After three years, countless delays, a couple abortive project albums and a handful of mixtapes, we finally have Tha Carter IV on our hard drives. Was it worth the wait? Maybe, though from our initial impressions, most of the best songs were the ones that have already seen daylight over the last nine months—ones we're familiar enough with already that they practically feel like bonus tracks on CIV. Perhaps some of the others are growers, and in time, our rankings will look entirely different, but for now, here's how we stack up the 15 songs that comprise arguably the year's most-anticipated rap album.
No. 15: "It's Good"
Sounds Like: Someone hasn't been paying attention. It sounds like The Alan Parsons Project's "The Cask of Amontillado," it has a Jay-Z diss about which much is being made, and it's got Jadakiss in fine form and Drake in Drake form.
Pros: It's neither unheard of nor exactly a bad idea to sample Alan Parsons; the instrumental kills your skepticism about thirty seconds in (once it turns into a sample instead of a straight interpolation.) Wayne's verse comes alive precisely when that Jay-Z line comes in; it'll accomplish what it was meant to (i.e. album sales), if you can ignore what it probably wasn't meant to (moralizing that lasts until the probably-also-to-be-delayed Tha Carter V).
Cons: Drake. Forget flow for a second (it's difficult, admittedly); you could reconstruct almost his entire verse from his collected output over the past year; add his lines about Wayne's jail time, and you've almost got the entire thing.
ESPN Outtake: "I just touched down / kick the motherfucking field goal."
TMI Double-Entendre: "P---- good as baby powder" is the sort of line for which this category was created.
No. 14: "So Special"
Sounds Like: The track churns around a slightly autotuned "so special." John Legend provides the vague "spend the night and I'll make you feel so special" hook; Wayne provides the PG-13-to-NC-17 details.
Pros: Wayne or John don't sound anything less than completely sincere toward their respective women--expect "So Special" to be used as fodder in Lil Wayne discussions for albums to come, and its chorus to be used by many an enterprising guy. The production is, again, non-sucky; it's some of the most dynamic on Tha Carter IV.
Cons: "I spent the night in heaven--I slept with an angel." There's sincerity, and there's being a few words removed from the exact pickup line people use to rightly mock pickup lines. Wayne's also a lot more sedate than we're used to hearing--lots of people seem to be praising John Legend more, which figures given the song's content but is still telling.
TMI Double-Entendre: Any given line would probably count, but "She crazy about that dick / Lorena Bobbitt" is worth a different sort of cringing.
No 13: "Outro" Feat. Bun B, Nas, Shyne, Busta Rhymes
Sounds Like: A last-ditch attempt to make good on an promise save a spot for certain past-their-prime friends on his latest album.
Pros: Busta Rhymes continues a good 2011 with a memorable addition to this already crowded party, dropping frenetic lines and delivering the albums finally goodbye on a fast-paced schizophrenic note.
Cons: Shyne takes up precious seconds with his hollow smoker's cough, his presence becoming imposing rather than entertaining. Plus, we don't actually hear Wayne here. It's nice for him to call on old friends to offer some final thoughts, but the album probably would have been better off if he said goodbye to us himself.
ESPN Outtake: "Look who crept in with automatic weapons, reppin' QB till the death of him." Nas can argue with Rick Ross over who calls the plays, just as long as Busta gets an Honorable Mention for making up his own word: "They say I'm underrated/but uncompetewithable."
TMI Double-Entendre: "Watched Wild Planet, seen lions devour food/You can say that's how I move."
No. 12: "How to Hate" feat. T-Pain
Sounds Like: Remember T-Pain? It wasn't that long ago that his voice absolutely lorded over the Top 40—in fact, he was probably the most omnipresent force on the charts until Weezy's guest-rapping career exploded. Well, he's back on Tha Carter IV, and really, "How to Hate" sounds much more like a T-Pain song with a feature appearance from Lil Wayne than the other way around, with the top-hatted one's autotuned crooning (or whatever technology he's technically using these days) taking up seemingly the entire song.
Pros: Weezy very nearly manages to get deep on the song, rapping about the woman who Done Him Wrong while he was incarcerated ("She used to always say "Fuck my n****s / And when I went to jail, she fucked my n****s") and politely kissing her off, over a respectably moody, synth-saturated beat. It's not exactly soul-baring, but it's a start.
Cons: The song's central lyrical conceit, "You taught me how to hate a bitch," is more than a little bit too mean-spirited for such a melancholy-sounding ballad, though it does at least make for a funny title contrast with one of the songs coming later on Tha Carter IV. And though we would have thought it impossible back when everyone was doing it in 2007-09, the sound of T-Pain's heavily mechanized voice now sounds jarring and out of place.
TMI Double-Entendre: "I guess I'm single for the night / And you can sit right on my middle finger for the night."
No. 11: "Intro"
Sounds Like: A bombastic, freestyle-style intro, not dissimilar to Carter III opener "3 Peat." Wayne goes in "like [his] water broke" for one long verse over a menacing-sounding horn-and-drums riff.
Pros: Well, it definitely sounds like a Lil Wayne intro, and that horn riff is a winner. The lyrics don't exactly sound like Wayne is trying his hardest, but lyrics like "My shit won't ever stop / Suck my green light" have a certian charm to them.
Cons: No points for extra creativity here with some of the rhymes ("This the best worst feeling / And n**** if I die I die a death worth living"?). And really, after an entire mixtape of songs starting with the sound of a bowl being lit, do we really need Weezy sparking up yet again here? Oh crap, he's not gonna do it over every track again, is he? What is this, a Wiz Khalifa album?
ESPN Outtake: "I put in overtime / Like a Tide score," "Bodyslam the beat, n**** Dusty Rhodes."
TMI Double-Entendre: "You faker than some titties / You get tittyfucked."
For songs number ten through six, click NEXT.
No. 10: "Interlude" feat. Tech N9ne and Andre 3000
Sounds Like: Roughly a minute each of Tech N9ne and (at least on our illicit copy, an uncredited) Andre 3000 over the beat from "Intro" and, later on, "Outro." We assume Lil Wayne was involved at some point in the track in human, not just referential form.
Pros: Tech N9ne and Andre 3000 both acquit themselves either, depending on your allegiances, solidly or album-stealingly. (We'd give Andre the slight edge, but we're also biased in favor of his comeback.) And the beat, in case you forgot, is still good. You might be noticing these blurbs running a bit short. This is because...
Cons: We realize that an interlude's not going to be an album standout under most circumstances, but still. It's hard to call this a Lil Wayne track per se.
TMI Double Entendre: Tech N9ne: "Guess what I'ma do with this woman when we're eating Gerber?"
No. 9: "Megaman"
Sounds Like: Weezy of late, filled with the hashtag rap that he and his Young Money cohorts have perfected for radio overplay, plus the lighter sounds that frequent his mixtapes. It's manipulated horns provide the pacing, sounding like fast-forwarded versions of what's heard on "Right Above It," creating a more paranoid and urgent feeling to Wayne's self-aggrandizing and overly sexual lyrics.
Pro: Weezy is best not only with his biting, at times snarky, delivery but when he fills his lyrics with astute social commentary, signifying to fans that underneath those shades and his seemingly laid-back appearance, he's actually well read on current events, sports and pop culture ("We jack son then light up that L, Samuel"). We're even happier he wasn't stupid enough to drop a much too late—and overdone—Snakes on a Plane reference.
Con: There's no chorus; Weezy's first verse ends with an album shout-out ("It's Carter IV!" in case you download so many leaked albums, you've forgotten what you're listening to) after relying heavily on said hashtag rap. Plus, despite this being Weezy, lines like "Boy I send them bloods at your ass like a tampon" make us nervous to listen to this track in public.
ESPN Outtake: "Everyday I go so hard and work my ass off/I'm good I'm 100 like a fastball!"
TMI Double-Entendre: There are multiple, but "I get deep in that pussy, dig her out, surgery" has us looking at our physician in a whole new light.
No. 8: "Blunt Blowin"
Sounds Like: Wayne's grand announcement of his and Young Money's continued existence, with a grand fanfare of an instrumental to match and a chorus that, partially thanks to being track two, has already prompted a billion quotes and tweets. Your choice whether to assign that to the Pros or Cons column.
Pros: This is not one of the sucky beats Wayne complained about--to the contrary, it's one of the best on the album and, assuming the Internet insta-commentariat isn't exaggerating, the current or future wrecker of many a set of speakers. And after a mixtape that contained too much awkward mumbling, it's relieving to hear Wayne invested in his material when it counts.
Cons: 5:12. That's how long "Blunt Blowin" is, and while we're not too attention-addled for any track longer than three minutes, luxuriating (finally) in your release maybe accounts for 4:45 of this.
TMI Double Entendre: "I do it for the money / man, I'm such a hooker." Less TMI than I, but categories do not bend.
No. 7: "President Carter"
Sounds Like: The world's first hip-hop song ever keyed around a presidential inauguration. The song's "President / Carter" hook comes from the swearing in of Mr. Jimmy Carter back in 1977—Weezy's all-time favorite Commander-in-Chief, no doubt—and features Wayne making a number of presidential manoeuvrings, most notably changing the stars on the American flag to crosses. ("So now, instead of pledge, we pray," he explains. Sure.)
Pros: It's an amusing sample choice, and it's fairly well-augmented by the song's loping beat and what sounds like harp-plucking. Plus, Weezy's pronunciation of "tiramisu," one of the all-time underrated desserts and one sorely under-represented in the rap game, is a definite treat.
Cons: The song gets rather heavy-handed rather quickly, and there's only so many times you can hear the stuttering "President / Carter" hook before it's Enough Already. With the album already overdrawn on its draggy-song quotient at this point, this isn't really what Tha Carter IV needed in its 13th track.
TMI Double-Entendre: "I tried to fuck the world / And couldn't even get aroused."
No. 6: "How To Love"
Sounds Like: A midtempo jam built on acoustic guitar and Weezy's not entirely poor attempt at "crooning." Its slow-burning nature will have you thinking it's the perfect late night soundtrack to seal the deal, and with verses full of vague compliments to an unnamed female, it just might work.
Pros: With a catalog of songs filled with the graphic female descriptions and for lack of a better word, nasty depictions of sex, Wayne trades it all in here to comment on the girl who doesn't know her own worth, never fulling learning "how to love." There are extenuating circumstances, namely her profession, but Weezy zeroes in on her lack of self-confidence, which he feels is keeping her back. His careful observation and delicate delivery—choosing not to mock or instruct her on what to do—makes this more of an anthem of self-love, rather than one that celebrates a lost girl who's finally found a nice boy who treats her right. All this coming from a man who once rapped about a certain "Sicillian bitch with long hair, with coke in her derrierre"!
Cons: It's a ballad...in which Lil Wayne sings. (Silence) But even if you're OK with that, the third verse takes these gentle observations and applies them in a slightly over the top way ("See I just want you to know/That you deserve the best/You’re beautiful"). As Wayne's auto-tune kicks into high gear, we get compliments that verge on schmaltz. Nice try, Weezy. But leave the real empowerment jams to Beyoncé.
ESPN Outtake: "Now you're in the corner tryna put it together," in what could be a loosely pegged boxing reference.
TMI Double-Entendre: None that we can interpret. Progress?
For songs number five through one, click NEXT.
No. 5: "Abortion"
Sounds Like: One of the album's bigger numbers, with gospel choir-like backing vocals, countless drum fills and a whole lotta snare, sort of like Jay-Z's "U Don't Know" from a decade back.
Pros: The beat's one of the album's least-sucky, and Wayne's chorus line of "I'm a critical thinker / I'm a hell of a smoker / And a bit of a drinker" is one of the album's most quotable. And after that socially righteous mess of a "How to Love" video from yesterday, we can't tell you how glad we are that the song title isn't actually referring to a literal abortion.
Cons: Wayne kinda mumbles his way through the song's intro for no real reason, and as thankful we are that the line isn't weirder or grosser, the primary hook couplet of "I know your name, your name is unimportant / We in the belly of the beast, and she thinkin' 'bout abortion" is still mad weak.
ESPN Outtake: "Life is a gamble, better check the point spread."
TMI Double-Entendre: "When life sucks, I just enjoy the head."
No. 4: "Nightmares of the Bottom"
Sounds Like: You might have heard this before in MTV Unplugged or otherwise live. The studio version's much the same, a beat added to the descending piano-then-string line that serves as riff, hook and chorus. The track's a bit slower recorded than the live versions we've heard, which is, if anything, much more suited to the material (representative line: "I’m looking in my rearview--I see the world in it.")
Pros: Anyone surprised that Lil Wayne might have something fairly substantial to say about his jail time and subsequent place in rap's pantheon needs to pay more attention to Wayne's career than to his preconceptions. And it's no wonder Wayne chose "Nightmares" to showcase; it's among his most interesting music ideas, with inobtrusively competent flow. That said, though...
Cons: The line between "interesting idea, interestingly repeated" and "if I hear that piano one more time" gets crossed somewhere around verse three. "A Milli" didn't succeed on repetition alone.
ESPN Outtake: "Players play, coaches coach and cheerleaders cheer."
TMI Double Entendre: Not a double entendre per se, but "If I knew I was going to jail / I would have fucked my attorney" counts for something.
No. 3: "She Will" feat. Drake
Sounds Like: After the Weezy-assisted "Miss Me," Drake returns the favor for his mentor, providing a sultry rap-singing chorus that emphasizes the (un)willingness of their ladies in question.
Pros: Wayne expresses the ambivalence that comes with relationships ("Devil on my shoulder, the Lord is my witness/ So on my Libra scale, I'm weighing sins and forgiveness"). The moaning faux-violin create a looming feeling of uncertainty, yet Weezy's bedroom-specific rhymes help to make things all the more certain. By the time he trails off after the second verse, Drake's chorus gives us a head-bopping assurance that any girl, not just this one, definitely "will."
Cons: Despite sounding slightly complimentary, there are a lot of misogynistic undertones beneath Drake and Weezy's heart to heart. While we're sure opportunistic women like the one described do exist, the ruminations on a lady who is ready and willing simply to capitalize on "the money and the power and fame" of these two men seem cliche.
ESPN Outtake: "Haters can't see me: nose-bleed seats."
TMI Double-Entendre: "Eat her till she cry, call that wine and dine."
No. 2: "John" feat. Rick Ross
Sounds Like: The relentless beat of "Tupac Back," which of course Rick Ross is familiar with. It's at the same time a premature self-written eulogy, with Weezy hoping to be remembered like John Lennon, as well as a "Hey, you! Get off my lawn!" warning to their neighbors, competitors and potential aggressors.
Pros: Unlike a brief guest verse or fleeting chorus, this is more of a Ross collaboration simply than a cameo. Here, Ricky Rozay goes verse for verse with Wayne, equally inflating his words with his art world knowledge and artillery references, as well as adding a menacing, threatening chorus ("I got a chopper in the car") whose repetitive nature serves only to emphasize the meaning behind it ("the bigger the bullet the more than bitch gonna bang"). The ability to make both Lamborghinis and Basquiat sound threatening is a true skill.
Cons: It's quite angry. But everyone needs an emotional outlet from time to time. Just don't try this words at home, kids.
ESPN Outtake: "Big bees, Red Sox/I get money to kill time, dead clocks" courtesy of Weezy; "I call the plays, muthafuck huddle up" for Ross.
TMI Double-Entendre: "Been fucking the world n-- and I ain't come yet" —Weezy, reminding fans, and specifically women, what's what, lest we let nine albums and four children fool us.
No. 1: "6 Foot 7 Foot" feat. Cory Gunz
Sounds Like: Well, considering it's been out for nine months already we'd hope you'd know by now, but if you're a little late to the game, it's a Bangladesh-produced banger that chops up Harry Belafonte's "The Banana Boat Song" into an "A Milli"-style hypnotically repetitive hook. Like "A Milli," there's no chorus except for the hook blaring over and over, but the titular part of the sample is fun enough to sing along to that it's barely even noticeable.
Pros: Well, considering "A Milli" was one of Weezy's best-ever singles, it was a damn good decision to put the formula back in action, and the "Banana Boat" sample worked so well that Jason Derulo decided to steal a different part of the song for his "Don't Wanna Go Home" single later in the year. Weezy's also at the top of his game here, spitting already-classic lines like "Black and white diamonds / Fuck segregation" and "Real G's move in silence like lasagna," and even guest Cory Gunz manages not to get left in the dust, rapping "Bitch I flow like scuba / Bitch I'm bald like Cuba."
Cons: Ugh, did you guys see that video? If not, absolutely do not click on this link.
ESPN Outtake: "Glass half empty, half full, I'll fill ya / Try me and run into a wall, outfielder."
TMI Double-Entendre: "Got the girl open 'coz she open when you twist her / Never met the bitch but I fuck her like I missed her."
Agree with our rankings? Think we should give the new songs more of a chance? Amazed we gave "How to Love" a half-decent rating? Let us know about it in the comments section.