Lil Wayne’s had a more-than epic career trajectory this decade. No news there. But with the word that he’ll report to jail early next year, his seemingly unstoppable forward charge could get clogged up, especially considering his label, Cash Money, has hinted that Weezy’s still got three albums left in him before he’s locked up. And so it was a pleasant surprise that, before the supposed holiday season feast of Weezy, yesterday he dropped a mixtape appetizer for us to munch on.
If you’ve turned on your computer in the last 24 hours, chances are you know the mixtape is called No Ceilings. As for those actual albums, according to Cash Money head Baby in a recent statement to MTV, ”[Lil Wayne’s] coming with the rock album and Tha Carter IV. It’s gonna be a double disc…and the Young Money album, all on the same day.”
Now, Wayne’s always been a mixtape man; even his biggest official album, 2008’s titanic-blockbuster, Tha Carter III, had the feel of a mixtape, all cobbled-together gems without particular studio sheen, leaving the focus solely on Wayne’s often laser-sharp flow.
That said, we’ve been anticipating Wayne’s supposed three-album, end-of-the-year saturation with a bit of hesitation. His only Rebirth track made us a bit queasy (Wayne! You are not Korn!), and the much-discussed double album Tha Carter IV could simply get lost in itself. Add his last big post-Carter III mixtape, Dedication 3, was a lazy trip through Auto-tuneville and a distinct step off. Then there’s Wayne’s braindead verse in Weezer’s new horrifyingly awful song, “I Can’t Stop Partying.” Oh, and in case you forgot from a few paragraphs ago, dude’s going to jail. With a definitive hiatus coming up for this leg of his career, it’s no wonder he’d want to rush out all his projects.
So, No Ceilings? More like no expectations.
But thankfully, Lil Wayne remembered how to rap, and well. No Ceilings isn’t perfect, and at times it’s downright cheesy; Weezy ends the album gleefully rapping “Party on the beach! Party on the beach! I got my weed from the west, my pills from the east!” over will.i.am’s wish-I-was-deaf anthem “I Gotta Feeling.” Similarly, Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” already got a hip-hop makeover by, of all people to outshine Weezy, Kid Cudi. Wayne’s “Poke Her Face” just feels redundant.
After the silly and/or stupid, though, Lil Wayne is on his game with No Ceilings. “Break Up” is the same type of milky-haze, slow-winding trip as “I Feel Like Dying.” The pounding “Banned from TV” finds Wayne spitting so fast he almost can’t catch his breath; the only time Weezy has sounded this hungry as of late has been during his features on Drake tracks.
He’s also never sounded so aware of his audience. Several times throughout, Weezy thanks us—all of us—and he sounds truly genuine. This jail sentence has him gaining some humility. Is No Ceilings a step back toward greatness? Maybe, but that’s a little strong-worded. It feels more appropriate just to say: Welcome back, Weezy. It’s good to hear you sound like you again.