NOW Magazine - - MUSIC -

LIL WAYNE Tha Carter V (Young Money) Rat­ing: NNN It’s hard to be­lieve it’s been five years since Lil Wayne’s last re­lease (I Am Not A Hu­man Be­ing II), and seven since his last en­try in the Carter se­ries. So much has hap­pened since then: his pro­teges Drake and Nicki Mi­naj have blown up more and more each year, and scores of Wayne’s spir­i­tual dis­ci­ples re­leased chart-top­ping mu­sic with war­bling out-of-tune vo­cals – the kind that Young Money’s golden child was ma­ligned for when he strapped on a gui­tar and gur­gled away. Af­ter prison, con­tract dis­putes, drug is­sues and a pub­lic rec­on­cil­i­a­tion hug with men­tor/fa­ther fig­ure Bird­man, Weezy’s back. And it’s fine.

Tha Carter V is a few things at once: an al­bum that can de­liver high-con­cept songs about some­one who tricks women into rob­bing un­sus­pect­ing suit­ors, an up­lift­ing story of a rap­per fall­ing into the pit traps of fame and climb­ing out, and proof that Wayne can meld with and im­prove on con­tem­po­rary hip-hop flows.

The last point is the most son­i­cally in­ter­est­ing on the al­bum. Hear­ing such an in­flu­en­tial rap­per take on Ken­drick La­mar-style histri­on­ics is im­pres­sive, but on an al­bum where La­mar does his most the­atri­cal verse on crime tale Mona Lisa, Wayne doesn’t sound in­no­va­tive. Opener Don’t Cry makes a solid first im­pres­sion, although the pres­ence of the late do­mes­tic abuser XXXTenta­cion may sit badly with some lis­ten­ers.

Even with all of the guests (Travis Scott, Snoop Dogg, Ashanti and oth­ers), Wayne han­dles him­self. Oc­ca­sion­ally his lines re­flect the flow of his la­bel coun­ter­parts – the clas­sic Young Money trio of Wayne, Drake and Mi­naj – and although it’s hard to tell who in­flu­ences whom, it adds to the al­bum’s scat­tered feel.

Af­ter the long wait it’s not a dis­ap­point­ing ef­fort, but it’s all over the place. Top track: Ded­i­cate NICK FLANA­GAN

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