A child on the cover, a brat inside, Tha Carter IV is a deeply disappointing album from a lost boy too lazy to justify his place at rap's top.
The child version of Lil Wayne that stares obliviously out of the cover of Tha Carter IV is punctured with the superficial hallmarks of his adult self, carrying the taint of his tattoos and piercings and none of the sneer or swagger that we might associate with his later years. Just like the similar image used on another huge hip hop album this year, Goblin , I guess it’s meant to shock the consumer, reminding them that the darkness encapsulated in the album is coming from the mind of that sweet little boy. In Lil Wayne’s case, though, it’s barely shocking at all; most of the words of Tha Carter IV sound as though they came from the tip of a crayon, tittered from the mouth of a little boy who has just learnt how to use expletives. It’s not difficult to imagine that Lil Wayne, when making this album, might have been indulged by those around him, who were afraid to tell him that some of his latest lyrics are a little flimsy , or that wearing women’s jeggings to the VMAs might be a bad idea . Spoilt and petulant, Tha Carter IV hits all the notes of a breathless tantrum, and leaves just of much of an unsavoury impression.
All outer tattoos of swear words and no inner substance, the Lil Wayne we hear today can only tell us what he isn’t, and not what he is. The “F” of Weezy F is apparently not for “fear” or “flaw”, as he tells us in Nightmare of the Bottom , but for “fuck yourself”, which seems to be more of a facetious insult than an adjective. Wayne is unable to take anything seriously; he’ll hint at father issues, at a need to lash out, but these moments are devoid of power and become lost in the swarm of lazy puns that drag their feet through this album. An offhand mention of “I hope my sons choose wiser” goes nowhere near the depth of concern for future generations and genuine insight seen elsewhere in hip hop this year , and the distracting effect of lines like “real Gs move in silence like lasagne” makes the whole thing more of a bizarre cryptic crossword than an emotional journey.
Granted, hip hop seems to be going through something of a fun renaissance right now, with gimmickry and puns never far from chart-dominating rap songs, and parts of this album are extremely entertaining. Busta Rhymes is flawless and pauseless, hammering his verse in the Outro into your memory and your tastebuds leaving you expecting more. There’s some incredible production work, too, which makes tracks like 6 Foot 7 Foot and President Carter bouncy and listenable.
As a woman, though, I dislike this album, for the childlike ignorance with which it plays with the misogynistic tropes of hip hop, setting any small progress that might have been made back by about as far as Wayne’s appearance in leopard-print jeggings has set back his chances of ever being a fashion icon. The song How To Hate hits new levels of non-ironic stigmatising of women with its accusatory tone and chorus of “how to hate a bitch/ that owe you everything”, while the Drake and Rick Ross collaboration She Will , which is all about how easily a woman will sleep with a man for power and money, offers plenty of dating advice along the lines of “Eat her til she cry, call that ‘wine and dine’”. Further to this, as a human being and speaker of the English language, I dislike this album for its total disregard of context, purely playing for impact. The attempt Dwayne Carter has made, with Tha Carter IV to reclaim some of the crushing success of Tha Carter III falls flat; even the re-using of the child-as-cover-art motif serves to draw glaring attention to Wayne’s lack of new ideas. The difference comes in the truth of the songs, as the baby photo which stares from the cover of Tha Carter III stings the listener, who balls their fists through the album’s glorious, if spiteful material, while the child of Tha Carter IV only enhances the ridiculousness, clumsiness and ignorance of the rapper’s latest offering.