Lil Wayne

Tha Carter III | Young Money/Cash Money/Universal
By BEN WESTHOFF  |  June 17, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars
Since 2005’s Tha Carter II, rap’s boy king Lil Wayne has released a flurry of inspired mixtapes, and that’s made the long-delayed Tha Carter III the most eagerly awaited rap album of the year. It does not disappoint, combining the free-association marijuana musings Wayne perfected on Da Drought 3 with the disciplined structure a studio album requires. It helps that nearly every track has an in-demand guest (Jay-Z, Babyface, T-Pain), a hot producer (Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, StreetRunner), or both. It’s also fun to hear about Wayne’s trips to outer space (“Phone Home”) and his blunted reveries (“Misunderstood”). But what holds the album together is Weezy’s particular brand of self-awareness, which channels his braggadocio into a sense of hip-hop responsibility. “Gotta work every day/Gotta not be cliché,” he tells us on “Dr. Carter,” and he adds, in the ode to Katrina victims “Tie My Hands”: “Take away the football team and the basketball team/And all we got is me to represent New Orleans.” All rappers ride on the claim that they’re the best, but on III Wayne makes his case.
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