One critic said “Tha Carter IV” is “most likely the greatest disappointment of 2011,” but that’s taking it a bit far. “C4″ may not be Lil Wayne at his best, but it’s definitely not all bad.
How else did it sell 964,000 copies in its first week? While Twitter was ablaze with negative hype, it was topping the charts, selling more copies than “Watch the Throne,” the collaborative effort by hip-hop powerhouses Jay-Z and Kanye West.
Timing is everything. Had this album come out a few years ago, it would’ve gotten better reviews. The reason fans of his previous albums took so long to listen to this newest album is because of Wayne’s seemingly stagnant musical ability.
It’s become a formula: his high-pitched flow, jam-packed with punch line after punch line after punch line. If you stop to think about it, he’s not actually talking about anything, just keeping us entertained with his witty raps. But Lil Wayne is a brand and his job is to sell his product, which he still knows how to do.
It’s just, next to some of the great stuff that’s happening in hip-hop right now, “C4” just isn’t great — but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing good there.
After all, Lil Wayne sometimes can get by just because he’s Lil Wayne. On the “Intro,” he simply goes off. He raps and raps and raps about nothing and everything, and he’s clever, so it works. Plus “Interlude” and “Outro” play off the same beat for some sort of continuity.
“It’s Good,” featuring Drake and Jadakiss, might’ve been the track that gave the album life before it hit stores. The leak featured a witty verse from where Wayne finally addresses the semi-diss from Jay-Z on “H.A.M.,” where Jay-Z suggested that Wayne doesn’t make as much money as he does. Music websites, hip-hop blogs and Twitter went wild over this track the week before the album dropped.
Assisted by his golden child, Drake, Lil Wayne does what he does best on “She Will.” He plays with words, talks about playing with women and let’s not forget, boasts about being at the top of his game. “I been at the top for a while and I ain’t jump yet.”
The jury’s out on whether Wayne’s on top of his game, but a few the tracks still stand out. “Interlude” is one of the tracks getting a lot of positive hype. Andre 3000 of Outkast and Tech N9ne both display lyrical flexibility, and your ears feel like they’ve gone through a great workout when it’s all said and done.
Maintaining the pace halfway through the album is “Abortion.” The beat hits just when you’re starting to get bored with the repetition of the previous track “John” (featuring Rick Ross). This sounds like Lil Wayne circa “Carter III,” when Lil Wayne really was at the top of his game. On “Abortion,” Lil Wayne drops a clever hook about being in the belly of the beast and her thinking about abortion. It’s easy to think, “Did Lil Wayne really just say that?” Then you laugh and you remember that it’s Wayne. He can get away with going a bit overboard because there are only a few guys who have been in the game as long as he has.
“President Carter,” another standout track, starts with a sample of President Jimmy Carter’s oath of office. Clever. Lil Wayne, as the leader of his label Young Money, is often referred to as the president by his artists. The final verse of the track sees Lil Wayne playing off the presidential theme and doing a sort of closing speech.
But each success is matched by an equally terrible failure. Most listeners can probably go ahead and delete “How to Hate,” featuring T-Pain, from their playlists. All that T-Pain Auto-Tuning is enough to make any critical hip-hop fan want to stop listening.
Besides a few standout tracks, the rest of the album is nothing that’s going to be remembered. Sans the bonus tracks, it’s probably best to pretend half the album doesn’t exist.
“Tha Carter 4” is like when Michael Jordan had a bad game. It’s like when the most put-together person you know has a bad day. It’s like realizing that nobody can win all the time unless his name is Charlie Sheen.
It comes down to expectations. There’s not much here that takes fans back in time to that moment of hearing “Mr. Carter” off “C3” for the first time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple of high points. Ultimately, die-hard Lil Wayne fans will love this album regardless. Everyone else will probably give it a quick listen and just say, “Eh.”Contact Adeshola Adigun.