Lil Wayne demands little introduction. The golden child of New Orleans has influenced an entire generation of rappers. With decades of experience under his belt, the promise of a new Lil Wayne album is less so exciting and more so intriguing.
What will the maestro do next? How will he wow us? Will he wow us at all? These are the questions running through my mind as I load up Funeral, Wayne’s thirteenth studio album.
Unsure of what to expect, one thing is for sure: With Lil Wayne, expectations mean nothing. Let’s get into the album.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. Godspeed.
The sounds of strings and a lighter flicker. “Welcome to the funeral / Closed casket as usual.” Wayne is singing in a quiet tone that is growing louder. He isn’t sad, but the sound is meant to be melancholy. So much passion in his voice. “Gotta die to see who you know.” Here are the drums. Wayne sounds like he’s getting back into a form reminiscent of his best-self. He’s feeling it. The explosiveness in his flow is a rocket leaving its launching pad. “Funeral” is a song I want to hear again. The production is cinematic, and Wayne’s rapping is gripping. He’s starting strong.
Wayne’s run-on-sentence flow is exciting. The sample loop and these drums, whew. Mannie Fresh produced this record? He doesn’t miss. Hearing Wayne and Mannie back together in 2020 is bringing some warmth into this cold, cold world. An instant keeper. Wayne’s voice has been touched by time, the tone is exhausted, but he sounds lively. The spirit of the greatest speaking through a worn-out voice. “Good times, no hard times.” “Judge gave me time, I did that time like nap time.” Wayne is a lifeboat floating over every drum kick. I love the slowed, chopped-and-screwed switch at the end—a keeper.
3. “Mama Mia”
We are three songs into the album, and there has been no sign of a hook. Wayne is just rapping like this is a mixtape, and I’m not mad. Love a Wu-Tang reference. I don’t know how I feel about this beat, but it’s being decimated by the one-time rapper eater. “Your partners are poodles.” Wow, that breast line got a chuckle out of me. Wayne is in a zone, “Turn a nigga noodle to nada.” Hahaha, he’s bleeding bars. It’s just line after line after line; there’s no direction. Wayne could’ve recorded this song a capella, and I would have loved it.
4. “I Do It” feat. Big Sean & Lil Baby
Big Sean! Not loving this dragged out flow that he’s using to start. He’s switching it... Well, that’s over. Lil Baby is here, and he’s rapping with the undying fire of an Olympic torch. Baby has zero intention to rap for an endless amount of time. Wayne sounds the best thus far. His melodic flow is a nice change. He made a speedy switch up. He doesn’t sound weighed down by fatigue or exhaustion. He’s agile, excited, a rapper who still enjoys the art of writing and delivering a good verse. I don’t like the hook, and the song is a bit messy: They have Sean, Baby, and Wayne’s voices stitched together at the end like some rapper Frankenstein. Not in love, but don’t hate it.
Singing Wayne doesn’t sound like an angel. The explosive switch-up brought a dead song back to life. This is the Wayne who made “Prom Queen.” He’s back flirting with the rock sound. Not in love with the YouTube-type beat, or the ineffective singing that could use the crutch of Auto-Tune, but he’s rapping, and I’m not mad at it. There’s a great idea in this song, one that I would have loved to see Wayne pull off in 2009. It’s not quite fully formed here. It’s like Cell before absorbing Android 17 and 18. I’m not coming back.
6. “Stop Playin With Me”
“I got a plus-size model, but she’s my lil mama.” Loverboy Wayne. I love hearing the way he weaves all these different vignettes together in his verses. He’s just a stoned-out thinker leaving all his thoughts over sub-par beats. Mannie Fresh should’ve produced this entire project. Production is lacking the boom that Metro Boomin should be giving Wayne, but he’s so alive on those songs. I love hearing him rhyme.
7. “Clap For Em”
Wow, Wayne over some New Orleans bounce! What year is this? “Clap For Em” should’ve been the single. It’s the New Orleans bounce “Uproar.” “Choppa Style” will be here until the end of time. The E-Honda bar is gold. I can’t imagine this record being as big as Drake’s “In My Feelings,” but Wayne took it back to his roots. I’m not in love with how they flipped the beat—it feels forced—but nice to hear some N.O. in his palette. Won’t be coming back, though.
8. “Bing James” feat. Jay Rock
“Bing James” has some bite. I hope his flow burns down the track. There have been some worrisome lines about lean on this album, a habit that Wayne hasn’t been able to kick after all these years. Jay Rock! Did Cassidy produce this? This beat sounds very dated; like it’s been sitting on the shelf since Obama was in office. “Bing James” has the most infectious hook thus far.
9. “Not Me”
Wayne started rapping at 0:00 like he’s DaBaby. “Not Me” doesn’t have the best lyrics on the album, but it’s a robust, late-career Wayne offering. The Degrassi line is nice. The hook is catchy, the production could use a stronger kick, but it’s fine, simple and effective. I don’t think I’m coming back. Again, not strong enough for a revisit.
10. “Trust Nobody” feat. Adam Levine
Ten songs in and this album has no particular direction. “I don’t trust nobody, not my lovers not my friends.” These drums are unforgivable. Wayne has made songs in this vein before, it’s the crossover record with a pop star, not as emotionally-gripping as it aims to be, but there’s sincerity in the heart. Again, not coming back.
11. “Know You Know” feat. 2 Chainz
Back to the raps. Some keys to start. Yep, here’s a beat that was raised in the trap. Listening to Chainz’s flow move over a beat is like watching a karate master swing nun-chucks. He doesn’t miss. “I’m an ex-drug dealer, get a rush when the egg sizzle.” One of the best verses of the album yet. Melodic Wayne still has a few tricks up his sleeve. You can tell he doesn’t pull it off how he used to, but Wayne never sounds like a caricature of himself. This verse is good, a road-running performance. Wayne speaks with such disrespect to the men whose women he steals. The sound of a Martian who won’t be humbled.
12. “Wild Dogs”
Nothing about this album feels like attending a funeral. If anything has died, it’s my belief in Wayne’s ability to pick the right beats. He’s like a robot that’s programmed to weave words together but isn’t conscious of what he’s rapping over. The line about having “Siri fucking Alexa” is not okay. This one is a skip.
Thank god, a soulful loop. Thank god for STREETRUNNER. He just doused this album in holy water. “I turned a blessing into a burden.” He’s putting his heart on the beat. This record reminds me of Wayne on Carter II, the rapper who made songs like “Receipt.” I can’t imagine a woman having relationship problems with Lil Wayne. How do you win an argument with a Martian? If STREETRUNNER and Mannie Fresh give Wayne 10 tracks each, I’ll never ask him for another album. That’s my dream Wayne album. Did Lil Wayne call the reaper to ask about his relationships? That is not who you call for advice, sir.
14. “I Don’t Sleep” feat. Takeoff
Whose tag is that? The beats are getting better. “I Don’t Sleep” has a humid bounce, like it was made on an exotic beach, and Wayne sounds like he’s been listening to Drake. I’m not upset at this one. Man, his voice is so different. It’s rough, like sandpaper, like it hasn’t been touched by water in months. Takeoff! The “I lied” ad-lib took me out. Takeoff did not let Wayne down. This verse is better than half of his solo album. I’ll keep this one.
15. “Sights and Silencers” feat. The Dream
EarDrummers tag. Smoother than the entire album. The Dream sounds good here—a gentle performance. By far the softest song thus far. Nice percussion, they didn’t disrupt the sensual grace. It’s nice to hear a fully fleshed-out record. Wayne is singing. His voice doesn’t have the character it used to. He’s struggling to sell it. I wonder why he isn’t using Auto-Tune? Did he give it up? Skipping this one, too.
16. “Ball Hard” feat. Lil Twist
Another song that doesn’t begin with a buildup. I prefer Wayne to be there as soon as the song starts. “Ball Hard” is full mixtape-Wayne. Yep, he’s a man on fire in this pocket. The way he’s rapping would impress his old-self. Even the hook is sharp. Lil Twist is still rapping? Who knew. He didn’t fumble the momentum, though. I would’ve liked another Wayne verse, but solid all around.
17. “Bastard (Satan’s Kid)”
Cool & Dre beat! “Momma used to say this standing over my crib, never trust nobody who can bleed for 5 days and live.” Wow, imagine hearing that from moms? Wow. Hearing Wayne talk about his parents is different. This record is conceptually interesting. His voice sounds like it’s being strained. Man, what is this song? It’s a complete shift. Wayne could have built an entire album concept around this record. “Watching me is like watching a cross burn.” There’s a Lil Baby touch to his delivery; I love it. “To my driveway to my front door, it has been quite a journey, nigga.” Keep it.
18. “Get Outta My Head” feat. XXXTENTACION
XXX speaks. So eerie hearing his voice. This song is the most ominous thus far. Wayne said there are monkeys going bananas in his head. This is the rock music Wayne would’ve made if he lived as a new artist in the SoundCloud era. I would like to know how this song came into existence. It’s interesting. It’s more of a XXX song than a Wayne song, but they sound in better sync here than “Don’t Cry” on Tha Carter V. It’s full of reverb angst and yelling torment. It would’ve been perfect for the Joker soundtrack.
19. “Piano Trap”
“Piano Trap” sounds like an old Southern trap beat that the late Shawty Lo would’ve rapped over in 2008. Mannie Fresh with another one. Wayne’s Rocky theme song. “All of my goons take everything serious.” He’s swagging, not the best performance lyrically, but he’s rapping with all the passion in his chest. Beat switch! These keys! These drums! It’s like we’re back at Tha Carter. “Been through a whole lot of bull shit, still smell nice,” lol, he can’t help it. How is he getting faster?
20. “Line Em Up”
There are some great moments on Funeral. Wow, the highs are beautiful. What is this loop? It sounds like a chant played in reverse. “You can ask Jada Pinkett, I’m a legend.” Wayne finally got some water. His voice sounds wholly rejuvenated. Yes, yes, yes. He’s back in perfect form. Not a single line fumbled, not a single chink in his armor.
There’s a stark difference between the Wayne on “Darkside” and “Line Em Up,” but both Waynes are giving strong performances. He’s lucid lyrically, full of stoner imagery. “I’ll smoke you and your blunt blowers.” I’m keeping this one. It’s just too good. What’s astounding is he still finds ways to be enthralling only by rapping, all bars, almost no singing.
Here’s the singing. He has abandoned Auto-Tune completely. I like the guitar-driven production, though. There’s a light touch of Auto-Tune on his second verse, at least the pitch-correction effect sounds more prominent than it did in the first verse. Not impressed. He’s done this song before under many different names. I would’ve loved if Lil Uzi Vert had a verse.
23. “T.O.” feat. O.T. Genasis
The rapping is back. “I spit these facts, they call me a fax machine.” He can’t help it. “Pull out my flag and these niggas start pledging.” That’s more like it. Okay, he’s soaring now. “T.O.” is being impelled with bar after bar. “Since Allen Iverson, I been Eric with the snow.” O.T. Genasis is here being O.T. Genasis. No, he’s being Takeoff. Verse-wise, he sounds like the fourth Migo. I’m not bothered by his delivery. Didn’t expect to like this one so much, a little silly, but a keeper.
24. “Wayne’s World”
Let’s see how the veteran ends his funeral. Another one where his voice sounds less raw. Not bad. Well structured. Would’ve made for a good single. “I just go hard, there’s no tomorrow.” Not much to say. It’s a good song, no grand closing, just more of what Wayne has given all album long.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Lil Wayne’s Funeral:
Lil Wayne’s Funeral isn’t a grim album like the title suggests. Instead of musing on death, the 24 tracks breathlessly float from rhyme to rhyme with no overarching theme or more profound concept.
Funeral is Wayne, the mixtape rapper, choosing to puncture original beats with consistent one-liners in a stream-of-conscious style that occasionally burns out. Of course, there are verses significantly hotter than others. This unevenness is also true of the production he selected: A variety pack of hits and misses—a lot of misses—but the highs are a rush.
“I know that time change, I don’t think I’ll change,” Wayne raps on “Stop Playin With Me.” The line is true to what Funeral does deliver—the Lil Wayne who rhymes for the sake of rhyming. He’s not changing with the times, in sound, style, or substance. But compared to Tha Carter V, Funeral is more exhilarating. The album is a later-career Wayne still swinging for the fences—a rapper who isn’t ready to be buried.