The highly anticipated Tha Carter V, rumored to be Lil Wayne’s last project, has been released after almost five years since the first announced release date.
After a long and unapologetic beef between Wayne and Cash Money Records boss, Birdman, that included a lawsuit, a suspicious tour bus shooting, and several diss tracks, Tha Carter V was released on Sept. 28, the day after Wayne’s birthday.
In the rap universe, Birdman has famously held Tha Carter V hostage from release due to a Civil War of sorts with Wayne. Wayne signed to Birdman when he was very young, creating Young Money Records. Young Money Records has become a juggernaut in the rap scene, led by Wayne, and major signees Drake and Nicki Minaj.
Wayne accused Birdman of cheating him out of millions of dollars as part of Birdman’s subsidiary label, and filed a lawsuit that would make Wayne’s Young Money Records independent from Birdman’s Cash Money Records. In that time, Birdman refused to allow the release of Tha Carter V, leaving Wayne in a stalemate.
In June 2018, Wayne earned that independence, and released Tha Carter V just three months later. While many Wayne fans would have liked the album to come sooner rather than later, the quality and quantity of the album improved vastly due to the long wait. Some songs were finished years ago, while others were supposedly finished just weeks before the album was released. In the ever changing sound of hip-hop, five years of material makes for plenty of song variety. Wayne had plenty of tracks to choose from to put on the album, with a variety of different sounds and styles throughout his and the featuring artists’ careers.
For example, the intoxicated, “Let It Fly” featuring Travis Scott sounds like something that was created in the same headspace that Scott’s Rodeo was recorded in 2015.
Another song, “Start This S*** Off Right,” seems to be a throwback from the ‘90s, especially considering that it features longtime Wayne affiliate, Mack Maine, and early 2000s R&B singer, Ashanti.
The album starts off on an emotional note, with “I Love You Dwayne,” a voicemail from Wayne’s mother proclaiming her love and support for her son. It is followed by “Don’t Cry,” a dark and atmospheric track about the reality of mortality, featuring the late rapper, XXXTENTACION, who was lost to gun violence in June at the age of 20.
After the emotional start, Wayne gives us more traditional sounding Wayne on “Dedicate,” then “Uproar,” a braggadocious banger. Over the years, Wayne has been notorious for clever, raunchy lyrics that will make the listener laugh out loud, and he delivers on these tracks. Wayne states his importance to the new wave of rappers and his impact on rap in general on “Dedicate,” then gives a glimpse of the young, hungry Wayne from his early 2000s mixtape days that his fans know and love on “Uproar.”
A major highlight on the album, “Mona Lisa”, featuring Kendrick Lamar, is a lyrical exercise between Wayne and the Compton rapper. This track paints a picture of a woman who is using men for Wayne’s benefit. Kendrick raps from the perspective of one of the victims of these crimes, in a panic-stricken, fearful voice, similarly to what we have seen on his 2015, To Pimp a Butterfly.
Wayne has his fair share of attempts at radio-hits on the album with “Dark Side Of the Moon” featuring Young Money signee, Nicki Minaj; “What About Me” featuring Sosamann, and the daddy-daughter duet, “Famous” featuring his daughter, Reginae Carter.
“Dark Side Of The Moon” shows a softer side of Wayne, with vocals from Nicki Minaj that play a good counterpart to Wayne’s rough voice. “What About Me” is one of the low points of the album, as Wayne tries his hand at an obvious radio-hit over a sickening sweet beat with a very lackluster feature from Sosamann. However, “Famous” is a highlight on the album. Reginae Carter gives beautiful vocals on the chorus to pair with her father’s hard-hitting lyrics about the positive and negative sides of fame.
Some of the best songs on the album come with Wayne’s faith in mind. “Took His Time” is a track about Wayne’s talents and how “God took his time when he made [him]”. Just a few tracks later on “Demon”, Wayne raps about the demons in his life being money, women and even himself, over a gorgeous soul sample.
One of the most enlightening songs on the album is “Dope New Gospel” featuring Nivea. Wayne raps about keeping himself level-headed, despite the struggles and inner conflicts he has endured throughout his life. This song gleams positivity over a glorious gospel sample, with soft, calm vocals from Nivea on the chorus.
The outro, “Let It All Work Out” is a reflective track about Wayne’s life that sample’s Sampha’s vocals from his 2013 song “Indecision.” The final verse on the song is the hardest hitting verse on the entire album, where Wayne details his suicide attempt at 12 years old, after his mother would not allow him to join Cash Money Records. If Tha Carter V is Wayne’s farewell album to hip-hop, then he gave the perfect final verse to leave on.
While Wayne is not the same artist he was during his 2000s mixtape run, and no rapper may ever be, he gives us a more mature Wayne than we have seen before on Tha Carter V. While 23 songs at just over 90 minutes is quite long, Wayne gets a pass due to how long overdue this album is.
Tha Carter V effectively shows his strength in lyrics and melody, while maintaining mostly mature themes on what is rumored to be his last album.
Wayne is one of the biggest influencers the genre has ever seen, and he certainly reminds us that with Tha Carter V.