In August 2013, after landing no major BET or MTV award nominations, Lil Wayne tweeted an apology to his fans and promised to work harder if it killed him. It may not have been the best turn of a phrase after suffering what was believed to be a near-fatal seizure a few months before his Viacom 0ffer, but it was refreshingly honest, given how boring and unfocused his post-Rikers work had become. The bloated Dedication 5 mixtape that followed was an improvement, but his subsequent appearances were hit or miss.
Much like his early mixtape days, Sorry 4 The Wait 2 works because the tracks provide room for experimentation, but enough of a template to avoid sounding like the formulaic songs Wayne stuffs on his retail albums. It’s still the usual mix of freestyles, sex puns with varying degrees of humor, and tough talk. But Wayne will catch you off guard with a thinly veiled reference to the #BlackLivesMatter movement while calling out President Barack Obama, all over Rich The Kid and Migos’ “Trap House Jumping Like Jordan” no less.
At worst, sticking too closely to the script produces some tepid offerings, like when Wayne and Christina Milian re-purpose Beyonce and Jay Z’s bougie turn up while stumbling through “Drunk In Love.” But the Young Money duo lacks the perceived restraint of pop music’s first couple. So while Blue Ivy’s parents tiptoe around NSFW territory with “surfboart” talk, Wayne is about as subtle as a sticky-palmed teenager emerging from “The Fappening” when he threatens to paint his lover’s nether regions white like Tyrone Biggums’ lips.
The Cult of Tunechi on Twitter and various online forums are already giving this project too many emojis to place it in its proper context. But it’s not hyperbole to say Lil Wayne has been charting since puberty while helping to pioneer the cyber mixtape. That makes part of the listening experience feel incredibly meta when he’s rapping over his artist’s artist’s beat (as is the case when Wayne hops on Ilovemakonnen’s “Maneuvering” for “Fingers Hurting”). It’s a testament to Lil Wayne’s talent that he’s still doing this at a high level 20 years after rhyming with B.G. on True Story. He’s co-opting popular songs and their cadences, such as Migos’ Three-6 Mafia-inspired triplet flow on “Hollyweezy” while obliquely rhyming words like iPod and five. At the same time, Wayne still shows both his age and his proficiency. He might drag out some old tropes like hashtag rap or the seriously dated “leggo,” but he’ll also unleash a double entendre or drop a metaphor that works on multiple levels like, “I was a match made in heaven when hell was a pile of wood.”
The inevitable clichéd moments here are still entertaining or silly enough to elicit a chuckle. “No Type” and the aforementioned “Drunk In Love” find Lil Wayne reverting to the type of sophomoric talk that makes him sound like an elementary school kid who just realized where that hole behind his zipper leads. But at its heights, there are some acerbic moments and a sense of urgency that arguably haven’t been seen from Lil Wayne since 2008. He manipulates his high-pitched warble just as well as he did with Auto-tune, and it paints him as a clear influence to the likes of Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan. And speaking of Cash Money artists, the real or manufactured tension with his recording home since ‘95 is one of the more entertaining aspects of the mixtape. He shouts out Juvenile and raps alongside Drake, disowns the “Birdman Jr.” nickname by referencing “ugly duckling,” mentions leaving the label, and brags about being the lone holdover from Cash Money’s soldier Reeboks and Girbaud jeans era.
It’s unclear whether all this will make Tha Carter V Wayne’s grand exit or an anticlimactic disappointment. The only certain takeaway is that the guy who forced himself into the conversation for one of rap’s top spots for a decent chunk of the aughts was still here, hiding somewhere behind those terrible glam rock covers and slogging through a tar pit of Actavis in leopard print jeggings the whole time. Apology accepted.