You shouldn't be surprised that Weezy's new single is fire. He's been on one all year.

A little past midnight on May 3, rap’s most powerful force, YMCMB, let loose a quick torrent of music featuring its three biggest stars. One song saw Nicki Minaj continuing what many see as her road to redemption with a fun, bouncing track called “Yasss Bish,” produced by and featuring the phoenix-like Soulja Boy. Soulja, who earlier this year helped Drake bring in the New Year with a remix of “We Made It,” seems to be YM’s secret conduit to raucous street singles.

The other track, “Believe Me,” is the first single from Lil Wayne’s forthcoming 11th solo album, Tha Carter V. A haunting number produced by Boi-1da and Vinylz, “Believe Me” features Drake, who delivers two excellent verses and a great hook. As is his won’t, Drake takes time to address his detractors as well as his success (“Doesn’t matter, could be winter or the summer/ On the road, I do One Direction numbers”).

What’s most notable, however, is how his first verse pays homage to the Young Money leader (“It’s been me and Young Tune from the rip/ That’s the man that put me in the shit”) and remembers Wayne’s time away from the game when he was locked up at Rikers for a gun charge. Much like when Birdman gave way for Wayne’s verse on “We Takin’ Over” back in 2007, Drake rolls out the red carpet for King Carter’s return.

And return he has.

As with fans of most legacy artists (15 years in, it’s safe to call Wayne a legacy artist), Lil Wayne fans are split into two camps: Those who believe the artist has fallen off and is unable to produce work as good as their old stuff; and those who believe that, while the artist is not as good as they were in their prime, they’re still producing quality material. When it comes to Weezy, most people have fallen into the former. He knows it, too. That’s why in August of last year, when he wasn’t nominated for an MTV Video Music Award or a BET Award for his 2013 album I Am Not a Human Being II, he took to Twitter to apologize to his fans and promise he would make better music.

It didn’t take long for him to fulfill that promise. In December of '13, Wayne opened Chris Brown’s latest single “Loyal” with a tidy verse featuring a succession of memorable lines like “Why give a bitch your heart when she would rather have a purse?” Then, in early 2014, Wayne popped up on the remix to YG’s hit single “My Nigga” and delivered a verse that was less restrained with lines that harkened back to his ’07-’09 prime years: “I kill for my motherfuckin’ niggas, vice versa/ Eyes red from the kush I blew, white person.” Couldn’t you hear a younger Tune spitting this?

But, I know what you’re thinking: A few hot guest verses doesn’t mean Wayne’s back. You’re right. I was hesitant to believe Weezy really returned to form until Young Money dropped its second compilation album Young Money: Rise of an Empire in early March. Out of the 12 tracks on the surprisingly succinct album, Wayne only appeared on three: the opener “We Alright” with Birdman and Euro, the ridiculously fire “Senile” with Tyga and Nicki Minaj, and a solo joint called “Moment.”

Let’s skip right to “Senile.” If you needed anymore proof that Young Money was the best crew out, this song should silence your doubts. The beat is stupid, the video is great, and Nicki and Wayne rap their asses off. For the first time in a long time, Wayne sounds like he’s having a blast in the booth. I would list some hot lines, but that would wind up with me copying all the lyrics from the verse. Just watch and listen below.

 

That said, the real test was to see if Wayne could hold down an entire song by himself without making anyone roll their eyes or laugh—not with him, but at the ridiculousness of his efforts. That’s where “Moment” comes in. Over a beat by "Pop That" producer Lee on the Beats, Wayne fires off hot line after hot line after hot line (“We got pure coke, brand new birds, we get ‘em as soon as they hatch slime!”) and connects them with a hook that gets me almost as amped as “Big Homie.”

It ain't a moment 'till I make it
Have my cake and eat it too, I want a bakery
And see, lately?
All I've been doin' is celebratin'
Don't even know what I'm celebratin'
I know why you ain't celebratin', 'cause you ain't sellin' nathin’

Dope rhymes and beats aside, this song shows Wayne is well aware that he’s expected to murder the game again. “Nigga, this Tha Carter V, I feel like, I feel like I’m on my final caper,” he raps towards the end of the song. That's not the first time Wayne’s mentioned that this may be his final album. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t bet against him going out on a very, very high note. If you’d been paying attention, you wouldn’t either.

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