Friday, August 15, 2008

Album Review: Lil' Wayne - The Carter III (4.5/5)

Once in the shadow of his hip-hop peers, Lil' Wayne never could quite ascend to same heights of the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z or Nelly. His last album, The Carter II--the second installment in the Carter trilogy became his first commercially successful album and also the first album I bought from the rapper. Now we have, The Carter III, to put it in a nutshell; the best hip-hop album of the year (so far). I almost feel a fool for not checking this out earlier; what was missing from, II is definitely delivered on, III. There's the right balance between it's contemporaries and the more gritty numbers, that only hardcore fans will enjoy--what the last album lacked was this balance. Essentially, The Carter III uses the same blueprint any decent hip-hop album would use, but its Wayne's vocal versatility and lyrical work that makes me love the album.

The last album opened with, "Fly Out" a dramatically structure, piano backed number--this album does the same with, "3 Peat" but there's no piano this time, but a slick bassline and more rugged lyrics ("swallow my words, taste my thoughts and if it's too nasty, then spit it back at me"/"abracadabra, I'm up like Viagra") I'm not one to pay attention to lyrics that much, Wayne of the rare artist that can effortlessly make me pay attention. Following swiftly is, "Mr. Carter" which features Jay-Z--popping up on the second half of the second; the way the chorus is configured, Jay-Z's arrival is pretty smart--a squeky voice singing questions ("Hey Mr. Carter, tell where you've been?") Jay-Z's last name is Carter and so is Wayne's--not to sound too patronizing but it just works. Wayne also notes on his 16 bars in the mid-section of the song ("Next you mention Pac, Biggie and Jay-Z don't forget Weezy Baby") we won't. The song ends nicely with piano keys and a big choir singing along with the chorus.

As I said before, this is probably Wayne's most contemporary album ever. The hit single, "Lollipop" featuring Static Major, is a brilliant mid-tempo, backed with an 808 machine and recurring bleeps, heavily influenced by auto-tune. The more traditional rap structured, "A Milli" is probably among favorite songs by Wayne ever, his opening verse is instantly catchy--backed nicely with a kinetic bassline. "Got Money," featuring T-Pain is another winner; nice horn and fast-drum backed number.

Exploring its horizons way more than I expected; it ventures in some R&B territories, which surprisingly make some of the albums best moments. The Babyface produced (and featured), violin based, "Comfortable" is just brilliant--beautiful melody. I like the way the lyric on the chorus is broken up ("don't you. ever. get too. comfortable"). I also like the references to Beyonce ("Feeling "Irreplaceable," listening to Beyonce, Imma throw you out on your B'day"). "Tie My Hands," with Robin Thicke is sweet acoustic number, talking about the world. Thicke deliverers a very sultry chorus.

Another good R&B moment is, "Mrs. Officer" with Bobby Valentino. It has a great bassline--somewhere along the lines incorporates a guitar. I love how Valentino simulates a police siren at the end of every chorus.

Wayne takes the roll as a Doctor on, "Dr. Carter" I'm not too sure what to make of this song--It's probably the only song I'm too fond off, the beat is really dodgy. Starting out as an acoustic style, before the horns kick in. "Phone Home," begins with nice piano chords--with some violins, essentially building up to some dramatic orchestration with some futuristic elements, before the bassline kicks in.

"Let the Beat Build," acquires a gospel orchestration (obviously not due to Wayne's choice of language) but with the piano and choir, but it ends with the bassline only with Wayne's raspy vocals ("and the beat goes boom-b-b-boom boom"). "Shoot Me Down," is the albums first more haunting moment, beginning with some watered down keys and a recurring drum roll--I would assume it's something Eminem would do, but it works well. The song features vocals from D.Smith, who deliveres the sentiment vocal on the chorus ("please don't shoot me down").

Busta Rhymes pops up on "La La," It begins very cartoonish, not really building up to much, but I do like it. "Playing With Fire," is a great piano, string, vocal and bass number. Closing the album is the guitar strung, "Nothing On Me"--It sounds more 50 Cent, than Lil' Wayne. Out of six album Lil' Wayne's released and the two that I've bought, I think The Carter III, is his best work. It's just as good as anything Jay-Z's put out (and I consider Jay-Z and ultimate legened when it comes to hip-hop). Apart from the one song, this album verges on perfection.

Best: A Milli, Lollipop, Mr. Carter, Comfortable, Shoot Me Down, Tie My Hands, Got Money, 3 Peat, Mrs. Officer

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