Lil Wayne – Carter 3 (4 1/2 stars) By Michael McGill Every so often a project comes along that has the potential to be a king-maker. When the artists’ commercial appeal, street following and critical acclaim converge in a way that forces the rest of the genre to sit up and take notice, somewhat similar to 50 Cent circa “Get Rich or Die Tryin”. Lil Wayne, love him or hate him, it’s almost impossible to ignore him. Though he’s been in the game for twelve years, the entire rap game didn’t truly take notice of Lil’ Wayne until the Carter series commenced. The Carter series (and numerous scene-stealing guest appearances and classic mixtapes ) have lent some credence to Wayne’s claim of being the “Best Rapper Alive”. This notion would’ve been dismissed as entirely laughable only a few years ago. However, Wayne’s work ethic and consistency has positioned him from being a bench player in the game to approaching rap’s zenith. But does Wayne credibly stake his claim to the throne with the Carter 3? Well after a solid and energetic intro, “Mr. Carter” plays like a passing of the torch, as Wayne finally gets to play host to his rap idol. Wayne skillfully meanders through the track with double entendre: “I got the flow/I'm tryna see the roof/ Didn't wear a bulletproof/ so I got shot/ and you can see the proof/ Blind eyes could look at me and see the truth/Wonder if Stevie do?” But while Jay-Z lyrics seem to say he’s accepting this change of the guard, his razor- sharp flow says otherwise: “I'm right here/in my chair/With my crown/ and my dear/ Queen B/as I share Mic time /with my heir/ Young Carter/go farther/ Go further/go harder Is that not why we came? /And if not then why bother?” But Young Carter is more than capable of carrying the show. “A Milli” with its head- nod inducing bass, percussion and dancehall flavored loop gives Wayne a prime soundscape to absolutely blackout to: “I'm a Young Money Millie- in- aire/ tougher than Nigerian hair/My criteria compared/ to your career just isn't fair/I'm a venereal disease like a menstrual bleed/Through the pencil/ and leak to the sheet of the tablet/ in my mind…” This song is an example of what makes Wayne an ill MC. It’s the unpredictability of his trademark free-associating rhymes and his vast array of flows and deliveries which only enhances his growing versatility. That versatility is on full display on the Carter 3. He slyly makes an answer record to Beyonce’s man-bashing “Irreplaceable” with “Comfortable” as he calmly admonishes the ladies not to rest on their laurels over a lush Kanye arrangement. He later takes a minimalist bass guitar and percussion beat from Swizz Beatz and creates a masterpiece of a concept record with “Dr. Carter”. On which he lyrically gives you the prescription for what ails Hip-Hop. From “Tie My Hands” featuring a particularly soulful appearance from Robin Thicke and heartfelt lyrics dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the rock-infused suicidal catharsis of “Shoot Me Down” Wayne remains charismatic and engaging. Possibly the biggest testament to Wayne’s charisma is that his hypnotic, synth bleep laden #1 single “Lollipop may have been the most addictive R&B song this year though he technically can’t sing. Unfortunately, mis-steps like the underwhelming T-Pain- featured “Got Money” hold the Carter 3 back from achieving classic status. But while the elder Mr. Carter may hold the title of “Best Rapper Alive” in the minds of more, with the Carter 3, you now have to respect his candidacy to that title-- like his name was Barack Obama.
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