[CD Review] Lil Wayne, 'Tha Carter III' (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal)

Destined to be a stoner classic, Tha Carter III should silence critics who think Lil Wayne can't make a cohesive album. His vision and self-confidence have improved exponentially since the humorless mishmash of styles that was Tha Carter II. And so on III, we get pop-rap to giggle, groan and marvel at, from "Phone Home," to which Wayne gives his outer-space shtick the full treatment, to the David Banner-produced, filthy nursery rhyme "La La" to the 10-minute "Misunderstood," in which Wayne disses Al Sharpton, excuses police racial profiling and imparts that he lives next door to a child molester. (While getting high, naturally.)

The CD has almost as many throwaway lines ("I ain't kinda hot/I'm sauna/I sweat money/And the bank is my shower") and beguiling ones ("My picture should be in the dictionary/Next to the definition of 'definition'") as hot ones ("To the left/To the left/If you want to leave/Be my guest, you can step"), but it never ceases to be weird, and in today's rap environment, that's a revelation. Although there's a touching, downbeat tribute to the Hurricane Katrina victims called "Tie My Hands"—"My whole city underwater/Some people still floating," Wayne laments—for the most part, the CD is a raucous game of truth or dare, with Wayne and his never-ending list of collaborators (Jay-Z, T-Pain, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Cool & Dre, etc.) attempting to one-up one another via hot beats and unexpected turns of phrase. All of this makes it likely Tha Carter III will take its place in the pop-music pantheon—not beside Paid in Full or Death Certificate, but along with Dark Side of the Moon and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which are classics not in spite of, but because of, their grandiose silliness.

 
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