Lil Wayne both figuratively and literally lives in another stratosphere, and no one can tell me otherwise. In a fantastic interview on Revolt TV, Weezy made his usual bewildered proclamations about certain aspects of the music industry while smoking blunt after blunt for two hours straight (i.e. not knowing who 21 Savage or what TDE is).
And if that isn’t enough to prove my point of his existential existence, then maybe Funeral will. Wayne successfully escapes from the steady media attention preceding and succeeding Tha Carter V, an album that carried a sublime aura before even being released (for a number of different reasons, including label problems). Wheezy’s legacy is basically built on his undying mix-tapes and the classic Carter series, so expectations were already going to be astronomical. The album would eventually garner mixed reviews, with many critics noting the project’s unevenness and lack of focus.
To be fair though, there aren’t many Wayne albums that do follow a consistent theme. His brand has always been about rapping his ass off, no matter what the cost. And that’s exactly what he does on Funeral; a record riddled with mosaic rhyme schemes, everlasting versatility and nonstop unpredictability.
As expected in any 24-song album, not every idea works to its full effect. There’s bland pop songs involving empty millennial hater narratives (“Trust Nobody” featuring the ultimate douche, Adam Levine). There’s one or two instances where Wayne uses a song for the sole purpose of emphasizing successful celebrities (“Bing James” and “Ball Hard”); a design that eventually goes nowhere in the grand scheme of things.
But for the most part, the New Orleans legend stays within his pocket, which usually falls somewhere between Earth and Nuptia 4. He gnarls and writhes his way through glacial synths on “Mamma Mia,” and produces a wordy spectacle on the Mannie Fresh-produced “Mahogany,” an unofficial sequel to the club-ready banger “Uproar” (“I’m out of my Kufi, narcotic abuser/No needles, ’cause my pockets ballooning/Your partners is poodles/Your bears’ is cubs, your crocodiles’ toothless/Titty-fuck your baby mama, she breastfeed her child while I do it”).
Weezy has the innate ability to make the most senseless shit sound exciting. He’s a unique entity in that regard, though artists like Young Thug have definitely taken shocking vulgarities to the ultimate extreme. And while Wayne is famously known for grandfathering many of rap’s modern aesthetics, Funeral is just another example of how much better he is than his contemporaries at executing them.
The 37 year-old adds to his illustrious legacy through fickle wordplay and volatile style choices. The title track suggests a much larger change in tone this time around, as Wayne viciously raps about closing one’s casket, and shooting up the funeral (“Welcome to the funeral/The choir’s singing musicals/Kumbaya, it’s beautiful/I bust in with that Uzi though”). He’s calm, collected, but waiting to burst out of his shell at any moment. When the Gospel-tinged sample enters, chaos ensues.
Unsurprisingly though, Wayne refrains from this murky tone for most of the album. It only re-enters in spurts, particularly on the equally harrowing “Bastard (Satan’s Son),” a helter-skelter portrayal of Wayne’s past family tribulations. The personal and religious context within this song makes Robert Johnson’s voodoo mischief sound tame.
There’s other strong character moments on Funeral as well. “Dreams,” while light on depth, does conjure interesting tidbits of a general idea. Wayne urgently wakes up from a lean-induced stupor to thankfully realize his capitalistic tendencies are still in tact. “Piano Trap” encompasses some of his best rhyming since 2009, and “Sights and Silencers” acts as a formidable interlude to an otherwise raucous adventure.
Ironically, this is more of a “Rebirth” than Wayne probably would’ve imagined. No one expected a project this exhilarating, and this stylistically diverse. The only person who probably did was Wayne, the guy who can’t and won’t stop breathing fire into the mic.