THE TOPIC: LIL WAYNE'S THA CARTER IV

THE CONSENSUS PANEL: Kathy Iandoli (HipHopDX.com), Confusion (PigeonsAndPlanes.com), Dallas Penn (Dallaspenn.com), ego trip (egotripland.com), John Gotty (The Smoking Section), Andrew Barber (FakeShoreDrive.com), Karen Civil (KarenCivil.com), Combat Jack (The Source), and Noah Callahan-Bever (Complex).

AVERAGE RATING: 

See mini-reviews from each panel member below...

PANELIST: Kathy Iandoli, HipHopDX
RATING: 
REACTION: With every Carter release, I always feel like someone needs to re-explain Lil Wayne to me. This time, however, that’s not necessary since most of Tha Carter IV has already been previously released and digested. The most difficult thing to get past with this album is the fact that Wayne is actually lucid. In the past, most of Weezy's charm has been due in part to drug-induced slurs where you pocket a few bars and just nod along to the rest. On IV, Wayne is sober (well off sizzurp at least), so you’re actually able to catch most of what he’s saying. He’s not saying much, but the punchiness of tracks like the already heard “6 Foot 7 Foot” and “John” coupled with the darkness of “She Will” and “It’s Good” (that Jay-Z diss went right over my head) make for a decent album. Favorites are “Interlude,” which is more for Tech N9ne and Andre3000, along with “Outro,” which is less for Shyne. One thing Wayne succeeds at tenfold is crafting albums where anyone can enjoy at least one song. That’s a difficult feat to accomplish, but every time a mom sings along to “How To Love,” Wayne wins all over again.

PANELIST: ego trip, egotrip
RATING: 
REACTION: Theoretically, Tha Carter IV should be 2x's as good as Tha Carter II except, of course, when Tha Carter IV = Tha Carter III + Tha Carter I. Or when Tha Carter IV = Tha Carter II - Tha Carter I - Tha Carter I, making it more like Tha Carter Zero (which Tha Carter IV is like at times). "Intro/Outro" + "Nightmares of the Bottom" + "She Will" + "It's Good" + Bun B + Nas + Busta Rhymes + Jadakiss + Andre 3000 - 1/2 Drake = prime Tha Carter IV numbers. (BTW, Shyne Ross is exponentially entertaining.) Tha Carter IV - 4 ("How to Love" - "How to Hate" - "So Special" - "Mirror"), or - T-Pain - John Legend - Bruno Mars = 3.5 but + 4 = 2.5 or 3 if you're feeling charitable. But at the end of the abacus, if you ask us, Tha Carter IV sounds half as good as Tha Carter VIII will.

PANELIST: Karen CivilKarenCivil
RATING: 
REACTION: I don't care if my favoritism shows on this. All the work I put into getting a majority of these features is unexplainable. It's like a parent seeing there child walk for the first time. Wayne is planking on the throne first week.

PANELIST: Dallas Penn, DallasPenn
RATING: 
REACTION: I have to admit that I never understood the fascination most rap fans seem to have with Lil' Wayne. Yeah, he was what's next back in 2006 but that seems like an eternity ago. The dude's rhymes never became more compelling to me than simple contemporary pop drivel. He wasn't spitting timeless lines or transcendent concepts. I hope he doesn't name another record Carter. This record gets the same rating I gave Watch The Throne, but I'm still playing songs off WTT. I gave WTT a 2.5 because the two artists who made that album could have done better, not so much for Tha Carter 4. This is the best that Lil' Wayne can do for rap.

I'd rather hear Wayne on a rock album at this point. I mean, when the two best songs on YOUR own album don't have you on the tracks I'd say that it's a wrap for Wayne's rap career.

PANELIST: Andrew Barber, Fake Shore Drive
RATING: 
REACTION: Tha Carter IV is mediocre. It's not great, it's not terrible, it's just....there. I don't get the vibe Wayne even enjoyed making his album. It feels like he was just going through the motions here. Half baked concepts like "Abortion" get the gas face, plus letting Shyne rap on your album is a total fail. I've also grown tired of Wayne's patented formula: “I'm higher than ___,” “I'm the shit like ___,” “Weezy F Baby and the F is for ___.” Maybe it's his sobriety or perhaps he's sportscastin' too much, but C4 just feels half-assed. Sonically the album is a mess, and completely devoid of his New Orleans roots. Granted he hasn't tinkered with the traditional CMB sound since the mid-aughts, but would it hurt to lock in with Mannie Fresh for one track? Some of us want that old thing back (It's a shame a vast majority of Wayne's fans weren't even alive when he was running from police helicopters in 5XL tall tees). C4 does have its moments, though: "Nightmares of the Bottom," "It's Good," and "President Carter," are all pretty great records. But at this point in Wayne's career, I just expected more.

PANELIST: John Gotty, The Smoking Section
RATING:  
REACTION: Something's gone awry in Wayne's world and it shows on C4. Maybe it's the lost fire. He has been rapping since he was young teen and now he's a label owner with two superstars with great earning potential. Perhaps the mix of time spent in the clink and sobriety zapped a bit of his creative energy. Like any good artist, Weezy's usually able to reinvent himself with each outing or at least attack the mic with a sense of fervor but he falls short on C4. Normally sharp and leading the pack, Wayne gets outpaced by the featured acts each time (minus "It's Good," obviously), out-Draked by Drake while trying to borrow his protege's style on "She Will" and his legs seem a little wobbly on solo tracks.

Since he just got out of jail, maybe just enjoy his time touring and enjoying the fruits of his labor instead of recording. Or maybe he just needs drugs. Whatever the case, I don't expect Wayne to stay down long but he needs to regain his focus.

PANELIST: Confusion, Pigeons & Planes
RATING: 
REACTION: Wayne’s got a charisma that’s only grown bigger and at times more cartoonish over the years, but that’s what makes him so entertaining. He’s constantly going through creative phases and experimenting with new directions. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but without taking those risks he’d probably just be known as the pint-sized rapper in the background with the frog-throated catchphrases.

The thing is, Tha Carter IV is a safe album. Over the years we’ve seen the many sides of Wayne through his mixtape spitting, pop song crooning, and best rock star imitation. For better or worse, we know what he’s capable of. On C4, those many sides are watered down and jumbled together. There are a few hard-hitting beats matched with decent deliveries, an out-of-place pop song that was destined for the charts from the beginning, a T-Pain feature that could have been released any time in the past five years, and a handful of songs that kind of sound like other songs.

The album is not horrible, but for a guy that’s used to getting a reaction, this effort seems very underwhelming. Oh, and the metaphors? Cringe.

PANELIST: Combat Jack, The Source
RATING: 
REACTION: I went from hating on Lil Wayne to accepting him for the talent he is. I saw him live a few weeks ago at Summer Jam and acknowledge the fact that he’s a star. Electrifying stage presence, tremendous work ethic, an amazing eye for recruiting talent (Drake, Nicki Minaj), but I’m still not convinced by the quality of his music. I listened to Tha Carter IV album several times for this review and it was absolutely difficult. The production was tight but with an annoying whiny voice and weak rhyme structure, I won’t be listening to C4 again. Yeah he’s got some witty punchlines, but them shits is not fulfilling. NaS, Bun B, Tech N9ne, Busta Rhymes, and Rick Ross all murdered him on his own shit. Casually. Sonically, C4 was cRap fast food. Tasty to some as it goes down but with little to no nutritional value. Like McDonalds (I don’t eat that crap either), C4 will probably sell like crazy, but just like you can’t call McDonalds fine dining, you can’t ever convince me that Wayne’s a great rapper. Not shitting on what the masses want, but if he’s your greatest rapper alive, you can have that.

PANELIST: Noah Callahan-Bever
RATING: 
REACTION: Lil Wayne can rap exceptionally well. He moves over beats with confidence and ease. Sometimes he says inspired things, too. It’s fun to listen to. But it takes more than that to sustain interest over a long player. It takes memorable beats. It takes dynamic song writing. It takes personal revelation. It takes cohesive vision. And of course Wayne has managed to do all of these things, to one degree or another, on parts I to III of the Carter saga. However, with volume IV several of these elements seem to be missing. His rappity raps are okay, making songs like “Megaman”, “Intro”, and “President Carter” fine, but unexceptional relative to the extensive body of songs and freestyles Wayne has dedicated to rapping-his-ass-off. The beats are universally all right—heavy on 808 bass, tinny snares, and ticking hi-hats—but rarely rousing and definitely far from remarkable. The concepts are very light touch, as well, aside from the nice, noteworthy “Nightmares From The Bottom” and the insipidly pop “How To Love.” Somewhat inexplicably he barely even touches on his 8 month incarceration, which was obviously the defining experience between this Carter and the last, suggesting that perhaps the LP was rushed out before he could settle his thoughts. Oh, and the guests featured are just kinda all over the place, exemplified by the “Interlude” which features killer verses from Tech N9ne and Andre3000.... BUT NO WAYNE!!!??!!

All in all, Tha Carter IV is okay, certainly with moments people will enjoy, but it does not demonstrate the depths of Wayne’s talent, and ultimately does little to add to Wayne’s legacy.