Just as we here at 2020k were about to make a post about Jay-Z and Kanye West’s album “Watch The Thrown” knocking Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” record of highest selling debut record on iTunes with 290,000 copies sold, Lil Wayne releases Tha Carter IV, eight months after it’s first single was released, and shatters that record at a stunning 300,000+ and ending it’s first week sales at 960,000+, landing it at number one on the Billboard charts.
It comes as no surprise that a record by an artist of this caliber has legions of fans rushing out to purchase the disc, but it’s also refreshing to see that records by Adele, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z & Kanye West, And Lil Wayne reviving the music scene and showing that it’s still possible to push records in the 21st century of digital music. How that’s done is a topic for another day, but for now, let’s dive into Tha Carter IV, 2020k’s first rap album review, shall we?
Mainstream rap isn’t known for it’s use of live instrumentation, and Tha Carter 4 is no exception. The majority of the record is comprised of sequenced percussion samples and sinister sounding VST synthesizers, which sounds quite nice on tracks like “Nightmares From The Bottom,” a mid-tempo track with very nice piano and string sounding instrumentation over an 808 kick drum. It’s one of the only songs on the record that seems to carry a slight feeling of optimism, especially the line “Don’t call me sir, call me survivor.” Where there are nice displays of production, it’s the tracks like “MegaMan” and “John” that have a cheapened production sound that unfortunately hinders the ability of the tracks to live up to their full potential.
“Blunt Blowin'” is also a huge offender, a display of weird mixing and mastering skill, sounding more muddy and mid-range sounding, placing an extreme emphasis on the vocals, having them sit above almost everything in the mix. It’s a nice track in theory, but poorly executed. Especially the cheap Synth that takes the place of strings and brass instrumentation and sounds almost like preset and quick MIDI sequencing than time taken to get it right.
A more middle ground display of production skill comes from the Angel “Onhel” Aponte and Infamous production “President Carter,” which contains a unique sample of Jimmy Carter taking an oath. It’s a safe track, classic, simplified Hip-Hop, with a creative use of ending each verse with the Jimmy Carter sample, stereo delayed, and purposefully clipped sounding, giving more depth to the sample. Toward the end of the track, Wayne’s vocals become more narrow-band Equalized sounding to match President Carter’s sample, and so they become one. A nice way to come down and end the track.
There are still instances of pure brilliance, especially on the track “So Special” – a track that features John Legend seductively delivering one of his best features, asking us to spend the night with him while synth-strings are smartly programmed over a realistic sounding keyboard and lush instrumentation that lends itself as one of the more melodic and intricate structures of music on Tha Carter IV.
“Abortion” is another winner that features guitars, keys, and a choir, all heavily compressed to fit the aggressive and loud attitude of the entire record and is another complex track for it. With a stormy opening that has Weezy engineered to sound warped, slurred, emotional, and sad that fades to a more dry vocal for a more direct delivery and some pretty neat sounding digital artifacts during the hook, it’s one worthy of the repeat button.
Guitars span from the squashed sound of “Abortion” and flourish beautifully in a more stereo spread image and pop-friendly sound on the album’s most successful single to date, “How to Love.” It’s an unexpected twist on the record that finds vocals with more Equalization focused on the higher frequencies to give the song a more vulnerable emotion than the mid and low range energy that’s become standard in Hip-Hop/Rap mixing. There’s also delay on the end of a lot of the phrases, that, if you listen closely to the entirety of Tha Carter IV, is featured on almost every song on the record. Vocally, we also find Wayne once again utilizing his signature pitch-corrected singing that surprisingly sounds more honest and genuine than the robotic and soulless approach T-Pain takes on it’s opposite, “How to Hate.”
Even though “How to Hate” has some very nice sounding bass riffs and melodies, it’s an Autotune gimmick that’s quickly faded from the music scene. T-Pain’s main vocal tracks have the plug-in set so fast that the digitization from note to note sometimes makes the more laid back track sound extremely busy and at times, actually off-key (a bit ironic for a plugin that’s supposed to fix such issues). Interestingly enough, it’s the layers and layers of harmonies throughout the track that are less affected by the Antares plugin that breathe a bit of fresh life into the track and save it from complete, super-vocally compressed, signature T-Pain’d disaster. Wayne also provides a melancholic verses and delivers the clever “Don’t fuck up with Wayne because when it Waynes, it pours” and “Well, I guess I’m single for tonight/and you can sit right on my middle finger for the night.”- You tell ’em, Weezy!
Critics have slammed the record for featuring vocals by Lil Wayne that are less than enthusiastic, but when listened to in the right light, there’s a reason why they’re slower and sleepy-eyed sounding: it’s a contrast to the constantly aggressive and sly approach and an attempt at artistic growth with more diverse delivering.
The best part about Tha Carter IV isn’t the production, it’s Lil Wanye himself. There is absolutely no dispute when it comes to the fact that Weezy F Baby has a firm grasp on comedic, deep, and downright attention grabbing lyricism. In fact, the album’s lead single, “6 Foot 7 Foot” contains zingers in almost every line of the track. We’ve comprised a list of our top five at the bottom of this review, but we urge you to listen to the entire track! It’s definitely one of the stand out singles and song of the year.
And if the lyrics and extremely strong, confident, and front-forward vocal delivery of the track aren’t enough, producer Bangladesh gives the Harry Belafonte track “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” a creative and fresh twist, when it’s sampled, providing the vocal sampled musical melody with an aggressive beat on top for Wayne to ride his triumphant lyrical wave on.
Several of the bonus tracks are also worth checking out. “I Like The View” features a more grittier version of the synth that sounds like the roaring one featured on Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” over top of a standard rap beat and “Mirror,” featuring Bruno Mars gives our ears yet another semi-pop sounding track, with lush vocal hums, drenched in reverb.
“Two Shots” is the tracks most spacious track and benefits greatly from it. At times, it’s bass, a low synth, and snare. Everything has breathing room and everything sounds great in the mix. Then again, Diplo produced the track along side DJA and he’s consistently good at ensuring a pleasant sonic experience (some of you may remember the interview where he stated that Sri-Lankian rapper M.I.A. didn’t care about the quality of the music on her latest record, MAYA). Target exclusive track “Novacane” featuring Kevin Rudolf also benefits from space.
All in all, Tha Carter IV is an alright record. A nice mix of alright tracks, brilliant tracks, and some “How did that get on there?” questions. But, don’t question the lyrics on this record. As Lil Wayne put it himself, “Weezy F Baby and the F ain’t for flawed.” (From “Nightmares From The Bottom”.)
Album rating: 3.5/5
2020k’s “6 Foot 7 Foot” Top 5 Zinger List
5. “Life is the bitch, and death is her sister/sleep is the cousin, what a fuckin’ family picture/You know father time, we all know mother nature/it’s all in the family, but I am of no relation.”
4. “No matter who’s buying, I’m a celebration/Black and white diamonds – fuck segregation.”
3. “I lost my mind, it’s somewhere out there stranded/I think you stand under me if you don’t understand me/Had my heart broken by this woman named Tammy/but hoes gon’ be hoes, so I couldn’t blame Tammy”
2. “You niggas are gelatin, peanuts to an elephant/I got through that sentence like a subject and a predicate”
1. “Bitch, real G’s move in silence like lasagna.”
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