Lil Wayne
Tha Carter III


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
February 9th, 2011 | 545 replies | 13,096 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist


Man, how does this shit work? Tha Carter III is one of those albums that takes an unbelievable amount of liberty with its artistic and aesthetic choices yet comes out all the more “fun,” or “accessible,” or whatever it is that gets an album to one million copies within a week. Throw nearly any one of these tracks on at a party and you’ll get the same fevered rap-a-long response, but this is also a record that can be talked about on end for hours--what it means in the context of mainstream rap music, how it takes “mainstream rap music” and devours it and swallows it whole, and how, seven-figure sales notwithstanding, it’s really fucking weird. Which is to say: this is one of those instantly divisive records that manages to blur the dichotomy between the “mainstream” (i.e. something that sells a shitload) and “underground” (i.e. something that gets reassessed annually by us music nerds). Then we all realize that this the album with that “Lollipop” song on it, which once again begs the question: how does this shit work?

One of the most fun things about Tha Carter III is precisely that: attempting to work out both how it got so popular and how it became such a compulsively discussable record. The former, on first glance, seems a little easier: this album contains all those trendy “mainstream” things like Auto-tune and T-Pain and talking about bitches and money and bragging and whatnot. But it does something unforgivable on mainstream radio--it dares to be strange. Not only in Wayne’s distinctively bizarre vocal delivery, but also in the fact that one of the first lines on the album is about “shooting up [someone’s] grandmother” and getting “[his] baby motherfucked”. Haters will point to rap’s history of violence and claim that he's just riding another trend, but when have we heard someone go wild like this? Later in opener “3 Peat,” he talks about the impossibility of getting on “his level” (hint: you would need either a) a space shuttle or b) a “ladder that’s forever”). He ends the song by confirming that he’s himself, only times three. And that’s only in the first song. Wayne goes hard in a way that’s comparable to Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele (a rap album that, swear to God, has been lyrically compared to James Joyce), spitting out phrase after phrase of pure eccentricity while still keeping his flow tight and his meaning intact. He shows a pure love of just words and how they fit together and all the different hidden meanings he can fit into them. On a purely lyrical basis, Tha Carter III is one of the most consistently innovative and multi-layered rap albums on the market. Doesn’t really sound like a chart-topper anymore, does it?

In that respect, Tha Carter III is sort of a miracle: it’s way too weird and confusing to be on the mainstream rap charts--to be that record that everyone knows about--but it is anyway. This album was in opposition to much of modern rap but somehow became popular and then proceeded to completely consume the genre and change its direction. Just as The Marshall Mathers LP did in 2000, it became pop even though it was, in many ways, anti-pop in its unrelenting originality and fearlessness and weirdness. This is why I can actually appreciate Rebirth more than most people; it’s an artistic disaster but also a respectable gamble--it’s Lil Wayne doing whatever the fuck he wants regardless of “trends” (even if it happens to utilize a few of them). The thing that separates Rebirth from Tha Carter III, though, is that only one of them is a successful gamble. This album’s ridiculous nature somehow even more ridiculously lends itself to an awesome (and really fun!) listen that, as it jumps from the minimalist boom-bap of “A Milli” to the creative jazz flow of “Dr. Carter” to the chilled-out introspection of “Tie My Hands,” never falls on its tightrope walk. Even “Lollipop,” which becomes extremely enjoyable when you realize that its campy self-awareness is no less pleasurable than some of his more engrossing lyricism on the album (“Shawty said the nigga that she with ain't shit / Shawty said the nigga that she with ain't this / Shawty said the nigga that she with can't hit / But shawty I'm a hit it hit it like I can't miss” isn’t among his best lines, but it’s funny). Strange how it took those mainstream-lovers no time at all to realize this when it took most of us “music nerds” more than a year--some, sadly have yet to warm to it (and this whole album) at all.

This is all the good and “bad” (in quotes because, come on, stuff like “Lollipop” is awesomely bad) things about mainstream rap and even mainstream pop culture in general compacted into sixteen tracks of pure hyperactive brilliance that manages to fit in a nine-minute rant at the end. It’s a landmark of the genre and also is the genre and establishes its creator as the king of a movement he destroyed and then helped recreate, as well as as the craziest motherfucker to ever claim the throne of hip-hop. So, yes, he’s created an album both for the music nerds and the mainstream-ers, both for the now and for a long time to come. Tha Carter III is a contradictory, against-all-odds masterpiece, and Lil Wayne may never perfect this balance again. I sincerely question: will anyone?



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other reviews of this album
battleinthenorth (2)
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Crass, catchy, and... clever?...


Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2011



14986 Comments


1) wrote this a little quick and was sorta distracted

2) i think it repeats itself and is circular

3) whatever

Hawks
February 9th 2011



34450 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album rules.

Digging: Equilibrium - Erdentempel

DiceMan
February 9th 2011



7068 Comments


uhh...

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2011



14986 Comments


does this make you uncomfortable

qwe3
February 9th 2011



21353 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

YESYESYESYESYES

was going to do this now I don't have to

Romulus
February 9th 2011



8411 Comments


One of the most fun things about Tha Carter III is precisely that: attempting to work out both how it got so popular and how it became such a compulsively discussable record.


given this sentence i could predict a robertsona review
will read shortly

climactic
February 9th 2011



18339 Comments


pos

qwe3
February 9th 2011



21353 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

yeah the ladder that's forever line is so tight

qwe3
February 9th 2011



21353 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

last para 3rd line

creator as the king of a movement he destroyed and the helped create,


missing an "n" on the end of "then"

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2011



14986 Comments


for some reason i said this was eighteen tracks wtf lol

also fixed

Bulldog
February 9th 2011



3796 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

saw the 4.5 and immediately disagreed with your opinion.

gonna read the review now

couldwinarabbit
February 9th 2011



6996 Comments


Bulldog why do you suck so much?

Album fucking rules.

Bulldog
February 9th 2011



3796 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Album fucking rules.


Not really.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2011



14986 Comments


woah didnt expect that from couldwin tbh

couldwinarabbit
February 9th 2011



6996 Comments


I was more surprised I thought qwe was joking about it being good.

Bulldog
February 10th 2011



3796 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

was going to do this now I don't have to


please do anyways

(no diss to robertsona)

henryjohnson
February 10th 2011



299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is classic RAP!

qwe3
February 10th 2011



21353 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i don't understand why you don't like this tbh bulldog

DiceMan
February 10th 2011



7068 Comments


pink elephant

Tyrael
February 10th 2011



20737 Comments


Excellent review, album is great.



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