On September 28, 2018, New Orleans MC, Rap heavyweight, and Hip-Hop legend Lil Wayne dropped his 12th studio album, the long awaited Tha Carter V. Marking the end of the ‘Carter’ series of albums that started in 2001 with its first iteration, Tha Carter V looks not only to provide a fitting and satisfactory ending to an all-time great album series, but to also quell the aching hearts of fans who initially expected to receive this record almost 5 years ago.
With an original plan to release in 2014, 3 years after the previous ‘Carter’ installment and just on the heels of I Am Not a Human Being II (2014), fans have instead had to wait 7 years in between the final two ‘Carter’ installments, far longer than any other gap between ‘Carter’ releases. While there certainly has not been a lack of Lil Wayne music in the meantime, with Wayne releasing several mixtapes, EPs, and even a couple non-‘Carter’ albums in the years since Tha Carter IV (2011), there has always been something special about the ‘Carter’, what it means to Lil Wayne himself, whose legal name is Dwayne Carter, and what it means to his fans who have come to expect something special form Wayne when he puts out a record with the ‘Carter’ name on it.
What took so long, though? Why make fans wait this long for such a wanted and highly anticipated album? Often times a record will exist in this curious space when the artist is taking their sweet time, perfecting every note and phrase, dragging out the process until it meets their vision exactly, such as we’ve seen in the past with albums like Dr. Dre’s Detox (which still has yet to see the light of day and is becoming more and more a part of Hip-Hop mythos than an actual project) or even this year with the hotly craved Astroworld, which Travis Scott had been working on since the release of his magnum opus, the nearly perfect and game changing Rodeo (2015). But while the Carter V may just be the best Lil Wayne release in a long time, if not ever (more on that later), it is not due to artistic vision that the delays came to be, but rather a major dispute between Wayne and Cash Money Records Founder and longtime Wayne mentor Brian “Baby” Williams, also known as Birdman. Though Williams had discovered Wayne when was only 9 years old and had been by his side through Wayne’s entire career up until this point, their falling out and Williams choosing to focus efforts on then up and comer Young Thug over Wayne caused rifts too big to traverse peacefully, and thus the album has been shelved in the meantime, only coming to light at the time it did when Wayne was finally able to get out his contract with Cash Money and release it through Young Money (his own label) and Republic records.
And now that it is finally here, it can be said that the Tha Carter V is more than worth the wait. Spanning just under 90 minutes and 23 songs, the album does seem to be following the current streaming-era trend of overly-long albums, though unlike Migos’ disappointing Culture II, it doesn’t overstay its welcome by any means. Every song here serves its purpose, giving us a different view into the mind of Weezy and proving that even after all these years and hundreds of songs, he still has something to say and new sides of him to discover through the intricate and mind blowing wordplay that dances atop almost every beat of the album. Standouts like “Mona Lisa ft. Kendrick Lamar”, “Let It Fly ft. Travis Scott”, and “Uproar” will surely keep die hard Hip-Hop heads happy, while tracks like “What About Me ft. Sosamann”, “Dark Side of the Moon ft. Nicki Minaj”, and “Perfect Strangers” are destined for chart-topping, radio success. The weakest track on the album may be “Don’t Cry” featuring the late XXXTENTACION, the first proper song after the intro featuring Wayne’s mother (she also can be seen on the cover and heard throughout the album in small, spoken segments), and even this track is emotionally poignant and stays with you, if not just a bit uninspired when it comes to Wayne’s verses and the production. Regardless, Tha Carter V is filled front to back with bangers, emotion, and Wayne’s incomparable ability as a wordsmith, making it well worth anyway and easily one of the best records to drop this year.
Not only a critical success, Tha Carter V is also set to land at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, with an expected 450,000 first week equivalent album sales and over 400 million streams, giving it the third largest week-long stream total for an album, after Drake’s Scorpion and Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys, both having been released earlier this year. While these numbers don’t come close to numbers Wayne was doing a decade ago (Tha Carter III sold almost a million copies its first week), they certainly are better than what most artists could even hope for in today’s era of streaming, and show that Lil Wayne isn’t only a source of inspiration for the current generation, but still has what it takes to lead it himself.