Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lil Wayne

  • Tha Block Is Hot [Cash Money/Universal, 1999] **
  • Tha Carter II [Cash Money/Universal, 2005] B+
  • Dedication, Vol. 2 [Gangsta Grillz, 2006] Choice Cuts
  • Da Drought 3 [Purloined Datadisc, 2007] A
  • The Drought Is Over 2: The Carter 3 Sessions [mixtape4u.com, 2007] A-
  • We the Best [RBC, 2007] C-
  • Tha Carter III [Cash Money/Universal/Motown, 2008] A-
  • Lil Weezy-ana Vol. 1 [Purloined Datadisc, 2008] *
  • The Leak 6 [free download, 2009] Choice Cuts
  • No Ceilings [free download, 2010] A-
  • Rebirth [Universal/Motown/Cash Money, 2010] **
  • I Am Not a Human Being [Universal/Motown, 2010] ***
  • I Am Not a Human Being II [Cash Money/Republic, 2013] A-
  • No Ceilings 2 [DatPiff download, 2015] ***

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Tha Block Is Hot [Cash Money/Universal, 1999]
tough-guyisms so steeped in convention they disappear into the bounce ("Drop It Like It's Hot," "Tha Block Is Hot," "F*** Tha World") **

Tha Carter II [Cash Money/Universal, 2005]
Lil has been a rapper so long that when he claims he keeps his stash in his bitch's ass-crack you know he means for personal use even if he wants his public to think otherwise. When he turns "I trieda talk to him" into a catchy chorus you hope against the available evidence that he means "before I punched him in the nose" rather than "before I pulverized his uvula with this nine that you pussy MCs couldn't even afford." Love his beats, enjoy his flow, admire his wordplay, and wish he knew the value of money. B+

Dedication, Vol. 2 [Gangsta Grillz, 2006]
DJ Drama & Lil Wayne, "Sportscenter," "What U Kno," "Georgia . . . Bush" Choice Cuts

Da Drought 3 [Purloined Datadisc, 2007]
"How come every joint be on point like a harpoon/How come every bar stand strong like a barstool/How come every line is so raw you gon' snort two?" All right, so he's exaggerating--he wouldn't be the best rapper alive if he didn't. But from the off-time stammer that intros "Intro"--one of my favorite moments on one of my favorite tracks on the double-CD I now possess in two-and-a-half slightly different versions--rarely has pop excess been so ebullient, or do I mean pop ebullience been so excessive? When I says he loves to rhyme I don't mean he loves to spout verses--I mean "earphone," "real on," "in gear homes," "beer foam," "queer on," "Lear home," "Pam Grier on," "cashmere on," "Eric Dampier dog," "Bill Laimbeer on." And if they don't exactly rhyme, the best rapper alive will squoosh around until they do--that series proceeds from "grill on," "ceilin'," and "keep it real on." Does he make it up as he goes along, as is claimed? Could be, because his words have little to do with storytelling or any other species of coherence. They are among other things silly, which bodes ill for his reputation on the so-called street--the Reality Police know that his guns, cocaine, pimping, murdering, etc. are the formal play of a beat jacker who at 24 has spent half his life as a professional musician. Someday he may feel the need to re-establish his bona fides. Right now he has too much money. A

The Drought Is Over 2: The Carter 3 Sessions [mixtape4u.com, 2007]
Title and label approximate. I prefer the other version of this ad hoc collection in my possession even though it slices the ends off tracks--it's louder, with hotter unmatched songs. But I'm reviewing this because it's obtainable online even with mixtape4u.com now drawing a blank. Look above Wayne's name on the cover image for "The Empire," words that repeat in annoying voiceover ad infinitum; note also the Arabic three as opposed to the Roman numeral of the official release, which shares only a more casual "La La La" with this supposed leak. Skip it and you never hear the actually believable love plaint "What He Does," the in-their-face Beatles rip "Help," the celestially drugged-out "I Feel Like Dying," or, for instance, "I Know the Future": "Like a circle of knives/I got the sharpest flow around." Granted, maybe it's the jaggedest flow around, or the underground stream that slices through rock to move mountains. But superlatives apply. Snicker-snack, snicker-snack, he can't contain himself, the rare modern pop artist who says he's in it for money but always gives up the love rather than vice versa. A-

We the Best [RBC, 2007]
Exemplifying the pitfalls of the mixtape hustle is this item, which I bought blind from Amazon earlier in the year; it has now disappeared there, while mixtape king and sometime Weezy packager DJ Khaled's different CD of the same name remains on sale. Biggest problem with this one is, it isn't a Lil Wayne record. With four features and some cameos, he clocks fewer minutes on these 25 tracks than not just New Orleans rap daddy Birdman but Atlanta's carrot-nosed Young Jeezy and two of the dullest thugs in the lying business: college-educated Miami brutalist Rick Ross and elephant in the Bronx Fat Joe. Were Wayne to toss off "I am a professional/I will cut your testicles," he'd sound wicked sharp; when Fat Joe recites the line, of which he's plainly very proud, even the opera sample can't dispel the impression that he's hoping to find employment as a veterinarian's assistant. While everybody else's criminal boasts are delivered in bench-press mode, Wayne can't stop dancing. Sure he'll entertain at "The Crack House," but: "This is the crack house welcome to the crack house/Man I'm talking more parties than a frat house/This is the problem, this is not music/I hope you find it, 'cause he about to lose it." C-

Tha Carter III [Cash Money/Universal/Motown, 2008]
From the start you know this is no mixtape because it's clearer and more forceful. Every track attends to detail, with fun tricks like the chipmunk-chorused "Mr. Carter"'s sudden descent into screwed-and-chopped before Jay-Z comes in. But from the start Wayne worries about his image like a pop star, swearing he got shot for two songs running as if 50 was still worth a few bucks. Soon come the auto-T-Pained "Lollipop" follow-up "Got Money" and the soft slow jam "Comfortable," as pro forma as his laziest thug jobs back when he was little. So it's call the doctor--"Dr. Carter" himself, a rap-ologist complete with post-Yiddish "acchh" who will soon lose two impatient patients to their fakeness and his own do-as-I-say malpractice, followed by the space-tripping "Phone Home" and the N.W.A.-copping cop love of "Mrs. Officer." On "Let the Beat Build," Kanye compensates for "Comfortable" with an off-the-cuff fusion of grandiose and primitive. Also mixtape-worthy is the bonus disc, previously known as the download-only The Leak EP. Like the man says in the self-explanatory "I'm Me": "I know the game is crazy, it's more crazy than it's ever been/I'm married to that crazy bitch, call me Kevin Federline." A-

Lil Weezy-ana Vol. 1 [Purloined Datadisc, 2008]
Better Weezy talking tough for his crew than Weezy's crew talking tough for the world ("David Banner," "Amen"). *

The Leak 6 [free download, 2009]
"Pam Pam"; "Dick Pleaser" Choice Cuts

No Ceilings [free download, 2010]
"Mickey Mouse cheese, hip-hop Walt Disney [money-and-status, get it?], sheesh gosh Oshkosh B'Gosh [three kids under two, don't ask]/Smoking on that Bob Marley [gotta have kaya], listening to Peter Tosh [don't you watch his size, he's dangerous]." Pretty rich, yet far from the finest lines on his best mixtape since "The Carter III," and farther from the funniest. They're merely consecutive ones I could quote whole without distracting asterisks--the river of scat jokes, the garlands of garden tools, and the off-rhyme with "grandma's cookies" you'll have to transcribe on your own. Squinting at jail time and offering a welcome alternative to his underrated rock album, he recycles beats from Dirty South throwaways whose originals you need never think of again, shows Fabolous how fabulous the "Throw It in the Bag" remix might have been, holds his own with Jay-Z and the Black Eyed Peas, and eases the title onto every track. He believes you can fly. But not as much as he believes he can fly. If only he was right. A-

Rebirth [Universal/Motown/Cash Money, 2010]
So smart and scary about death as the flip side of ecstasy, so unperceptive and embarrassing about emo ("Drop the World," "American Star"). **

I Am Not a Human Being [Universal/Motown, 2010]
His throwaways beat their keepers, from solitary yet, but the true classics are all in the middle and the Young Money promos are filler ("I Am Not a Human Being," "Popular," "I'm Single") ***

I Am Not a Human Being II [Cash Money/Republic, 2013]
Oh no. He's rhyming about almost nothing but--yuck and/or bor-ing--sex. Hasn't he heard of artistic growth? Probably he has, actually--his star bubble is no more hermetic than anybody else's. In fact, I say it's progress that 11 of the 15 tracks here deploy the P-word the way God intended (as opposed to the p****-a**-n**** form, which I'd as soon he s***can myself). It suggests that, unlike most rappers and related pop lifeforms who brag about sex, Weezy really seems to savor it (especially--psst--oral--both ways!). Plus his posse cuts are finally showing some savor too, albeit not on the vestigial guns 'n' violence ones--the Gunplay collab is easily the dullest music here. Brightest: a pro-sex theme song featuring Drake and Future and called, officially, "Love Me." You want socially conscious themes? Really? A loose-lipped ship-sinker is what he was meant to be. A-

No Ceilings 2 [DatPiff download, 2015]
Saith Big Ghost: "Ayo I aint got nothin against Wayne but his crew is some garbage niggaz nahmean. That aint a dynasty or nothin nahmean. Thats a crew wit like 10 Memphis Bleeks namsayin." ("My Name Is," "Big Wings") ***

See Also