“Don’t call me sir, call me survivor,” Lil Wayne insists on “Nightmare of the Bottom,” from his latest endeavor, “Tha Carter IV.”
Few could argue, considering the rapper’s ability to have remained a driving force in hip hop despite being locked behind bars for 8 months after being convicted for criminal possession of a weapon.
But, even while he was in prison, Lil Wayne continually popped up in guest slots, most notably on Eminem’s “Recovery” and even released his 10 track “I am Not a Human Being” EP last fall.
“Tha Carter IV” marks Weezy’s valiant return to the game, and while some tracks deliver the urgent bursts of energy and excitement one would expect from a man free from prison, many simply stand still, brooding in slow, synth laced beats. While this synthasized brooding works well on the early track “Blunt Blowin,” it becomes tiresome almost immediately afterward.
Additionally, on top of these less than stellar beats, Lil Wayne more often than not turns things down a notch, rapping at a pace that comes closer to talking. This combination of beats and slow talk bring about tracks like “Nightmare of the Bottom” where it’s hard to shake the suspicion that nothing has happened for three and a half minutes.
When “Tha Carter IV” does deviate from its sinister synthesized beats however, it almost always shines. “6 Foot 7 Foot” sees Wayne’s flow at its best over a speaker-rattling beat. The epic, guitar tinged beat of “Abortion,” the least offensive song named after extreme contraception ever recorded, is the best song on the album.
One notable exception, however, is the smash-hit “How to Love.” “How to Love” is the perfect for those times you find yourself both longing for Weezy and in the car with your girlfriend. It’s the wildly successful crossover no one wanted or asked for.
A plethora of guest artists generally do the album good, most notably in “Interlude,” one of two tracks on the album that Lil Wayne himself isn’t on at all. “Interlude” sees vocal duties given to Tech N9ne and Outkast’s Andre 3000, both of whom turn in terrific performances. Rick Ross’ authoritative, intimidating voice shines on “John” and Cory Gunz turns out a solid verse in “6 Foot 7 Foot.” Some guest acts are grossly underutilized, however. Drake feels shoe-horned into “She Will,” in which he sings the chorus in his best Lil Wayne impression and John Legend predictably fails to make Lil Wayne’s sexual exploits romantic in “So Special.”
Aside from “Jaws: The Revenge,” it’s rare that you find an exceptional fourth installment in a series. “Tha Cater IV” is no exception. It certainly isn’t a terrible album, in fact there are a handful of excellent songs, but the few highlights far exceed the more mundane bar set by the content of the majority of the record. There are tracks to love, but there are more to skip.