Saturday, December 10, 2005

Lil Wayne – The Carter II Review

Fuck it. Weezy shocked me. It’s uncontestable that 2005 was the South’s biggest year in Hiphop yet as they’ve dominated both commercially and artistically. Let’s face it, I love NY Hiphop as much as the next man but at this point I like it for what it is. Not what it has the potential to be. Southern Hiphop meanwhile is a constantly changing animal not content to rest on its laurels, demanding the respect that it’s never been given. Unfortunately, despite this drive, NY has always beat the south in one particular category: albums. 2005 was no different as Slim Thug and Chamilionaire slipped on the crossover, Paul Wall and Mike Jones stayed too boxed in to their local sound, Jeezy lacked depth and Bun B’s disc was more of a celebration of his status than anything new. All of the above had tremendous songs but none of them stood up to GZA, Doom, Sean Price, etc on the long players…

But have no fear. Here it is: 2005’s best Southern Rap album. Lil Wayne. The Carter II.

It’s as unexpected a success as can be imaged. While Lil Wayne has often shown flashes of brilliance, from 2000’s aptly titled tha blues to last year’s surprisingly robust Carter, nothing indicated that he had what it took to really play with the big boys. Turns out that all Wayne really needed was a little motivation and a change of scenery. Last year Wayne moved to Houston, went to college, grew his dreads out to Rasta lengths, lost his hometown of New Orleans to Katrina and separated from his long time maestro producer Mannie Fresh. It’s this last point that stands as the most important element to The Carter II, along with Wayne’s hunger for respect. While Mannie Fresh is undoubtedly one of the best southern producers of all time, it’s painfully obvious in retrospect that he wasn’t the right channel for Wayne anymore. Fresh’s beats are mostly happy, bouncy, electro, dancy, synthesized. Wayne is fierce, raw, uncut and uncompromised. He was Mannie’s dynamic opposite and while their combination made for some good records, Wayne has finally found a way to cut loose and deliver the heat he was born to spit.

The lineup seems inconspicuous at first glance. New York’s Heatmakers have a couple of tracks and Cool and Dre drop a beat but otherwise it’s strictly unknowns. Surprisingly however, Weezy’s gambling pays off in spades as the album is playable front to back. Think about that. From beginning to end. 21 tracks. When’s the last time you could honestly say that about a southern album? While southern aficionados may say I’ hating, I honestly can’t remember. Hell, even the obvious crossover move Grown Man works if you take it for what it is. The beats are eclectic but all of them fit in perfectly into Wayne’s southern Hiphop gumbo mixing bounce, screw, funk, blues, electro, boom-bap and g-funk into something entirely different. Naming highlights is an exercise in futility: Tha Mobb, Fly In, Mo Fire, Best Rapper alive, oh no, the Carter II, Receipt, Feel Me… the list goes on…

And then there’s Shooter.

I’m not the first one to say it. This could be Wayne’s Stan, his Troy, and his Shook Ones. The song he’ll be remembered by. Starting as a blue-eyed soul ditty, the track slowly builds up into a huge blues rap funk jam until the instrumentation is so dense the whole thing threatens to collapse under its own weight. And then…Weezy. Lil Wayne delivers two verses worth of A-list bragging cementing his spot as one of the best emcees out there. He’s not talking about much. He’s certainly not talking about crime except metaphorically despite the title. In fact he’s not talking about anything. He’s just talking. Spitting for the joy of spitting and demanding respect while doing it because he knows that he’s got that shit. And in his case that’s enough ton carry the whole damn song.

The whole damn album in fact.

Lil Wayne’s mission statement on The Carter II might as well have been respect. There’s nary a wasted moment, an off beat flow, a wack beat. The man barely even stops for the god damned hooks, occasionally blacking the fuck out and just rapping until he can’t rap no more. The album doesn’t feature Wayne the gangster. This is Wayne the rapper, the musician, the artist. If more people were as concerned with beats and rhymes as Wayne is instead of the amount of coke or units they ship, Hiphop would be in a much better state.

The way I’m describing this album is perhaps a little over the top. Maybe I’ll regret this review in 6 months, it’ll age badly, show off its warts, not sell. But fuck it, as of now this is one of the best releases in 2006. Congrats Birdman Jr.

Fuck it. Weezy shocked me.

4.5/5…maybe more.

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