Garth Van Donselaar, Zach Steensma–Staff Writers
With Contributions From Eric Keizer
Anticipated since the release of Tha Carter IV in 2011, Tha Carter V has been in the works for six years, during which Lil Wayne produced a variety of other music.
Tha Carter V clocks in a whopping 87 minutes, longer than what can be held on a single physical compact disc. With 23 songs, Tha Carter V is an ambitious release, although it’s possibly too expansive for its own good.
Musically, Tha Carter V is traditional rap fare, featuring reggae and R&B instrumentals over hip-hop beats with modern flavor. Occasionally, Lil Wayne shakes things up on the album. Examples of this include the adding of acoustic guitar in the track “Mess” and what sounds to be sitar in “Uproar.”
As for Lil Wayne himself, he carries his normal wheezy tone with occasional but heavy auto-tune, altering his natural voice. Granted, he sounds better with his rough voice as opposed to the robotic nature of auto-tune.
Lyrically, there is a lot of reflection in Tha Carter V. Lyrics discuss Lil Wayne’s past, ranging from issues with women, his children, his childhood, drugs, and his career. Lil Wayne still possesses good wordplay in lyrics, but frequently finds himself repeating words numerous times. Even worse, some of the words are used repeatedly to rhyme lines.
Tha Carter V also features lyrics from the perspective of Lil Wayne’s mother, Jacida Carter. She appears at the beginning and end of songs in what appears to be segments from spoken interviews. Here, she discusses raising her son, the struggles that came with, and how he has gone on to make her proud.
Because of the focus on the reflective nature of the lyrics, Tha Carter V feels mellower and slower than the mixtapes Dedication 6 & Dedication 6 Reloaded Lil Wayne released last year. Where the mixtapes showcased Lil Wayne pulling out all the stops in terms of intensity, Tha Carter V does not feature many tracks with him at full intensity.
Lil Wayne’s performance on the album remains consistently good, which cannot be said of the features. Many features are limited to the chorus of the song and leave much to be desired. Lil Wayne only has features on about a third of his songs, but the only features which stand out are from XXXTentacion, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Dogg.
“Don’t Cry” features XXXTentacion wailing vocals on the chorus. With this being a posthumous release for him and the accompaniment of background strings, a haunting aspect is added to the song. Due to its sober nature and the death of XXXTentacion, “Don’t Cry” serves as a solid opener with its impact.
Lil Wayne also shows off his ambition on “Mona Lisa.” The song experiments by separating the track into two distinct parts, with the lyrics revealing an affair with a woman. The two sides of the story are rapped by Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne. Mona Lisa shows the rapping power of both rappers, featuring extensive rap segments without taking time for a chorus in its 5:24 runtime. However, “Mona Lisa” shows a weakness of Lil Wayne’s writing, as repeated lines will end with “n***a” simply to make a rhyme work.
“Mona Lisa” is not the only song to have this problem. “Dope N***az” uses “n***a” to rhyme up to six lines at a time, multiple times. Despite cumbersome rhymes, “Dope N***az” does feature clever wordplay, such as “you are what you smoke.” Snoop Dogg shines as feature on the track, as his smooth voice on the chorus provides good contrast to Lil Wayne’s raspy raps.
In comparison to other hip-hop releases that came out this year, such as Death Grips’ Year of the Snitch and the Kanye West and Kid Cudi collaboration Kids See Ghosts, these releases feature much shorter runtimes, and as a result, feel tighter and more focused.
Overall, Tha Carter V is a big release that has a plethora of material for listeners. While there are standout tracks on the album, a majority of the songs are mediocre at best and for an album to have so much material on it with little of it standing out, Tha Carter V feels too big for own good, and grows stale as the album progresses.
If you have an album you would like to be reviewed, feel free to email Garth or Zach.