Is "Free Weezy Album" setting Wayne on a path towards "Carter V" greatness?
After dominating the majority of the most recent millennium, Free Weezy Album marks Lil Wayne's first foray into generating music without the safety net of the Cash Money Records machine that helped make him. More than that, it’s Weezy’s first opportunity to air a slew of infamous grievances, whether it be his fallout with Birdman or new beefs. Of paramount, though, it is the beginning of one of the game’s most dangerous MC's independence.
Since everyone has an opinion on Lil Wayne, the hype leading up to this release from haters and supporters alike was palpable. Despite this not being the long awaited (and perpetually delayed) Tha Carter V, one could only imagine what kind of fire would be unleashed by a Tunechi who was just that -- unleashed.
The results are a mixed bag and so, they make this Weezy fan nervous.
Released on Independence Day exclusively on TIDAL (which Wayne has co-ownership in), there are some fireworks on FWA. Just like the reliable red white and blue on the American Flag, Weezy delivers on many of his trademarks. Webs of wordplay are woven with the expected expert dexterity, particularly on “White Girl“ ("By the gavel or by the gun, ni*ga/I be creepin’ like the shadow in the sun ni*ga/Be more careful how you pick and choose your words boy/Cus I’ll have you playin’ scrabble with your tongue ni*ga") and on “Glory” ("Holy shit I’m the shit/I’m God’s Manure"), FWA’s opening track.
“Glory” winds up being up a bit of a misdirection. It sets the stage for the album to be an assurance that, just because it’s released free on TIDAL, and isn’t the next Carter instalment, doesn’t mean that Weezy is going to phone it in. But tracks later, listeners get betrayed in the form of “My Heart Races On”-- a factory sealed and overly-produced break up pop-hop song that flirts with flat-out corniness. Seriously, the only thing missing is an intro stating "this one goes to all the lovers out there."
Then there’s tracks like “Psycho” and “He’s Dead.” These are entirely different songs, yet both make you wonder the extent of a possible Weezy transformation taking place in the post-Cash Money era. Have they truly sent our favorite party rapper into such moody territory? Even when Weezy wants to get the mood turnt, as he does, he falls flat with a clunky ode to James Brown, "I Feel Good."
There's a severe lack of Weezy in the cut on this album. Although there are some tracks exempt of this, a lot of the songs on Free Weezy Album feel over-produced both vocally and instrumentally to the point of audience alienation. There was a true moment of visceral disappointment as I sighed and shook my head listening to "Post Bail Ballin'" for the first time-- enjoying the beat tremendously before having it ruined by howling and dissonant auto-tune as it dropped.
There was hope for a newly-inspired Lil Wayne in the wake of his recent solitude and distancing from Cash Money. However, it seems the hunger that made Lil Wayne a household name is almost altogether absent on FWA, and Wayne does not appear to be "newly-inspired," rather he returns to his old tricks (some of which still work) with an overall heavy-handed approach at records.
At the end of the day, though, it makes sense that Free Weezy Album is filled with hits and misses. Die-hard Weezy fans will be able to pick and pluck lines, as well entire songs from FWA to rep proudly, no problem, and even semi-fans should find at least one record worthy of keeping in their iTunes catalogue. Though, one has to wonder-- why are we still waiting so anxiously for Tha Carter V? If Free Weezy Album is an indication of Weezy’s trajectory, it will probably be a let down. If FWA was simply an exercising of demons and styles that Wayne wanted to explore, then maybe he’s gotten the less desirable aspects out of the way to make room for another claim of greatness.
Until then, as said in “He’s Dead”:
"Rest in Peace to the Cash Money Weezy, gone but not forgotten, no."