It’s arguably Lil Wayne’s peak, the commercial and creative burst that the 2000s music industry needed, and the blueprint for most of modern rap. From “Lollipop” to “A Milli” to “Let The Beat Build” to “Mr. Carter,” Tha Carter III contains songs that not just are amongst Lil Wayne’s best and still slap ridiculously hard, but also ones that created a foundation for future artists to build on.
Selling over a million copies in the first week (the first of any album following the rise of Napster, LimeWire, and iTunes, and the last rap record—excluding streams—to do so), combined with previously unreached heights of critical acclaim for Wayne’s work, bestowed instant classic status on Tha Carter III, setting it as a benchmark for success in rap.
While the record is perhaps a few songs too long, it represents the solidification of Lil Wayne’s status as a hip-hop legend not only due to its album sales, but also to the artistry present throughout. With beats ranging from classic looped drums to spacey, weird alien music to a track once intended for the Shrek 3 soundtrack, the sounds on the album are strikingly different from those that were present in mid-2000s rap, and some of the lyrics are so out there and freeform that the bulk remain unexplained on Genius to this day.
While Wayne will be celebrating the 10th anniversary at Lil Weezyana Fest this August, we’re preceding that commemoration with one of our own: ranking the tracks on the Tha Carter III. For the purposes of this ranking, we stuck with the original tracklist and pretended the god-awful “Pussy Monster” (which replaced “Playing With Fire” on new pressings) doesn’t exist. Each track, beginning to end, contains its own story, explained and detailed here for your reading pleasure.