Label: Young Money Entertainment/Republic Records/Universal Music Group
Released: September 28

“I’m still in this bitch,” Lil Wayne says during Tha Carter V’s final track, “Let It All Work Out.” When it became clear that C5 was actually happening, many rap fans (myself certainly included) had their doubts that would be the case. After all, the album had been in limbo for years—long enough for me to write two separate timelines at two different jobs about its gestation. After the disappointment that was 2011’s Tha Carter IV, the chances of Wayne making a compelling album out of six years of false starts and legal battles didn’t seem high. But somehow he did it.

While Tha Carter V has a few too many draggy ballads and ’90s rap remakes among its 23 tracks, it’s an overall solid effort by a man who at one point called himself the best rapper alive with enough gusto that tons of people believed it. The album has a fair amount of moments like “Dedicate” and “Let It Fly,” where Wayne recaptures the what-will-he-possibly-say-next magic of his peak. He sounds comfortable in other modes beyond Mixtape Weezy, too. There’s the narrative of “Mona Lisa” and the existential questioning of “Open Letter.” And then there’s “Famous,” where Wayne attempts to reckon with his substantial artistic legacy in light of his repeated promises that C5 would be his last album. But, the sentiments of that song aside, Tha Carter V makes it clear that Lil Wayne is indeed still in this bitch, and not likely to go away anytime soon. —Shawn Setaro