In 2006, Nas released an album titled Hip Hop is Dead, a proclamation solely dedicated to bringing back much-needed talent amongst the genre. The New York rapper concluded that America’s voice had vanished during a time of political disconnect (the same could be said about today), and hip hop received an opportunity to make a statement. Luckily, the message was loud and clear, and two years later, Lil Wayne staked his claim as one of the best in the game with his critically acclaimed, Tha Carter III.
Wayne’s sixth studio album encompassed everything Nas could hope for, shrewdly twisting and turning through everything the genre should embody. The New Orleans provocateur rejuvenated a country fresh off the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.
The record functioned as an outlet for Wayne to utilize all of his greatest strengths, whether it be tongue twisting metaphors about money and girls (“A Milli”), witty bars representing a subtle clap-back at Nas’s previous statements (“Dr. Carter”), or heartfelt verses comprising of lines dealing with tragedy and loss (“Tie My Hands”).
People claim that Tha Carter III is Wayne’s best studio project he’s put out, most likely because it’s the most “Lil Wayne” record he’s ever released. The classic track, “A Milli,” features outrageous lyrics, all in one freestyle (“I’m a young money millionaire, tougher than Nigerian hair/”I’m a venereal disease, like a menstrual bleed through the pencil in the tablet of my mind”). For people who don’t know Lil Wayne’s music, this song sums up his artistic style perfectly.
The track, “3Peat” acted as an indicator for how glorious this album eventually would become, with “Mr. Carter” re-introducing Weezy’s legend back to the forefront of rap. The latter single functioned as a reminder to how impactful Wayne and Jay-Z (who gave his own verse on the song) were at the time of this release.
Wayne benefitted from an exceptional balance of comedy, insightfulness, and debauchery, all culminating into a project filled with versatility from someone who’s recently lacked it over the past five or so years.
“Dr. Carter” and “Mrs, Officer” served as amusing sides to the album, where Wayne attempts to save rap patients from falling out of their careers on the former, and seeking a police officer who happens to be a woman on the latter. Talib Kweli even claimed that “Dr. Carter” was the greatest rap song he’s ever heard. His clever wordplay and brilliant concept harmonized tremendously with regards to Wayne’s nonchalant flow.
Constantly throughout Tha Carter III, Wayne sounded unfazed by the tall task laid out by Nas. The New Orleans rapper was more uncut and exciting than he’s ever been during that time period. Per usual, fans bear witness to some controversial lyrics, specifically on the aforementioned “Mrs. Officer” (“Rodney King baby, yeah I beat it like a cop”). He’s talking about pussy in case you’re wondering. Nonetheless, the catchy hook provided by Bobby Valentino developed into an ear worm for sure.
The beats accomplished a certain level of adaptability for Wayne, whether it be on the soulful Kanye West-produced “Comfortable,” or the more club-banger instrumental on “Got Money.” Both attributed a different side of Weezy, and created a thrilling adventure amongst otherwise surface-level themes (money and girls). Unlike most rappers of the time, Wayne kept things interesting.
“Let the Beat Build” creatively instituted an unusual ode to the best producers in the game. Multiple times throughout the album, Wayne thanks Kanye or Swizz Beats for their contributions to his masterpiece.
All of the hoopla lead up to the climax of the record, the infectious “Lollipop.” A song, where most kids my age at the time, thought was about actual candy. The contagious chorus and auto-tuned vocals bring depth on one of the many radio hits Wayne constructed throughout his illustrious career. Sure, it was a vulgar sex song, but the childish nature in which Wayne approaches the techno-inspired instrumental, ended up making the explicit lyrics tolerable.
Before leaving, Wayne makes sure to write a song for the struggling people of Louisiana dealing with loss from Hurricane Katrina on “Tie My Hands.” Robin Thicke (before everyone hated him) adds gorgeous melodies, and Wayne showed what he can do when he actually gives a shit about the world around him.
Weezy uses his third installment in the Carter series as a victory lap, not only for his blossoming career, but also for his struggling hometown dealing with devastation and heartache, waiting to find any sign of light amidst the darkness. Even to this day, Wayne has failed to come anywhere close to the impact Tha Carter III had on hip hop fans.