When two popular hip-hop artists release projects that are loosely part of a series, as it were, what does an internet critic do? If you write for Can I Kick It?, you go ahead and review both of them. After 7 years, Lil Wayne finally released Tha Carter V, and in the wake of the death of Mac Miller, the proclaimed inspiration for Logic’s Young Sinatra mixtape series, the latter decided to release the final chapter in the saga, YSIV.
Tha Carter V is most assuredly a different album than it would have been in 2014. We’ll never know how many Trinidad James verses got shelved, how many plays on words Weezy would have made on “Get Lucky,” or what he would have rhymed with ‘Bastille.’ That album might not have been very good, considering that That Carter IV incessantly trend-chased and Tha Carter V might have been much of the same. It’s fortunate then, that it has arrived after the four most trying years of Lil Wayne’s career because the time and struggle has caused him to be more revealing. After all this time, Lil Tunechi actually sounds like a human being.
It seems unnecessary to review the history that got Lil Wayne here. Suffice it to say, he is no longer the lunatic trailblazer rapping over everything from “Fireman” to something sung by Celine Dion. But more than any release since perhaps No Ceilings, Tha Carter V seems to capture the version of Lil Wayne that his fans most want to remember. Indeed, there is a little bit of every Wayne facet on the 23-tracklist. At times he’s open, word-drunk, and thrilled by the possibilities of his own voice and lyrics. He dials back his most obnoxious tics here too, like the overbearing Auto-Tune, the incessant dick jokes, and that hackneyed cackle that abraded exponentially with every crack. Even his lamer quips sometimes pay off unexpectedly. “Blunt big, big as Mama June off the diet plan/Smokin’ science lab/I should have a tattoo that say, ‘I’m not like my dad.’” And on “Mona Lisa,” he raps more ferociously than fans have seen in quite a while.
Tha Carter V seems to be the first time that Lil Wayne has allowed himself to fall behind the times, as it were, and it’s a refreshing, even if not the most rewarding Lil Wayne experience. The most electric moments of the album come when he engages in the lanes that he dominated in the past and foregoes venturing into territory he’ll never own. The most uncommon aspect of the album that turns out to be the most rewarding is the personal tone of the album. The final track, “Let It All Work Out,” shines new light on one of the most infamous Lil Wayne stories: the self-inflicted gunshot wound he survived when he was 12, which he always maintained was an accident. Here, he reveals that it wasn’t. “Too much was on my conscience to be smart about it/Too torn apart about it, I aim where my heart was pounding,” he raps. It’s a reveal that wouldn’t have worked nearly as well on an album that found him stuck in a label beef or contract dispute. It closes the record on a breath-stopping note, but a different kind than fans used to love. The most surprising takeaway from Tha Carter V isn’t that Weezy can still make music like this, but that after so many verses, there’s still plenty we don’t know about him.
Logic, on the other hand, has never been one that’s shrouded his past in mystery or shied away from appearing vulnerable. Of course, the Young Sinatra mixtapes aren’t the most notable mixtapes that have showcased this, but there are still moments, such as on “YSIV,’ where he talks about the inspiration for the tapes, his relationship to Mac Miller, and what these tapes mean to him. That’s about as soft as the mixtape YSIV gets, however.
“The boom bap’s back harder than ever,” he raps on “Wu Tang Forever,” a track that features every living member of the legendary hip-hop group. For the entirety of the project, Logic goes old school, every beat seemingly pulled out of a time capsule buried in his backyard from the late 1990s/early 2000s. Indeed, the snares are never absent for long, piano samples show up often, and “100 Miles and Running” features a breakbeat in which golden age b-boys would revel and rhyme cadences from Logic and guest Wale that will have old-school hip-hop heads nodding their heads for more than 6 minutes.
It’s not just the style or even the production that seems throwback here. “Street Dreams II” and “The Adventures of Stoney Bob” are tracks that more fittingly belong in decades past, but work extremely well here (especially the latter). The entire record stays dynamic in this way, weaving between hyper rapping, storytelling, odes to marijuana, and personal tracks like “ICONIC” that flame his haters over dominant beats. Not everything works perfectly here, but considering the amount of work in which Logic has engaged this year alone, it’s quite an accomplishment. It’s the kind of record that reminds those that didn’t like “Everybody” why they started listening to him in the first place.