On the 28th September, Lil Wayne blessed his fans with the long-awaited 5th instalment to Tha Carter series. It was released at 00:00 EST by Young Money Records! Billboard has predicted that the rapper’s twelfth studio album will debut No.1 on Billboards 200 Chart which will be confirmed on the 7th October. Soon after the release, Twitter went up in flames with a huge amount of praise for Tha Carter V which has not only had the third highest streaming rates in 2018 for an album’s first week but Apple Music has also placed a star next to 7 of the 23 songs, including ‘Don’t Cry,’ ‘Dedicate,’ ‘Uproar,’ ‘Let It Fly,’ ‘Can’t Be Broken,’ ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Mona Lisa.’
Lil Wayne may still have incorporated some of his most memorable attributes, like his infamous lighter flicker, but we are seeing a relatively different Lil Wayne here. His perspective on life has completely changed. The album is filled with reflections of important events in life and with this reflection, his work is more focused. In previous works, it seems as if there was a multitude of things that influenced his words, whereas in this album, the main influences are clear. Tha Carter V is heavily centred around Cita, Lil Wayne’s mother, his children more than ever and those who form his close circle. He’s also intricately chosen a great number of artists, to not only help him create this album, but convey the emotions he wants to his listeners. XXXTENTACION, Travis Scott, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar and Swizz Beats each add a little something to the message of the album.
Lyricism Unlike No Other
Now I’ve seen a lot of people writing on social media that Lil Wayne is incoherent and that he’s, “fathered mumble rap.” If you think this, you haven’t properly listened to a Lil Wayne rap song, because a particularity about his music, is that you can listen to it again and again and continuously find gems in his lyrics. In terms of lyrics, there is no other rapper that can compare to Lil Wayne. He is a true poet in the way he uses the English language and plays with literary tools. There isn’t a single song in this album to which the lyrics haven’t been thoroughly thought out.
Now there’s certainly going to be a lot of Eminem fans who will disagree with this and I’m not disputing that artists like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar have some insane lyrics. Eminem, for example, has a wide range of vocabulary that he can call upon to create a kick-arse rhyming scheme, but Lil Wayne goes further and plays around with the meaning of words, metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, paragraph symmetry and quality punchlines at the end of his verses. The rapper has also been accused of sounding monotonous but that’s because he doesn’t focus on his voice in the delivery. Like Eminem, who will sound a lot harsher at certain times. Wayne can convey any emotion through his lyrics alone; he doesn’t need to shout to portray anger for example.
Lil Wayne sets himself apart from everyone else in the game. A verse from ‘Don’t Cry’: “I’m not number 1, I’m number 9-2-7-8-2.” I think here he shows that he would much rather be unique than number 1 and sounding or being like everyone else. In an age where rappers claim to be Gods, Lil Wayne acknowledges that there is only one God and that he himself is human with vulnerabilities. At the same time, Wayne remains self-assured in himself and capabilities. He recounts several events that have brought him pain and despite this, you can still hear the confident Weezy throughout. Among a multitude of verses that shows this, it’s probably a verse in ‘Dope New Gospel’: “I’m still the best rapper alive.” This directly references a song from Tha Carter II and the way he delivers it gives it a nostalgic feel that can be felt throughout the album.
“God came to my side and we talked about it. He sold me another life and made a profit.”
Double entendre here on the influence that Lil Wayne has. He’s a prophet because of the word he spreads about God and God profits because Lil Wayne can reach a large amount of people.
“Cause I done seen a mirror break behind a pretty face.”
Plays on the superstition that if a mirror breaks it’s because the person looking into it is ugly. He’s saying here that in his past experiences, people have come across nice but eventually shown the ugly inside them.
These are just two verses from the album, but you could take any of the verses in the album and analyse them to find several meanings. It just goes to show that Lil Wayne can mean a multitude of things by only saying one thing. This work is something that, in my opinion, has been lost in a lot of the newer generation of Hip-Hop artists.
Similarities With His Other Work
The album has a melancholic tone to it which differs greatly his albums and mixtapes released between Tha Carter IV and V. Pieces like I Am Not A Human Being 2 and Sorry For The Wait 2 seemed to have more aggressive and violent undertones. In terms of creativity, Lil Wayne has gone all out. In his Dedication 6 mixtape, he speaks about how when a rapper is in the game for as long as he has been, 9/10 times that rapper will speak from the heart. Wayne pours his soul into every word of this album and to fully appreciate it, listeners will have to soak up every word as well.
To hear some of the links to his previous work, you would have had to have listened to all his work since Tha Carter IV. Lil Wayne is one of the few artists that is able to create his own flow without the help of a beat. In ‘IANAHB’ (I Am Not A Human Being II), Lil Wayne’s bars are only accompanied by a piano which is very similar to the beginning of ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ (Sorry For The Wait 2) and ‘Use 2’ from his latest album. It’s a clear sign of his musical genius, that he not only identifies the piano as being a percussion instrument but hears the beat that the instrument makes. Another similarity is the song ‘Dedicate’ and his latest mixtapes Dedication 6 and Dedication 6: Reloaded. That’s not just in terms of the names but also the flow, which sounds like a naturally fast and flawless freestyle.
‘Let It All Work Out’ shares similarities with ‘London Roads’ (Free Weezy Album) in many ways. The music from both songs have a slow and REFLECTIVE music to them but with a strong and UPBEAT beat. The particularity is that he speaks about his suicide towards the end of both songs. ‘London Roads’ seemed more like a homage to the policeman who saved his life whereas ‘Let It All Work Out’ gives us a deeper understanding of what happened and what he was going through. He also gives us an insight as to how he views what happened, that it was in God’s plan to keep him alive and taught him that everything will work out in the end. This seems to be a life lesson that he subtly links to the journey he’s been on to get Tha Carter V released.
More than ever before, there is a huge female presence in this album and most notably the presence of his mother. The album begins with ‘I Love You Dwayne,’ where we hear her express the love and support she has for her son. Wayne has also included snippets of her speaking at the end of a few songs. She speaks about how intelligent he is, about Lil Wayne becoming a father and his attempted suicide. Lil Wayne also mentions his mother throughout many of his other songs. He raps about the advice she gives him in ‘Perfect Strangers,’ ‘Don’t Cry,’ and ‘Took His Time,’ and he also informs her of his notoriety in ‘Famous.’
Nicki Minaj also features in his song ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Mona Lisa’ (where she only says a couple of words in response to Kendrick). The two of them together have always been a dream team and they prove it once again in a different way. Their harmonies and emotion in this R&B song demonstrates both their diversity and compatibility as artists. Lil Wayne also features very talented female R&B artists, Nivea and Reginae Carter.
Raps about love experiences in ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ ‘What About Me,’ ‘Mess’ and ‘Perfect Strangers.’ Now love songs and heartbreak is something that artists so all the time but Lil Wayne is one of the few who are able to do it in a unique way. He shows a Lil Wayne who is completely open, and I believe that this female presence has allowed him to express his vulnerability in songs like these throughout his career.
Wayne has received criticism in the past for the way he calls women (like his mum in Tha Carter II) and it’s really hard to understand how Lil Wayne views women. He will deliver songs like ‘Start This S*** Off Right’ and then ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ This album more than any other shows that he views everyone at an equal stance. If you listen closely to his lyrics, he refers to people who have done him wrong in a negative way but people he’s close to in a positive way. The women who enter his life for his money, his fame or simply one-night stands, are referred to as b*****s and even this woman he raps about to ‘Mona Lisa,’ there’s not really any affection towards her. The same goes to the men he raps about. He ones he views negatively are referred to as n****s. Like in “Let it all work out,’: “A lot of these n****s be transformers.” Whereas in other songs like ‘Can’t Be Broken,’ he talks about the “G-Code.”
The Man in the Mirror
Lil Wayne references mirrors throughout Tha Carter V and it highlights the reflection he’s been under during the creation of the album. This idea of looking into a mirror is an important aspect in his work and it’s reflected throughout a lot of his previous lyrics and most notably his song ‘Mirror’ (Tha Carter IV). His lyrics in “Let It All Work Out” are a direct reference to this song.
“Tunechi you a monster, looked in the mirror but you wasn’t there, I couldn’t find ya.”
The mirror is something he goes to when he needs advice (other than his mother and God). It’s a way of him saying that he goes to himself from the past for advice, almost as if he uses it as a time machine. It’s a way of him seeing truth. When people say things about him or do wrong by him, he goes to that mirror to remind himself of who he is. It also goes to show the influence that Michael Jackson has had on him and it’s almost like a homage to the king of pop. This is emphasised at beginning of ‘Dope New Gospel,’ where he explicitly talks about Michael Jackson.
Tha Carter Series
If the last Lil Wayne album you listened to was Tha Carter IV, it may have seemed like Tunechi has made a comeback, but Lil Wayne had never really left in all honesty. He has been continuously working on his music and this album just goes to prove it. It’s also incredible to see that since the release of Tha Carter in 2004, his Tha Carter series still has such an impact not only in the Hip-Hop genre but in the mainstream Charts also. It’s had a huge influence on many new artists like XXXTENTACION and is to date the biggest and most successful album series out there. You may not listen to Lil Wayne but you have definitely heard of him and the same will go for Tha Carter V.
By Sam Dawson
Images provided by Young Money/Twitter & Lil Wayne/Twitter & Ronald Martinez/Getty Images