Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lil Wayne - The Carter III

What better place to start the inaugural Hip-Hop Week than with the album that owns the best opening week total of any album of 2008. Yes, you read that correctly. No other album has sold as many albums in its opening week than Lil Wayne's The Carter III. In it's first week it sold 1,005,545 units. To give you a better understanding of how ridiculous a number that is, the last album to sell more than 1 million units in its first week was 50 Cent's The Massacre in 2005! Not Coldplay, not even KanYe sold a million in their recent opening weeks. Since the album came out June 10, 2008 it has gone double-platinum (over 2 Million units sold). I know some people may say, "Ethan, that album is old news dude. It came out Months ago. Way to be on top of things." Well, firstly, thanks for the snarkiness and the vote of confidence. Also, whatever. This album still deserves to be talked about and recognized. If you don't really know about Lil Wayne you most likely heard about his arrest on his tour bus with a lot, a lot of drugs on board ("a lot" = 105 grams of marijuana (3.7 ounces), almost 29 grams of cocaine (1.02 ounces), 41 grams of Ecstasy (1.4 ounces)) and $22,000 dollars in cash. Sounds like the makings of a crazy weekend. The run-down: His given name is Dwayne Michael Carter, he's 25 years old, and he's from New Orleans, LA. Basically, he gained notoriety through he association with Cash Money Records and his appearance on various mixtapes. He really took off with his release of Tha Carter (2004) and it's two follow-ups.

One of the best things about The Carter III is the fact that it has something for everyone. That being said, the album as a whole isn't so incredible that its sales numbers make a ton of sense to me. But, it's probably the fact that Lil Wayne is appealing to a greater cross-section or larger audience than say Kanye West's enlightened-collegiate-white-collar brand of hip hop. To each their own though. There isn't an overarching concept on this album like Kanye's college-themed triology. But there are all types of hits. There is a hit for the ladies ("Comfortable"), hit for the clubs ("Got Money"), hit for the gangstas ("A Milli"), a hit with a concept ("Dr. Carter"), hit for radio ("Lollipop"), and even a hit for everyone ("Mr. Carter"). At first listen, it's like listening to a mix cd where all the songs are by the same artist. Not necessarily a Greatest Hits album, but similar in the fact that every track is liked by someone somewhere. So, as a whole you can't think there is a message or general theme to all the songs because there just isn't. In terms of Lil Wayne's flow (flow, n., - the general technique, and fluidity of an MC while rapping) it's all over the map. If you haven't listened to him, or a lot of rap before, the general idea is rhyming and attempting to say creative things in a rhyme scheme in accordance with the beat / rhythm of the song. Lil Wayne can do this when he wants to, but many times he's off the beat, behind it or just doesn't care that it exists. There are some really well-produced tracks on this album where his rapping doesn't have any cohesion with the beat. My personal feeling is that it's interesting, but on the other hand it feels like a waste on some level. It's also a bit jarring to your ear because you're expecting to hear the rhymed words dropped in certain places, and then they don't. His lyrical content is kind of the "norm" consisting of politics, girls, sex, drugs, and cars. All of which can grow tired usually, but he finds creative phrases and new angles to take. Especially on the track "Mrs. Officer," he talks about being pulled over by a hot female cop and how she takes advantage of him and how he had only considered cops to be bad or getting in the way of his life. He also chooses to speak about his hometown of New Orleans, LA and how it's still being neglected. Overall, there aren't any real "throw away" tracks, but like most hip-hop albums there are definite stand-outs, and this album just happens to have a larger percentage in its favor.

"Mr. Carter" (interesting tid-bit about this track realyed by a friend-in-the-know: when I first listened I thought to myself that it had to have been produced by someone of Kanye's ilk since the "sample" was so perfectly fit to the idea of the track. Turns out it's not a sample at all. It was made by recording someone singing the hook, speeding up the track, and adding a dash of technical wizardry to make it sound vintage....pretty cool)