On December 6th, 2005 Dwyane Carter, popularly know as Lil’ Wayne, released Tha Carter II, an album that changed our perception of the young rapper and jettisoned him into another realm of Hip Hop’s Elite.
Lil’ Wayne began his career with The Hot Boy$, the rap equivalent of the Backstreet Boys or N’Sync. The group was massively successful as they released solo work and group albums under the Cash Money umbrella. After platinum records, “bling,” and Back That Azz Up, the group, and Cash Money, imploded. What remained was Wayne, Baby, Slim and Manny Fresh. Wayne released Tha Carter in 2004 and the growth was obvious. He had finally matured out of his awkward phase lyrically and vocally. He returned in 2005 with Tha Carter II and it was at this moment Lil’ Wayne became one of the 00’s best rappers.
The landscape was interesting in 2005. Jay-Z had retired from rap and a void needed to be filled. Lil’ Wayne saw the opportunity and seized it. This album was his political pitch to the voting masses and electoral college for the title of Best Rapper Alive. This is what made the album so much fun to listen to. Wayne was trying to prove himself more than he’s ever tried to at any other point in his career. Da Drought 3 and Tha Carter III are more victory laps than anything else. This album is when he won the election.
I’m far from a Hip-Hop historian, but Tha Carter II has one of the best starts I’ve ever heard on an album. We go from Tha Mobb, five minutes of uninterrupted barz, Fly In, more raps, and Money On My Mind. These three tracks show you how far Wayne has come as a rapper in the time between these two Carter installments. His leap in ability is exponential. He makes his declaration on Best Rapper Alive that he is such, and he makes a great case for the claim. Fireman hasn’t held up well in the years following its release, but it worked for the time. Mo’ Fire is some weird raegee infused rap-hybrid-thing that works somehow. Oh No starts with so much confidence as gusto
“I play the bullshit from the backseat champ, yeah I’m in the backseat, still got the seat back. Feet back, stay from where the fakes be at. N*ggas snitch for the shine, where the patience at?”
Hit Em’ Up may be one of the hardest songs Wayne has ever released and Hustla Music may just be his absolute best. The song is perfect Weezy. Full of ego, thoughtfulness, wit and sarcasm. The rest of the album remains consistently good through Fly Out.
It’s hard to remember a time when the rap community cared about Wayne. He’s now a shell of his former self. He’s always had very limited subject matter, but he’s run out of clever ways to talk about pussy, money or weed. Tha Carter V could be released tomorrow and I wouldn’t care to listen. This isn’t how it’s always been. Lil Wayne wasn’t always the stoner, TruckFit, skateboarder, who’s outshined by Drake and Nicki. There was a time where the world stopped to hear a Wayne verse. A time when Wayne would take any beat and make it his own. Obviously, we don’t live in that time anymore, and that’s why I appreciate Tha Carter II so much. It was the beginnings of an incredible run in Hip-Hop and that’s why this album will always be special to me.