I am a millennial who was raised on Cash Money Millionaires, Juvenile, B.G, Hot Boyz, The Big Tymers, and of course, Lil Wayne. I remember going to the corner store when I was nine years old and buying his first album, Tha Block Is Hot on cassette (remember those?), and jamming to it for a long time. Fast forward a few years and I bumped Tha Carter II in high school, copped his classics Tha Carter III and its unauthorized leak version, as well as Tha Carter IV. I own most of the Dedication series on my phone along with his greatest tape (IMO), 2009’s No Ceilings. On his Free Weezy Album, though, we meet a version of Wayne who still shows signs of genius but ultimately falls short.
At 32, Tunechi is a young OG who, at one point, was the hardest working man in hip-hop. His Young Money empire brought the world talents like Drake and Nicki Minaj. He was touring alongside his YM prodigy, Drizzy for a nostalgia fest of Dwayne Carter’s best. Unfortunately, the rap game has passed him by since “Bedrock” ruled radio. A lot of the tracks on FWA raises questions about whether Birdman delaying Tha Carter V was justified. The same problems that’s plagued his music since Dedication 4 (Note: I disagree with critics who call Tha Carter IV trash) are heard here, from “blah” songs to excessive random spewing of 1,001 ways he can compare himself to bodily waste functions and eat “pie,” and so-so collaborations. A collabo between Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa is supposed to be a stoner’s wet dream—like how “Steady Mobbin'” with Gucci Mane blessed the trap—but “Living Right” is a blasé rap duet.
Many of Wayne’s bars have devolved into a syrupy, random, uninspired mess that can range from uncreative to inept. One would think after the Emmett Till fiasco, he would be more careful with how he uses late legends in similes. On the disturbing “Psycho,” Weezy spits, “I thought I was whippin till that pu**y whipped me/I fell asleep in it like Whitney.” References from Tha Carter IV are subtly littered throughout the album, like on “Glory,” the first single that was released exclusively by TIDAL. “I push his a** in the wishin’ well, then wish him well,” he raps. Sound familiar, doesn’t it? The project suffers from tired concepts. Let’s be honest, who’s checking for a Lil Wayne love song like “Thinking About You” besides, maybe, Christina Milian? Especially when he sing-raps hot garbage lines like, “Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yay/Can’t trust these dog a** hoes today.”
Still, Lil Wayne proves to be a beast on the mic. “Glory,” while flawed, shows Wayne in top form, showcasing his sharp rhyme game: “Sippin’ syrup like ginger ale, but I’m the quickest snail/From here to hell, I hear them hail, I give them hell/I’m spittin’ hail, I’m Clinton, well, I did inhale/These niggas frail, they Chip and Dale.” With the posse cut “Murda” featuring Capo, Cory Gunz, and Junior Reid, the legendary reggae artist sets the tone with the hook as Weezy spits, “AK bullets move mountains/Break them bitches down to pebbles/That tough talk is like music to my ears so keep it acapella/Based on a true story we not worry you too worried/I faced my fears and told them motherfuckers y’all too gorgeous.” Flashbacks appear from happier times of Wayne a la “A Milli” and “6 Foot, 7 Foot.” Wayne proves that even on his worst day, he still means trouble for some of your favorite rappers.
FWA‘s other saving grace is the level of depth he goes into his personal life. The Kane Beats and Vinay-produced “He’s Dead” picks up where “CoCo” from Sorry for the Wait 2 left off in driving home the point that he is declaring his independence from Birdman and Cash Money Records. Replaced with fiery rage, though, is a somber track that really kicks off a musical funeral service to his Cash Money days as he repeats, “Rest in peace to the Cash Money Weezy, gone but not forgotten.” As previously shown on other songs like “Mirror,” “Tie My Hands,” and “Shoot Me Down,” Wayne lets us into his warped, troubled mind on occasion. “My Heart Races On” serves as the final sendoff, soundtracked by a traditional New Orleans brass band with rising singer Jake Troth on the folk-y hook. Even on “Without You,” featuring Rihanna’s “BBHMM” songwriter, Bibi Bourelly, could be interpreted as either a #message to his ex or Birdman.
Fortunately, Wayne also has fun this go-round. For the James Brown-sampled “I Feel Good,” Weezy does a solid job channeling the late soul singer’s uplifting spirit. While Wayne spits his usual randomness on “I’m That Ni**a,” the energy is on a 100 paired with a solid sixteen from HoodyBaby. The most unique collab comes courtesy of “London Roads,” which actually employs frequent Young Thug producer, London On Da Track. While some tracks may sound lazy to the ear, it also stays true to Weezy’s nonchalant creative approach to music. “Honestly, I do it with my eyes closed,” he recently told Nawlins Q93’s Wild Wayne. “I got a phone in one hand and a skateboard in the other.”
FWA probably wasn’t meant to be a hip-hop classic, but it’s an okay display of his talents. While majority of the album revisits topics Wayne has touched on before, there are glimmers of the Weezy F. Baby of yesteryear. As a new chapter unfolds in Wayne’s professional life, his music reflects that he still gives zero f**ks about a Baby beef or even a Young Thugga. On the FWA closer, Tune sums up his top priority on the hook: “But I got to get that paper baby…/ ‘Cause this game f**k everybody.” Let’s hope he breaks free (f’real) on Tha Carter V. —Mark Braboy (@DRD_Poetry17)