Review Summary: There are flames, and then there are flame retardants, and the two reactions cancel one another out on this effort. Regardless, this is an interesting record.
With all his recent commercial success (Tha Carter II
, Tha Carter III
, an assortment of hit singles,) legal troubles (he’s currently serving a twelve month jail sentence stemming from a gun charge and is facing various other charges) and consensus musical failure (Rebirth
) it’s easy enough to forget – or even disregard – Lil Wayne’s storied past. A teenage sensation with the Hot Boyz who went from having baby-dreads, undeniable hype, and a Lexus to having a flowing mane, a musical empire, and a Maybach in a decade. When he released his double-platinum record Tha Block Is Hot
in 1999, he was only 17, and although the motives for the hype were justified, the seven-digit sale figures were not.
In a word, this record can be described as “raw.” Even though (future) superproducer Mannie Fresh was not yet equipped with top-tier equipment, and hadn’t yet completely figured out the art of record producing, he still produces some top-notch tracks. Aside from a few misfires like “High Beamin.” “Young Playa,” “Drop It Like Is Hot” and “Remember Me,” Mannie Fresh’s production is the main force that ties this record together. The salsa-like composition of “Respect Us,” high, bursting horns and resounding percussion of “Loud Pipes” and the funk bass guitar echos and sorrowful piano sample of “F@ck Tha World” are just examples of highlight tracks that carry the weight of the shallow, inexperienced lyricism and unrefined delivery of Lil Wayne.
There’s a weason Wayne received his nickname later on in his career. The moniker of “Weezy” stemmed from his syrupy wheeze, which replaced his youthful nasal that he demonstrated on this album. And although that’s not a bad thing, combine it with his plain, generic flow and you have an utterly average MC. Moreover, his self-focused, materialistic musings and occasional nihilistic angst aren’t decorated with anything optimal, rendering his lyricism bland, but not to the extent that it’s noticeably bad.
Despite there being some minor filler (roughly half the album) that spans over the 70 minutes and 17 tracks, Lil Wayne certainly creates some blazing-hot tracks. The title track sold over 2 million units as a single – which is impressive, considering the radio standards of the 90’s are easily better than today’s – and not deservedly so. “Come On” has Lil Wayne pulling his best flow on the album off. And “Loud Pipes” showcases both a catchy beat and an infectious hook courtesy of Juvenile.
An open/shut case of hit-and-miss throughout its entirety, Tha Block Is Hot
not only demonstrated the talent and upside Lil Wayne possessed, but also the artistic mistakes he made. (Both the former and the latter were amplified later on in his career.) When you combine the two aforementioned elements together on one effort, you get a thoroughly average record. But, this album is interesting enough, if not for its hit singles, then for throwback experience and historic (if you could call it that) observation.