Oh, so you thought Lil Wayne would give you 500+ freebies for two years and not make you pay somehow?
Law of Diminishing Returns
The law of diminishing returns has finally caught up with Lil Wayne on Tha Carter III, as his massive saturation of the airwaves with Weezy-isms leaves little left to be desired on his sixth solo album.
Carter vs. Carter
Wayne primarily suffers from identity crisis on C.3, hijacking snips of Beyonce's swag on "Comfortable," mimicking T-Pain on "Lollipop" and "Got Money" (alongside the real T-Pain), and occasionally attempting a Carribean patois to match his dreads.
On the ferocious Just Blaze banger "Mr. Carter," Wayne crumbles in the presence of a giant. You can be excused for thinking that Weezy, while a strong entertainer in his own right, had a chance to out-Carter Shawn Carter on this collaboration. Unsurprisingly, Big Jay drops the album's best guest verse. Rather than carve out his own identity, Wayne stands comfortably behind Jay-Z's overbearing shadow. Bad move.
The Flavors of Mr. Carter
There's plenty of personality on Carter III, though. "Mrs. Officer" brings Wayne's natural penchant for phrasing outlandish -- sometimes corny -- lyrics to the forefront. "She know I'm raw. She know I'm from the streets, and all she wants me to do is f**k the police," he rhymes about a female cop in the narrative.
On "Dr. Carter," Weezy christens himself hip-hop's messiah, while offering an inflated opinion of his own talent. He feels the beat's pulsation, then proceeds to pound it senseless, ultimately delivering Tha Carter III's magnum opus. He gets serious on "Tie My Hands," in which he recalls the Hurricane Katrina debacle that devastated his hometown of New Orleans in 2005. Elsewhere on "A Millie," an 808-heavy beat backs Wayne as he boasts, "I'm a venereal disease, like the menstrual bleed, through the pencil and leak on the sheet of the tablet in my mind." It's a sample of what he's capable of when sharply focused. Too bad, a sizable portion of the album is bugged down by codeine-powered gibberish.
A Mixed Bag
Pick your way past the heap of misfires and Tha Carter III amounts to this: an ambitious project that will surely appeal to mainstream hip-hop radio and pop stations alike. It's not as infectious as Tha Carter II, an album which showcased Lil Wayne's growth as an MC. At 22 songs, C.3 makes for a tedious ride that culminates with a seven-minute tirade on why Al Sharpton is just a "another Don King with a perm."
While Wayne remains a remarkable personality, Tha Carter III proves that his case for "best rapper alive" is getting weaker every year. It's hard to pinpoint a specialty which he can truly drive a stake in and claim as his own. He's not a premier storyteller like Slick Rick. He lacks the stately hallmarks of Rakim, the staggering influence of Jay-Z, and the drop-dead lyricism of Nas. Sure, he's doing enough to maintain his status as one of hip-hop's most exciting voices, but not much to improve it.