Thursday, September 01, 2011

Album Review: Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV (4/5)

It's been quite the wait, but it's finally here: The follow up to American rapper Lil Wayne's 2008 best-seller Tha Carter III arrives following (what I like call) 2 time-filler albums. Last years Rebirth, which saw the rapper try his hand with a rather misguided and disjointed blend of rock and hip-hop, although it wasn't without its highlights ("Knockout" the energetic collaboration with label mate Nicki Minaj was great) and I Am Not a Human Being which I didn't pay much attention to.

Tha Carter III saw Wayne emerge from the shadows of his peers (Jay-Z, Eminem and Kanye) becoming one of the most sought-after rappers of that year. Of course you have the statistics: It debuted at #1 with over a million copies shifted in its first week and landed 3 top 10's including his first chart-topper "Lollipop." However it was also a pretty damn good album--from the slick beats, compositions to his awesome metaphoric lyrical mannerisms. So what how does IV follow up?

Well sonically, it's nothing majorly different. If anything, it lacks the commercial appeal of its predecessor--which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it ventures into a slightly more inaccessible state of hip-hop whist's III adopted slightly more pop/light-R&B-studded edge ("Lollipop," "Tie My Hands," "Comfortable," "Tie My Hands"). Following the extensive 3 minute intro, an all-rapped number, Wayne's boastful vocal over skittering hi-hats, soft orchestration and bricky drum-beats, is the real opening track "Blunt Blowin'" which begins with layer of dramatic orchestration and strings, before the drums quietly merge into the composition--sort of like the backing track to a trailer of a dark movie thriller. The drums and heavy bass lines bleed through the orchestration, emerging more apparent during the chorus. Lyrically, it's interesting ("I stick to the script, I memorise the lines, cause life is a movie I've seen too many times").

Next up is "Megaman" which opts for the more traditional hip-hop blueprint--lots of skittering drum beats, pounding bass lines, a seeping line of high-pitched chord loops topped off with a viciously sexual lyrical mainframe ("I get deep in that pussy, dig her out out. Surgery.") and of course the obligatory use of the word 'nigga.' Similar is "6 Foot 7 Foot" featuring fellow rapper Cory Gunz, which is pretty much the same composition except it contains a sample of American singer Harry Belafonte's 1956's "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)." They aren't bad, but seem rather dull here, as they do sink into the albums handful of filler.

Better is "Nightmares of the Bottom" laid back slow jam, which begins with descending piano keys before the 808 drum machines kick in, followed up by the mimicking orchestrations. Current single "She Will" featuring Drake is fantastic. Dark, moody beats duped with a layer of thin aphotic strings piecing through the backdrop. It's the sound that Drake revels in--his album Thank Me Later, (which admittedly, didn't give enough appreciation for) is full of downbeat, moody numbers that compliment his blunt flow nicely.

"How to Hate" featuring T-Pain is the albums at its most R&B relishing. It's another downbeat number; soft electronic pulsing and quiet drums--topped with gliding melodic piano chords stapled to the backdrop. It's quite laid back for a song that lyrically aptly channels a lot of distaste for the female persuasion, of course this is countered by "How to Love" the albums third single and its most pop-indulgent; backed by sympathetic guitar strings and bass. If I'm not mistaken, this is as sensitive and heart-felt Lil Wayne has been. Ever. ("I just want you to know, you deserve the best, you're beautiful"). It's quite turnaround from the "Pussy Surgeon" we witness earlier. It's definitely among my favorite songs from him.

"Abortion" is pretty dramatic, with soulful undertones, almost a burst of choir-reminiscent "ahs" merged within its composition. It sounds like something Kanye West would do, even down the crude lyrics ("When life sucks, I just enjoy the head"). This may dabble with soulful undertones but has nothing on "So Special" featuring American singer John Legend which works the merging of hip-hop and soul nicely, without losing its darkening edge both with beats and lyrics ("I spent the night in heaven, I slept with an angel and when we finished I swear that pussy said thank you").

Last few tracks are good, but aren't highlights. "John" featuring Rick Ross, a rapid number, heavy beats, heavy bass line, dizzying electronic pulsing and same ol' same ol' boastful mannerisms. "President Carter" and last track "It's Good" are better, both downbeat with dark atmospherics.

Perhaps, it was the commercial edge of Tha Carter III that made it such an enjoyable album or maybe it seemed Lil Wayne's heart was in it more because while this album has a handful of highlights and definitely hits the mark with its slick beats and blunt lyrics--It's seems like a step-down. I'm disappointed in the sense of I didn't love it as much as I was expecting to. But in all still a decent follow-up.

Best: How to Love, She Will, Nightmares of the Bottom, How to Hate, Abortion, So Special

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