It's really happening.
It's been seven years since the release of Tha Carter IV, six years since Lil Wayne said Tha Carter V would be his "last album," five years since the album's originally teased release date, four years since we first saw the album's cover art and Wayne confessed that both he and his creativity were prisoners, three years since Wayne sued Cash Money for $51 million, two years since Martin Shkreli claims he bought Tha Carter V, and nine months since Wayne released "Boyz 2 Menace" with Gudda Gudda (among other, less notable occurrences), and it's time.
Tha Carter V, the 12th studio album from Lil Wayne and the fifth installment in his iconic Carter series, will officially be released on September 27, 2018, pending any last-minute changes.
It's been a long time coming for fans of Wayne and hip-hop in general, as one of the genre's most storied artists has seen the better part of this decade locked in a legal and creative battle with his record label and its figurehead Birdman, his label-head, mentor, and all-around nefarious character.
On June 7, it was reported that Lil Wayne had reached a settlement with Cash Money Records, and thus the door was opened to free Tha Carter V from a similar fate as Detox and Act II in the limbo of album purgatory.
Now, on the eve of the album's long-awaited release, it's time to finally hear some music. Widely regarded as the best rapper alive during his prolific run from the mid to late '00s, this decade has found Wayne creatively stagnant at best and a shell of his former self at worst.
Will Tha Carter V showcase a Weezy lifted from his artistic funk? How many one-liners about eating pussy will we hear? Will Jae Millz have any verses? We'll find out soon.
In the meantime, we have a few burning questions. To answer these questions, we sought out the musical expertise of a few friends: Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins, co-host of State of the Culture, journalist, and podcaster; Gary Suarez, a freelance writer and music critic whose work has appeared on Forbes, Pitchfork, and Billboard, among other publications; Anthony Fantano, owner and host of the popular vlog The Needle Drop.
Will it help or hurt Lil Wayne that he’s dropping such a long-awaited album without much of a rollout?
As we've seen repeatedly in our age of surprise album drops, rollouts don't seem to matter much anymore, particularly when it comes to already well-known artists in hip-hop. The long-awaited nature of Tha Carter V, coming after years of false starts, baseless rumors, and shady business, can't hurt Weezy any more than he's already hurt himself. Thankfully, he at least managed to get a Billboard cover story out ahead of the record, which offers some semblance of organization from a rapper who hasn't exactly been known for that in these interim years. —Gary Suarez
Personally, I love a good rollout but I think that would only add surface-level hype onto a project that has a lot of significance for a lot of people, most importantly Lil Wayne. I think for Wayne the most important thing is getting a good album out the door, on time. —Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins
The album rollout, at this point, is a bit of a non-factor. The fact that this album has been delayed numerous times has been a roll-out in and of itself, but I'm afraid that's raised expectations so high that there's no possible way Wayne can deliver. I'm also gonna go out on a limb here and assume the material on this album isn't exactly gold, which is why he hasn't previewed any of it. —Anthony Fantano
Regardless of quality, which is entirely subjective, is it even possible to produce an album that lives up to the hype?
At this point, the hype has dissolved, and Wayne is in a unique position to capitalize off of the public’s desire to see him win—a rarity when you’ve already been to the mountaintop of rap. —Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins
Yeah, I think so. But as good as some of Wayne's back catalog is, I don't know if he's the type of artist who can blow his critics away under these circumstances. A Kanye or Kendrick would certainly be up for the challenge, but I think all we can hope for at this point is a series of standard bops with quick one-liners and no missteps. —Anthony Fantano
Sure, it's possible. That's not what's going to happen, but it's possible. Tha Carter V has had so many tracklistings, I'm sure, both real and imagined. So, somewhere in that mess of hard drives and Dropboxes there's probably an optimal album to cobble together into a masterful document worthy of the series name. But let's face it: we're talking about Lil Wayne in 2018. Since the last installment in 2011, he's dropped a number of mixtapes, guest verses, and loosies showcasing not only his diminished powers as a lyricist but also an evident lack of quality control. Apart from loony stans, nobody wants to acknowledge just how bad the Free Weezy Album was, and thankfully most of his fans didn't get to hear it because TIDAL isn't their preferred streaming platform. —Gary Suarez
After such a long delay, what will Tha Carter V mean for Lil Wayne's career moving forward?
He's a legacy artist now, which means he no longer has to produce hits or classics or whatever to make it in this business. Lil Wayne already paid his dues and proved himself. Fans and critics can parse whatever records he drops after Tha Carter V and debate their merits online ad nauseum, but at the end of the day, he's done what he needs to do to secure his standing as one of hip-hop's most important artists. Provided he can keep his shit together in the coming years, he'll command good money as a touring and festival headliner. There's always the chance he can rebuild or reinvent Young Money Entertainment to some extent and become a tastemaker in this business once again. People used to trust his co-sign, and rightfully so. —Gary Suarez
More consistency, hopefully. I think this unwanted silence from Wayne on the album front has diminished his relevancy, a bit, and it would be nice if he could reestablish himself with better material and more output. —Anthony Fantano
If Wayne bodies this, it will be a great return (and potential swan song) for a rapper who two years ago tweeted out that he was mentally defeated and ready to quit. If Tha Carter V is anywhere near as charismatic as Tha Carter or as lyrically potent as Tha Carter II or as sensational as Tha Carter III, he’ll be fine. But comparisons aside, Wayne just needs to drop an album that’s self-aware to kill off all the questions and open up some space for his future. —Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins
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