Lil Wayne may very well surprise fans with the long-awaited "Tha Carter V," but is that really the best play?
Birdman rubbed his hands so furiously that all legal paperwork binding Weezy’s Carter 5 to Cash Money Records has spontaneously combusted. Reports signify that the long-winding legal battle has officially come to a close at last. Not only did Weezy walk away with enough ducats to fill a fifties-robber’s dollar sign bag, but his obligations to Cash Money have officially been terminated.
Remember, the project was originally announced six years ago, in 2012. At the time, it was speculated that Mannie Fresh and Mike WiLL Made-It would be contributing production, with additional vocals from the notorious Soulja Boy. Yet the promising news soon took a left turn, and Weezy put the kibosh on a healthy rollout via Twitter. “I want off this label and nothing to do with these people but unfortunately it ain't that easy,” he wrote. “I am a prisoner and so is my creativity.”
Should you find yourself intrigued by the hellish and hard-paved tale that is Tha Carter 5, look no further than this very guide. Yet it is the future that concerns us. Many have been quick to throw party hats in the confetti-filled air, blowing their party-horns in vague attempts at the “Lollipop” synth riff. Fantasies of Tha Carter V’s imminent arrival seem closer to reality than ever before. One can almost imagine the album cover now, perhaps drawing from Weezy’s adolescent years in keeping with ancient tradition. In truth, Tha Carter V has taken on a symbolic quality of sorts; it’s not about what it is, but rather, what it represents.
Remember, Tha Carter V has already amassed a healthy lifespan, despite celebrating many a birthday shrouded in Bird-dust. If the project was indeed conceived in 2012, the long-lost album is currently on the cusp of its sixth birthday. For some context, in 2010 Weezy was foreshadowing the “rockstar” movement with Rebirth; in 2011 came Tha Carter IV, which many felt paled in comparison to its predecessor. Even the generally lauded Dedication series was seeming to lose its luster, with 2012’s fourth installment garnering lukewarm critical response. In short, even his most ardent fans can admit that the era was hardly “peak Weezy.”
To be fair, this is a genuine GOAT contender we’re discussing, and no disrespect is intended. Yet the fact remains, the timeframe where Wayne would have theoretically completed his fifth Carter has yielded inconsistent material. It’s difficult to truly allocate blame for this; ongoing rifts with Birdman, increasing medical issues, and reported codeine addiction no doubt played roles in muddying the waters.
One has to wonder, were Wayne to have gone through with his original plan of dropping Tha Carter V on December 9th, 2014, how would the album be received?
Lil Wayne wasn't rapping like this in 2014.
Fast forward to today. Fans are all but frothing at the mouth for Carter V. By holding the project hostage for so long, Birdman essentially increased the hype to an exponential degree. It became an almost mystical piece of artwork, joining the ranks of Detox among hip-hop’s lost albums. The idea that a complete Lil Wayne album could be sitting unreleased over something as petty as label drama (between father and son, no less) seemed almost offensive. Dropping Tha Carter V soon began to feel like a matter of principle; even those who didn’t want the music anymore felt obligated to support Weezy on a purely symbolic level. The years passed, and Weezy’s Carter series seemed doomed to fade into the annals of history as an unfinished sage.
Until now. Wayne’s legal victory has galvanized the album with a renewed sense of life, not unlike Frankenstein’s notorious abomination. A victory, for fans and the culture alike. Yet after all these years, Wayne has finally found himself in a position of power. He previously proclaimed that “The Sky Is The Limit”; his words have now materialized into reality. Is it really his wisest move to simply release Tha Carter V as is, the way he intended back in 2014?
It’s hard to imagine that Weezy is currently in the same headspace. We don’t even know what he might have felt recording his fifth chapter. It’s entirely possible his outlook has changed completely, and that’s not even factoring in the now-dated cultural references he no doubt littered the album with. Both stylistically and lyrically, current day Wayne feels almost rejuvenated, if his recent pair of Dedications is any indication. He sure as hell wasn’t rapping like “Big Bad Wolf” in the early two-thousand-tens. Even the production landscape has altered drastically, although the nostalgic stylings of Mannie Fresh can transcend any era.
A similar phenomenon occurred last year, when T-Pain released his long-awaited collaborative project with Weezy, appropriately titled T-Wayne. Fan reaction was joyous and overwhelmingly positive, but the fact remains - the project was basically new-old-shit. A welcome time-capsule, to be sure. Yet a piece of history, not unlike revisiting a choice Throwback Thursday selection. It stands to reason that Weezy could do it again, and more than once. It appears that his Juelz Santana collaboration I Can’t Feel My Face is once again in the pipeline, another T-Wayne of sorts. A welcome addition to the canon, but far from indicative of Weezy’s current mindset.
Nobody would complain if he decided to release Tha Carter V on a whim, entirely as designed. The songs previously previewed by the notorious Martin Shkreli, the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Mona Lisa” and “The Life Of Mr. Carter” kept fully intact. Perhaps even a verse from Soulja Boy Tell’em for those wistful for the reckless days of “YAH.” The sheer scope of Weezy’s victory would translate to instant commercial success, and Tha Carter V release would represent a monumental occasion in hip-hop history.
Yet Wayne has another option. Think of everything he’s been through these past six years. Tha Carter series is the closest we have to autobiography. For those invested in the man himself, Tha Carter is more than a write-off. While perhaps drastic, consider what might happen should Wayne decide to start his fifth installment from scratch. It’s a chance for Wayne to reinvent his legacy, staking his claim on the game as a free agent. Perhaps The Dedication 6 was merely a warm up; if that’s the case, count me among those eager to see Weezy reclaim his franchise on his own terms.
Tha Carter 5 could go on to be his biggest album yet. We’ve already waited this long. What’s a little longer?