So far, 2016 hasn’t been a great year. With the passing of legends, like Muhammed Ali and Prince, to Brexit and Trump, our hearts are heavy. Tragic events have tested our emotional endurance, forcing us to reflect, learn and, hopefully, grow. When humans suffer continuous pain, there needs to be balance; something to instill hope; something to believe in.
For every depressing 2016 action, there’s been an incredible music reaction—Elie Wisel bid the world adieu, Frank Ocean released Blonde; Trump got elected, A Tribe Called Quest dropped We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service. Music comforts us by softening reality’s crushing blows through offering an escape; reassuring us that light will shine in the world’s darkest times. But with this surplus of albums, I find myself excluding older music from my regular listening rotation, hollowing my Hip Hop allegiance. Rediscovering Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III quickly filled that void.
I was recently researching old Kanye beats for an article, and was amazed when I found out he produced Weezy’s “Let The Beat Build.” Upon learning this, I was dumbfounded and honestly pretty upset with myself. This was one of my favorite songs in high school whose beat is covered in Kanye’s fingerprints: a complex structure engorged with soulful samples and jazzy undertones. I didn’t know this was a Ye beat and I run a Hip Hop blog? Sheesh, amateur status. After the embarrassment dissolved, I finally stopped bumping Ty Dolla $ign’s Campaign and threw Tha Carter III on repeat.
The first track, “3 Peat,” buckled my seatbelt in Doc Brown’s DeLorean. Suddenly, the surrounding Manhattan streets melted into my high school hallways. It was the end of my sophomore year—finals just ended, I was still a chubby virgin and Wayne was king. His classic line “They can’t stop me, even if they stopped me” followed by his iconic giggle immediately reminded me of his former glory. Just like you can’t throw on the radio today without hearing Drake’s voice, that’s what Weezy was like in the ‘00s. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; Drake can thank his Rap dad, Wayne, for teaching him how to compile an album of hits. Tha Carter III is just that.
As I continued strolling down memory lane, each successive track had me saying, “Oh shit, this was on there too!” I was amazed—“Mr. Carter” featuring Jay Z, “A Mili,” “Got Money” featuring T-Pain, “Comfortable” featuring Babyface all followed “3 Peat.” Each a classic; each cementing Tha Carter III’s legendary status.
Lil Wayne might actually be a martian because his talent is otherworldly. He evidences his uncanny command of the English language through his astute analogies, similes and metaphors; his quintessential “Mr. Carter” bars are a microcosm: “Man, I got Summer hatin' on me ‘cause I'm hotter than the Sun / Got Spring hating on me ‘cause I ain't never sprung / Winter hatin' on me ‘cause I'm colder than y’all / And I would never, I would never, I would never fall / I’m being hated by the seasons / So fuck y'all who hatin' for no reason.” Wayne is a rockstar for a reason. He broke the mold by timelessly lacing clever 16s over varied beats to create his storied collection of hits, demonstrating his authority and forcing opponents to elevate their games. Some needed more encouragement than others.
One of his best songs conceptually, “Dr. Carter,” takes aim at whack rappers who desperately need career resuscitation. Drawing a structure parallel to Eminem’s “Guilty Conscience” featuring Dr. Dre, “Dr. Carter” is a three act-song showcasing Weezy’s philanthropic effort to save the game. Whether rappers suffer from a lack of concepts, originality, confidence or swagger, Wayne has the vaccine. Putting his Holly Grove MD to work, Lil Tuenchi successfully rejuvenates an ailing Hip Hop landscape. How does that saying go? A Weezy track a day keeps the doctor away? What’s most impressive to me is the song’s relevance today.
I think every new generation is blamed for exacerbating rap and estranging it from “the good ol’ days.” I’m sure Sugarhill Gang hated on Public Enemy, who hated on Biggie, so on and so forth. But I really don’t think I’m wrong here saying that we’ll shamefully reflect on categorizing the majority of mumble rap as Hip Hop. I know every single teen and illiterate will lobby until the day’s end justifying mumble rap’s place in Hip Hop, but to compare Lil Yachty to Lil Wayne is simply ignorant. But I digress—back to Tha Carter III.
Weezy builds steam throughout the album’s progression, saving some of the best songs for the latter portion. In addition to “Let The Beat Build,” Wayne delivers classic tracks on the album’s second half, including: “Shoot Me Down,” “Lollipop,” “La La,” “You Ain’t Got Nuthin” and a personal favorite, “Mrs. Officer.” The euphoric beat supports Wayne’s politically charged message of craving an influx of female officers to thwart their male counterpart’s terrorizing reign. Again, just as relevant today. This song is sentimental to me. Time for Marty McFly and I to travel in the DeLorean down memory lane back to high school.
Just like LeBron listened to “A Star Is Born” by Jay Z before every 2016 Finals showdown, “Mrs. Officer” channeled my mind prior to every lacrosse game junior year. The song’s calming nature massaged my jitters into a keen focus, positioning me for success. Whether he’s saving whack rapper’s careers or preparing me for a lacrosse game, Wayne was there.
While Lil Wayne’s skills have started to decline, we’ll forever be indebted to him for creating Tha Carter III. He proved his Rap dominance through displaying sound fundamentals, admirable lyrical control, integrity and commercial viability; it is his highlight reel. Whenever we inevitably experience dark times, we all have coping mechanisms. Some watch movies; some read; some cook; I listen to music. Wayne, thank you, because this has been a tough week and Tha Carter III is helping me push forward and maintain positivity. Thank you for being a light in this dark time.