Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter V" has been "coming soon" for what feels like an eternity.
While hip-hop fans worldwide pray that Lil Wayne undergoes a speedy and safe recovery from his recent seizures, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the Louisiana legend’s legacy. With twelve studio albums, countless mixtapes, and a seemingly infinite supply of hilarious punchlines, Weezy has proven to be one of hip-hop’s most consistent acts. Not only has he achieved both critical and commercial success, but the Grammy award winning rapper has continued to evolve as an artist, staying true to his roots while simultaneously branching out into uncharted, experimental territory.
For many, the shining peak of Lil Wayne’s discography was his Carter series, and every fan will probably give you a different favorite. Even Carter 4, which initially failed to reach the heights of its predecessors, has aged into a solid and enjoyable listen. After Tha Carter IV dropped back in 2011, it was understood that Tunechi would be turning his saga into a pentalogy Unfortunately for basically everybody involved, Tha Carter V was about to become to next Detox, an album lost in the seventh circle of album-release purgatory. Even today, rumors of an impending release continue to circle, but as it stands, the album’s status remains locked in a perpetual cycle of “coming soon.”
So what happened?
Back in 2012, Lil Wayne seemed intent on going out with a bang. He made the announcement that Tha Carter V would be not only be his final Carter album, but his final solo album, period. Fans were thrilled to hear that longtime collaborator Mannie Fresh would be hopping back on board for the first time in over a decade. Soulja Boy was rumored to be working on the project, and Mike WiLL Made-It claimed to have three songs on the album. Rumors of a 2013 release began to pick up steam, which quickly became a 2014 release. Wayne finally appeared to have locked in on a date - December 9th, 2014.
However, despite the album’s apparent completion, Cash Money label boss Birdman decided to pull the plug on the release. Wayne announced the bitter news via a statement on Twitter, and so begun the beginning of the end:
"To all my fans, I want you to know that my album won't and hasn't been released bekuz [label co-founder] Baby and Cash Money Records refuse to release it. I want off this label and nothing to do with these people but unfortunately it ain't that easy. I am a prisoner and so is my creativity. Again, I am truly sorry and I don't blame ya if ya fed up with waiting for me and this album. But thank you."
While Lil Wayne once proudly professed to “kiss his daddy,” it appeared that tension between father and son was beginning to brew.
BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
To make up for the album’s delay, Lil Wayne instead dropped his Sorry For The Wait 2 mixtape in January 2015. The mixtape only served to pour fuel to the fire, as Wayne basically opened fire on Cash Money Records and Birdman in particular. Songs like “CoCo” put the label on blast, with Wayne rapping:
"Who kept this shit together? N*gga, me, that's who
Who was there when niggas left us? N*gga, me, that's who
Cash Money is an army, I'm a one man army
And if them niggas comin' for me, I'm goin' out like Tony
Now I don't want no problems, I just want my money
Ain't gotta hold no conversation or my luggage
Tell whoever's countin' that I'm on a hundred
Birdman Jr., more like Ugly Duckling"
The floodgates were open, and an almost Biblical narrative about Wayne and his former mentor Birdman entered the public sphere. Basically, the consensus was that Birdman and his Cash Money associates were holding onto Wayne’s album, for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, a boss like Birdman would not take kindly to the slights, and there’s no doubt that the mogul was displeased by the public air-out.
Over the next few years, both parties increased the shots they threw, and the hostility with which they threw them. And while there were times when it would appear that cool heads might actually prevail, it didn’t take long before fans were hit with a proverbial “NOPE.” As recently as June 2017, Lil Wayne was telling Birdman to “suck his dick,” which is, in bird culture, the definition of a dick move.
Suffice it to say, Wayne and Birdman’s relationship continues to be fraught with turmoil and disrespect from either parties. Right when you think they’re about to make up, Wayne fires off a fresh shot. While Birdman tends to be the more private of the two, it doesn’t exactly help matters that we’re still sitting without Carter V, nearly three years after the initial announcement. Even Rick Ross waded into the fray, seemingly taking Wayne’s side with the Birdman shading “Idols Become Rivals.”
Just when you thought the saga couldn’t get any stranger, Martin Shkreli entered the fray. The notorious “pharma-bro” had been edging into the hip-hop discourse, having copped the sole-copy of Wu-Tang’s Once Upon A Time In Shaolin album and never letting the community forget it. Shkreli also found himself embroiled in a hilarious beef with Ghostface Killah, delivering a warning video with his goons posted up in the background.
Perhaps it was destiny that led Tha Carter V into the eager hands of Martin Shkreli, or perhaps a simple cruel twist of fate. Either way, Shkreli managed to secure a copy from someone who allegedly copped one of Lil Wayne’s Bugattis. While the nature of Tha Carter V is ever-changing, Shkreli confirmed it was indeed legit when he streamed a few album tracks, including a collaboration with Kendrick Lamar called “Mona Lisa” and “The Life Of Mr. Carter.”
He called “Mona Lisa” the best song on the album, and was subsequently threatened with major legal repercussions if he ever pulled another stunt of that nature.
It’s currently September 4th, 2017, and Tha Carter V remains in limbo. Lil Wayne is in the hospital, recovering from another seizure, condition unknown. It’s a shame that such a talented artist has been going through such a strange, tumultuous album rollout, but at the end of the day, it’ll drop when it drops. For now, let’s pray that Wayne makes a full recovery, and takes some time to look after himself.
Keep your eye out for Tha Carter V, coming soon.