REVIEW: Lil Wayne’s ‘Carter V’ is an occasionally dazzling trip down memory lane

Lil Wayne released his long-awaited record “Tha Carter V” on Sept. 28. The record is the fifth installment of the Carter franchise, following “Tha Carter IV,” which was released in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Young Money Records)

Weezy, Tunechi, Lil Wayne — Dwayne Carter has gone by many different names. His most prominent may be Tha Carter, named for the series of records that helped Lil Wayne rise to fame, featuring smash singles like “Go DJ,” “A Milli” and “Blunt Blowin’.” His impressive repertoire solidifies his placement on the list of all-time hip-hop greats, but Wayne’s reputation is also what made the seven-year wait for the fifth installment of his “Tha Carter” series so tiresome for fans.

Lil Wayne finally ended the wait last Friday with the release of 23-track LP “Tha Carter V.” The sweeping record takes listeners down memory lane as the Young Money founder replicates past styles, flows and production tropes. While it is undeniably drawn out with many forgettable tracks, “Tha Carter V” is far from disappointing.

The best moments on the album come in Lil Wayne’s deep dive into his own consciousness, which is most prevalent on tracks like “Dedicate,” “Mona Lisa” and closer “Let It All Work Out.” “Dedicate” brings back classic Lil Wayne production, opening with the line, “If it wasn’t for Wayne, it wouldn’t be.” The track showcases the seasoned rapper’s ability to present substantive lyrics while maintaining a killer flow. This trend continues on the record’s winning track, “Mona Lisa.” The Kendrick Lamar feature showcases both rappers’ storytelling abilities, as they tell the tale of a surreptitious woman who frames her boyfriend for robbery, using Mona Lisa’s ambiguous smile as the central metaphor.

Album closer “Let It All Work Out” shows Lil Wayne reminiscing on one of the darkest points of his life — his struggle with depression and subsequent suicide attempt. The message of the song, however, is positive, as Lil Wayne embraces the power of “[letting] it all work out.” Another highlight of the record is “Dope N-ggaz,” which features Snoop Dogg. The track is a strong ‘90s throwback effort, made credible by Snoop’s irrefutable swagger.

If “Tha Carter V” was shortened to its 14 strongest tracks, the record would have been more cohesive. Many of the songs on the latter half of the album, such as “Used 2” and “Demons,” are instantly forgettable and wholly unnecessary in the context of the entire album. Wayne’s decision to cram the record with so

many tracks is excessive, and it is also a powerful indicator of how records are now made and packaged in the streaming era. However, this does not excuse Lil Wayne or any other artist from adding hollow fillers to an already bloated record.

Lil Wayne’s twelfth LP also shines in its vulnerable moments, particularly on tracks like “Mess” and “What About Me.” These intimate moments are telling of Lil Wayne’s personal life, as he shares details about both romantic encounters and loneliness.  

“Tha Carter V” sufficiently overcomes the drama its release faced for nearly a decade. While the record does not send Lil Wayne off on the highest note, it delivers a solid, nostalgic listening experience for fans of the great Louisiana rapper.