A once-in-a-lifetime talent, the 36-year-old rapper has regularly proven himself to be one of the most talented, effervescent and (thankfully) prolific artists of all time. Born in the impoverished Hollygrove neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, Wayne defied his bleak odds of becoming rich for two simple reasons: talent and hunger. He found his calling at a young age and has been in the limelight ever since. Wayne’s path to success has always been fraught with chaos and calamity; as such, his new album poignantly portrays how living your dreams and struggling with adversity can exist in tandem. In short, C5 is an eclectic hip-hip symphony depicting the pleasures and pain of the self-proclaimed “best rapper alive.”
On C5, Wayne is nimble, confident, and sharp as nails. His delivery remains unparalleled, and (as always) Wayne often interlaces his rapier wit with X-rated innuendoes. C5 is set most ablaze when Wayne spits stream-of-consciousness word salads at machine-gun pace, reminiscent of his hottest verses on No Ceilings, Dedication 4 and 5, and other installments on his epochal mixtape run.
During “Let It Fly” (feat. Travis $cott), Wayne feverishly gets it in, as if he’s challenging the listener to keep up the pace. On “Uproar”, Tunechi attacks the beat from 2001’s “Special Delivery” by G Dep (reworked by Swizz Beatz) with a more relaxed pace, but his rhymes still hit with surgical precision. I should mention that, as a die-hard fan, I found the “Uproar” track to be brilliantly ironic, considering that Wayne remarked, “I don’t even like this beat,” before rhyming over it on the second verse of Dedication 4’s “Green Ranger.”
Tha Carter V was clearly crafted to be an all-inclusive showcase of many styles. It includes nods to various stages of Wayne’s development and every genre of American hip-hop music, including several cameos. “Dope New Gospel” features a chorus from his old flame, singer Nivea. “Start This Sh*t Off Right” reunites him with Mannie Fresh and Ashanti. “Dedicate” skillfully fuses screw music, reggae, and a shout-out from a beloved former U.S president. “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Can’t Be Broken,” “Famous” and “What About Me,” are all quality tracks, but situating them in the same six-song stretch of drippy ballads makes you want to hit the “shuffle” button to mix up the tempo.
A standout moment is “Mona Lisa” (feat. Kendrick Lamar). The rap duo weaves together a dark (but wryly amusing) storytelling track about fatal attraction. Wayne initially sets the scene about the deadly succubus, and Kendrick brings it home by seamlessly playing both the narrator and the target. The two have a synergistic vibe and prove that a harmonious rap collaboration always creates a sum greater than its parts. “Hittas” and “Demon” are also great lyrical workouts, but, for whatever reason, they got pushed to the back half of the album, which means that less intrepid listeners will have tuned out by the time they appear.Beneath the ghoulish gallows humor and dizzying wordplay, C5 is an album about adversity, perseverance, and safeguarding one’s success at all costs. Wayne has had several years to reflect since his last album, and, as a result, his latest effort is markedly emotional. For example, the album opens with a heartfelt message from Wayne’s mother, Jacida Carter. On “I Love You Dwayne” she proclaims, “Dwayne, mama proud of you. You done came so far.” Her presence on the album is significant, particularly given the album’s cover photo and Wayne’s searing revelations in the final verse of the closing track, “Let It All Work Out.” Furthermore, C5 features moments of introspection interlaced throughout. On the guitar-laced trap ballad “Mess,” Tunechi laments about his life being a whirlwind of missteps and madness—and he’s surprisingly melodic while doing so. Tha Carter V can’t compare to the first three Carter installments, but it doesn’t need to. Back then, Lil Wayne the rapper hungered to be the biggest hip-hop performer in the world, and he succeeded. Now, he just wants to spit tracks with his unique venom and passion to a public that still craves his art. Let us all hope that there is still much more to come.