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Lil Wayne
Tha Carter III Adam Narkiewicz , June 19th, 2008 00:00

Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III

Tha Carter III is the most ridiculously hyped, discussed, anticipated and bootleged rap album of all time. Years in the making, three albums worth of material recorded for the project had leaked before the thing finally dropped. As the hottest emcee in the Western world, Wayne potentially had the services of every hip-hop producer working today. Tha Carter III was supposed to be a classic - not just a release, but a coronation.

Me, I've been sweating the lil' dude since his fourth solo album, Tha Carter II, which is when he switched from non-swearing child star and member of New Orleans' favourite sons The Hot Boys to self proclaimed best rapper alive. While Tha Carter was when most people will tell you he really started rapping, C2 was when he got whathefuckdidhejustsay awesome. That and the DJ Drama helmed Dedication mixtapes. His verse on 'Cannon' was the one that cemented his credentials in the rap community. That thing was brilliant. And the run of brilliant verses stayed pure for two years, right through to his celebrated Drought 3 mixtape, on which he masterfully addressed the gay rumours a photo of him kissing his mentor and surrogate father, Birdman, on the lips ignited: "Damn right I kiss my Daddy," he rapped with a bounce and urgency unmatched all year. And that was that.

The past six months have seen a slew of auto-tuned, unfinished studio experiments that leaked on mixtapes, and some half-arsed guest appearances diminish anticipation for this album. At least for it being any good. But its here now. And... it's good.

It's not a classic. The assumed constraints of the market dictate that any multi-million dollar rap release must have a couple of crappy pop songs on it. And Wayne himself has the same quality control issues as the equally prolific Prince, along with the mad genius, lunacy and height issues. The guest appearances are, mainly, unwelcome distractions - the Busta and Juelz Santana collaborations are letdowns, based on previous work. A few of the beats are a bit meh.

So no, it is not a classic. But it is pretty fucking good.

We are definitely dealing with an above average talent here. We are dealing with a super creative, arrogant little bastard. From the breathless, cartoon super violent intro, on which Wayne threatens to "run up in a niggas house and shoot his grandmother up," to the rambling, Al Sharpton destroying climax, Wayne doesn't pause once to think about the repercussions of anything he says. Wayne refused to sacrifice sense for the sake of flow, and that flow is the most copied in the business. That is because, like his hero Jay, he goes into the booth without a pen or a pad, but unlike Jay, he sprays the mike with whatever the motherfuck happens to be rattling around his drug addled brain at the time. He dances around the hi hats, catches snares like bullets, rides the bass like a rusty ole rollercoaster.

On the Jay-Z featuring 'Mr Carter' he easily holds his own (although verse three is a bit of a letdown), and the metaphor heavy concept track 'Dr Carter' is pretty much a rap-how-to-guide for dummies. The lunatic 'Phone Home' is as bat shit crazy as you'd hope, and the Robin Thicke helmed 'Tie My Hands', a heartfelt ode to his hurricane ravaged hometown, is both dope AND emotional. As for the pop songs, Lollipop is either a work of all-bases-touching genius (riffing on, as it does, 'In Da Club', 'Drop it Like It's Hot', 'My Humps' and 'Buy You a Drank') or evil, depending on your mindset, and Got Money is generic anthemic T Pain strip club stuff... but the Kanye West produced 'Comfortable', featuring the great Babyface on the hook, is amazing, lush, thick, powerful pure pop (and the only leaked song to make the final tracklisting).

But the stand out, and the album's centrepiece, comes in the unexpected form of 'Shoot Me Down' - a dark, relentless driving monster of a song that sounds like you always wanted Tricky to. This one song alone, for me, makes the whole thing worthwhile. No other rapper alive would have made this song. It is 'Next'.

This is why Wayne is a great. In a sterilised, stylized climate, he is different. In a world full of overthunk punchline raps, Wayne is a musician first, unafraid to talk what seems to be gibberish in a dope way, because that's what the beat demands. And amidst the gibberish, are true moments of perfect clarity. Wayne is a simply a conduit. A wet brained receiver of non localised consciousness.

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