For me, Lil Wayne has always been an artist associated with change.

Weezy was rapping when I was asking for NSYNC CD’s for my birthday, blew up when I barely listened to rap and as I’ve expanded my musical horizons in college, he’s struggled to produce quality tracks.

Wayne went from the ultra-baggy gangsta era of the late 90’s and aughts, to “skinny pants and some vans,” by the end of the decade. When I was in high school, he started wobbling around on a skateboard in his music videos and with pro skateboarders, funded a skate park in New Orleans and erected his own clothing line “Truckfit”: I hated it because I was a “real skater.” He went from being a pre-teen rapper to a star with tatts covering his face. 

Lil Tunechi started off young with the group Hot Boys, released his first solo project Tha Block Is Hot way back in 1999, later followed by the first three of Tha Carter installments which brought him into his own and the spotlight (with some albums in between), and then a meteoric decline in Rebirth and Tha Carter IV.  

And let me reiterate that Tha Carter II and Tha Carter III were his prime. Tha Carter II showcases a Lil Wayne with more confidence and a fuller sound that built off of Tha Carter I, or maybe it’s just the improved production, which is evident from “Tha Mobb,” onward. 

Tha Carter III was his peak, with record first week sales, nearly two hours of music and a spectrum of hits. Songs like “Mr. Carter” and “A Milli” bring me back to sleepaway camp between eighth and ninth grade, as my bunkmates played them on repeat. Going back and listening to the album in recent years, I’ve found even more to love in “Dr. Carter,” “Mrs. Officer” and more.

Then, shit hit the fan. I remember sitting in my family friends’ basement, seeing and hearing the monstrosity that was “Prom Queen,” for the first time on MTV. I couldn’t stop laughing. The sub-par lyrics fused with rock-driven instrumentals showcased in “Best Rapper Alive” is one thing, but Tunechi strumming a guitar was too much.

And now we’ve been given Free Weezy. I was supposed to write on Tha Carter V a year ago this summer, but the album obviously hasn’t been released. Like Drake, Weezy is releasing Free Weezy as a way to break off from Birdman and the Cash Money label. 

Leading up to Free Weezy, I’ve been hearing that people have dug all the features he’s done this last year (think “Deep” by Big Sean, Drake’s “Used To,” and most recently “M’s” by A$AP Rocky) in addition to the Sorry 4 the Wait 2 mixtape, but for my taste they’re mediocre at best. It’s also not very hard to spark a little excitement when your last album was Tha Carter IV.

Back to Free Weezy.

I heard the pre-released single, “Glory” on Sirius radio over the weekend, and immediately thought — and therefore tweeted — “Oh shit, Weezy’s back.” 

Not so fast. 

It’s true, Weezy goes in on “Glory.” I love the “that’s private” side note after rapping about “flying without credentials” – that’s what I want to hear from Wayne, clever cockiness, not obnoxious noise and flat lyrics. I am disappointed to say the album loses steam before you pass the halfway point. The first five songs are all either gems or rock solid, but after that “Murda” is the only other worthwhile song. 

Wayne’s official farewell to YMCM, “He’s Dead,” is both reminiscent and finalizing. “My Heart Races On” is a catchy and a club-worthy tune. Like “London Roads,” it touches heavier subject matter, a rarity for Wayne. 

“London Roads” is a line drive of a track. The closing bars include content about Wayne accidentally shooting himself as a youngster and the officer who rushed him to the hospital passing recently. I know he’s mentioned the incident before, but one of the only wholly emotional songs I can remember from Weezy is “Something You Forgot,” which is about a different topic. 

“I’m That N****,” abruptly ends my brief ecstasy, believing that Weezy is back. It’s another one of those obnoxious “6 Foot 7 Foot” / “My Homies Still” / “A Milli” type beats that Wayne will drop every so often that gives me a headache while simultaneously making me want to bang my head against a wall until it stops. 

I understand the beat is strictly meant to blow your trunk subs to, but man, this one is plain bad. “Pull Up” and “Thinking Bout You” fall under a similar style and category. 

Whenever Tha Carter V drops, I hope it sustains the strength that the first five songs exhibit on this album. The record sounds a little different from Tha Carter III and I hope to see positive progress from the veteran rapper. If Lil Wayne can keep it up, I’ll never again have to manually axe a verse of his from a track because it was so bad, like I did to his feature in “Cyeah Cyeah Cyeah” by Gucci Mane.     

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