During his promotional tour for Tha Carter, Lil Wayne did the prerequisite media rounds at MTV2 where host Amanda Diva praised Weezy for his lyrical prowess. Normally, you could chalk the compliment up as your standard veejay dribble, but the Def Poet Ms. Diva was genuine and sincere. Since the release of Tha Carter in 2004, the former Hot Boy has launched a concerted effort to smash all preconceived notions of him. During the South’s recent champion run in hip-hop, elitist media types have indiscriminately sipped on the haterade when it comes to the lyrical ability of Southern artists.
Lil Wayne may not be the “best rapper alive since the best rapper retired,” as he’s brazenly stated in the past, but Tha Carter II serves as his claim to the throne. What separates Tha Carter II from its predecessor is the production – in particular, the absence of ex-Cash Money Millionaire Mannie Fresh – and the pilfered East Coast vibe throughout the LP. Weezy adapts his New Orleans roots to the tracks here without compromising his identity and appeal as a Southern emcee.
The lead single, “Fireman,” is a truly telling transformation. Most emcees don’t bother to deliver on the lyrical tip for their hook-driven singles; why waste gems when you can rely on the melody to sell the record? But Weezy packs his single with great lyrics, and in doing so, he’s managed to conquer a frontier few emcees have reached. On the track, produced by the Doe Boys, Weezy’s braggadocio causes a contact high, spitting “I see she wearing them jeans that show her butt crack/ My girls can’t wear that/ Why? That’s where my stash at/ I put my mack down that’s where you lack at/ She need her candlelit and I’ma wax that.” The man who coined the term “bling” has clearly grown, forging a new style that is equal parts Jay-Z’s swagger and Camron’s staggered delivery.
Throughout Tha Carter II, Weezy demonstrates the ability to freak a track regardless of the point of origin. The track that elevates Weezy above his competition and generates limitless crossover appeal is the Robin Thickeassisted “Shooter.” Arguably one of the most creative moments to come out of the South (minus Outkast’s work), “Shooter” is an amalgamation of New Orleans blues, indie rock and Southern hip-hop. Evenly dispersed vocals by Thicke and a looping sample of a salon piano are matched with Weezy’s lyrics about the criticism of Southern hip-hop: “Stop bein’ rapper racists, region haters/ but this is Southern face it/ If we too simple then y’all don’t get the basics.”
Weezy’s claim to the throne as the best rapper alive may be a bit premature; tracks such as “Hustler Muzik,” “Hit ‘Em Up” and “Lock and Load” prove that Weezy’s persona has not yet fully developed outside of Cash Money’s influence. But Tha Carter II shows us that Wayne is gunning for the number one lyrical spot in hip-hop by honing his craft and deconstructing his detractors’ criticisms word by word. Best rapper alive? Maybe not. But just act like you know.