’t just the hottest name in hip-hop, he was quite possibly the hottest name on the planet. Radio, MTV, ESPN, magazines, YouTube, it didn’t matter; Wayne was there with a dope beat and a hot track. The colossus that reached critical mass with the release of gigantic hit, Tha Carter III was launched from a somewhat humbler stage. Before the world-wide fame and before possibly before the cough syrup addiction, way back in 2004, Wayne released his fourth studio album, Tha Carter, months before his 22nd birthday. While it didn’t quite match the sales numbers of Wayne’s first album, Tha Block Is Hot, it did however birth the monster hit ‘Go D.J.’, a song that would remain Wayne’s greatest hit until ‘Lollipop’ from the third Carter. Featuring that trademark fiery production from Mannie Fresh on his last effort as Cash Money Records’ in-house producer and a smarter, somewhat more refined flow from Wayne, this was the album that pushed Wayne out of the Southern hip-hop mainstream and into the in the national spotlight.
While Southern hip-hop albums have a long-standing tradition of lavish production, their lyrical style tends to take some flak for lacking complexity and nuance. There is a discussion to be had on the special brand of elitism within the genre which result in the South being side-lined for a long period for lacking what several snobbish critics would call the ‘poetic’ aspect of hip-hop but this is neither the time nor place for that discussion. While there’s no doubting that lyrically this album is far from ground-breaking, it should simultaneously be noted that it does represent fairly impressive growth from Wayne himself. If albums were evaluated solely by their thematic complexity or the metaphors in their tracks then Tha Carter would be an abysmal project but Wayne’s talent does not lie in those areas. Instead, what he brings to his fourth studio effort is a rejuvenated flow and quick mind – every track on the album is filled with short, simple but entertaining wordplay and quick, playful lyrical jabs as he visits a range of topics though never straying too far from the money, drugs and women that is his staple content. It’s this limited range that becomes the album biggest disappointment; the album would have benefited greatly from just a little more variety from the tracks and their subject matter. As things stand, the few tracks like ‘I Miss My Dawgs’ and ‘Earthquake’ where Wayne drops the bravado, albeit partially, stand out as being some of the more ‘real’ tracks on an album that his odd mixture of authenticity and commercial fatigue to it.
Where the tracks fail to leave their mark, the production is able to keep the boat afloat. Mannie Fresh has always had his ear to the street and one of the things that just keep this album going, despite its ridiculous length, is his ability to churn out one hot street beat after another. It is a shame then that so many great beats are not given the flow they deserve though the few times when the beat and flow link up, classics hits like ‘Go D.J.’ and ‘Bring It Back’ are born. The bigger shame though is that this would be the last Cash Money Records project that Wayne and Fresh worked together on and given how much the former has grown as a rapper and how far the latter has fallen into obscurity, it might not be a terrible idea for the two to join up again in the future.
The Carter stands out in Wayne’s discography not because of its musical quality but because it is one of his first albums to really showcase his personality. He holds back on the brags and aggression and instead starts showing more of his personality on his tracks, be it in terms of his opinions on his peers or just his sense of humour. It’s an important transition for a young artist to make and one that will go a long way in keeping his fan base coming back for more. However, the common criticism that Wayne’s mixtapes and albums are the products of a ‘quantity over quality’ philosophy does feel spot on even in this effort. At 79 minutes and 21 tracks, Tha Carter is not just unnecessarily long, but also suffers from a great deal of songs that act as filler for the album. The tracks themselves are pleasant enough to listen to but the sheer number and length of the tracks weighs
Bring It Back
|Walk In||Mannie Fresh||3.5|
|Go DJ||Mannie Fresh||5.0|
|This Is The Carter||Mannie Fresh||4.0|
|On The Block 1||Skit|
|I Miss My Dawgs||Raj Smoove||3.5|
|We Don’t||Leslie Brathwaite||3.0|
|On My Own||Mannie Fresh||3.3|
|Tha Heat||Raj Smoove||2.0|
|Cash Money Millionaires||Mannie Fresh||2.5|
|Bring It Back||Mannie Fresh||4.0|
|Who Wanna||Raj Smoove||4.0|
|On The Block 2||Skit|
|Get Down||Mannie Fresh||4.0|
|Only Way||Mannie Fresh||2.0|
|Ain’t That A Bitch||Mannie Fresh||1.0|
|Walk Out||Mannie Fresh||3.0|