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.