“He shot himself at an age most kids were holding water guns, he joined a rap group at an age most kids were joining school clubs, and he dealt with being the man of his house when most were still enjoying the benefits of being boys.” —"Fuck the World: The Powerful First Time Lil Wayne Cursed"
The cleaver is to the butcher what the katana is to the samurai. Both tools are sharp, lethal, and should only be held in capable hands. Cleavers, much like swords, don’t belong in the reach of children for all the obvious safety reasons. When he was just a child, no older than eight, Lil Wayne held a butcher’s blade with the intent to carve a man instead of a cow. Without context, the idea is as intense as a scene plucked from a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Wayne first shared this story on “World of Fantasy,” a 2007 leak that appears on the unofficial mixtape The Drought Is Over 2: The Carter 3 Sessions. This particular tape, released during a two-year period of massive leaks that separate the second and third installments in Wayne's Carter series, was filled with unreleased gold like “La La La,” “Something You Forgot,” and “I Feel Like Dying.”
With a head full of poetry, “World of Fantasy” is Wayne musing over a looped Central Line sample and bleak, black production. The song enters a realm of foreboding as he recounts a night where he faces Terry, his mother’s second husband, after a domestic altercation. The imagery is one of his heaviest illustrations ever rapped:
“Momma named Cita, I love you Cita / 'Member when your pussy second husband used to beat you? / Remember when I went into the kitchen got the cleaver? / He ain't give a fuck, I ain't give a fuck neither / He could see the devil, see the devil in my features / He could smell the ether, you can see Cita / You can see the Cita, see the Cita in my features / I am her voice and the world is my speaker, I'm speaking”
A child staring down a grown man to protect his mother is startling. Wayne’s depiction of himself as both his mother and the devil couldn’t be any more striking. It’s the type of story that keeps you up at night, wondering about the resolution that followed the climax. “World of Fantasy” didn’t end up on the final version of Tha Carter III because it leaked, but the verse was re-recorded and eventually placed on “Playing With Fire.”
The StreetRunner-produced record is its own apocalyptic world, with taunting keys and menacing guitar riffs. The hook performed by Betty Wright adds intensity to an already hostile setting. Wayne enters the hellish circus with humor and absurdity, sounding like a resident of Arkham Asylum rather than the world’s biggest rapper. It’s not until the third verse that he suddenly becomes sharper and more serious. Reading the lyrics will not do the piercing performance justice; it’s even better than the original recording.
The story fits the song's atmosphere like a glove; lyrically, it's as nightmarish as the production sounds. There’s only one change to the end:
“You can see the Cita, see the Cita in my features / And she don't play neither”
Due to a copyright infringement lawsuit issued against “Playing With Fire” just two weeks after Tha Carter III was released, the version that’s currently on streaming services and retail shelves is different than the original that was shipped and sold to 2.3 million people within its first year. Being forced to remove the standout deep cut put one of Wayne’s most bone-chilling verses at risk of vanishing far from the ears of future fans.
The verse is necessary to understand the relationship between mother and son. It shows how protective Wayne was over Cita from a very early age. In a city where the block was hot and escape options were scarce, mother and son were abandoned by her first husband, beaten by the second, and had to bury the third all before Wayne turned 15. This is how a boy grows into a man at an unnatural rate.
"In 1996, a few months after getting out of jail, Rabbit is shot dead outside of a New Orleans gas station. Wayne gets his first tattoo at age 14: "R.I.P. Rabbit." It's a turning point in Dwayne's life — with bills to pay, he quits school to pursue music full-time." —Chris Dart, "Lil Wayne Playing With Fire"
Wayne's decision to drop out of school to rap full-time as a teenager is an example of him searching for a route to better days. On “3 Peat,” the intro track of Tha Carter III, the New Orleans martian recalls promising his mother a better life at the age of 14. It was a dream that would only be possible if rap afforded him the luxury of changing their lives.
As the spitting image of the mother he proudly claims to be the voice of, the shared features between Wayne and Cita have never been clearer than on the cover of Tha Carter V. Ironically, 11 years after “World of Fantasy,” Jacida Carter is the first voice heard on Lil Wayne’s long-awaited album. Her name has been attached to almost every Wayne project in some form or fashion, but instead of a simple name drop, she appears with motherly tenderness. Cita begins by expressing how proud she is of her son while noting her excitement for the yet-to-be-released album. Then comes the tears. “You's my rock, you've always been my rock,” she says, with her heart on the tip of her tongue.
How Cita speaks of and about Wayne as a caretaker is heartwarming and heartbreaking. She makes it clear that there’s a lot of pain still buried within the son who strives to make life better through his art and after accomplishing so much was unable to continue the practice that saved them.
In her voice is the worry of a mother who knows how much being trapped must hurt him. In retrospect, Wayne's confession that the accidental shooting during his youth was really an attempt at suicide makes sense within the context of Tha Carter V. In both cases, he felt trapped, uncertain, and unsure of how to deal with being betrayed by another father. From 12 to 36 years of age, the madness of his life hasn’t drastically changed.
Hearing Ms. Cita speak so candidly about her son took me back to 2006, and Wayne's highly underrated Lil Weezy Ana (Volume 1). It’s on “Cry Out (Amen),” the StreetRunner-produced outro track, where Wayne gives one of his most heartfelt lyrical performances. Most of the hook-free verse is Wayne pondering on the state of friends and family after the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. Not yet a superstar, but already the flagship star of Cash Money Records, there’s a layer of depth that Wayne hasn’t returned to since reaching stardom.
“It's just me and my Momma how it's supposed to be,” he raps right after mentioning the father who refused the role of raising him. Wayne’s disgust for the man he was named after quickly becomes admiration for the woman who was unwavering in her dedication to him. He continues: “And I make sure she paid like she wrote for me,” further conveying how his growing success in rap isn’t just benefiting his lifestyle but hers as well. It’s the perfect contrast to hearing his mother say that after Wayne blew up, they haven’t wanted for anything.
There is one line in “Cry Out (Amen)” that sticks out in 2018: “And I don't ever wanna see her mope for me.” Two years after delivering that line, on the JAY-Z-featured “Mr. Carter,” Weezy rapped, “Give me any amount of time, don't let Ms. Carter grieve.” Both lyrics carry the sentiment of a son who would do anything not to see his mother hurt, even asking for more time on this planet if it means rectifying her distress. Knowing how adamant he has been about being a consistent source of joy for his mother, it’s another layer of sadness when you consider the first time she appears on an album is with weeping eyes.
Wayne sharing the cover with and giving his mother a voice throughout Tha Carter V is fitting after everything he's been through with Cash Money and Birdman. Once upon a time, he called himself Birdman’s junior. Symbolically, Ms. Cita’s presence on the album is the greatest, most important transition away from the age of Birdman. Lil Wayne no longer has his father figure, but Cita is still here, just as she has always been.
Wayne might not have a “Dear Mama” like 2Pac or a “Hey Mama” like Kanye, but both Birdman and his late stepfather Rabbit have songs honoring them. Yet, Wayne has spent his life and career honoring his mother, from refusing to curse to respect her wishes to random shout-outs throughout his albums and mixtapes. To be a Wayne fan is to know Ms. Cita is the fluid that ignites his lighter.
Tha Carter V is a tribute to everything Wayne and Cita have overcome as much as it is a celebration of regaining what was always his. If this is the final offering from Lil Wayne, the final entry in the Carter series, it's quite fitting that the album spotlights the maternal pair. It's always been and how it's supposed to be.
By Yoh, aka Yoh F Baby, aka @Yoh31.
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