Hopes are always high when Weezy releases a mixtape, and this one acts as a hold over for fans anticipating Tha Carter IV, which has been delayed until 29th August. While No Ceilings compounded the bar raised by Da Drought 3 and Dedication 2, Lil Wayne continues to have a lot to prove, since his form dips and soars so wildly.
Unfortunately, the tone for this outing is set by “Tunechi’s Back”, which uses “Tupac Back” by Meek Mill and Rick Ross, which itself has a certain epic quality, but here Wayne is overwhelmed by the dramatic, swirling beats. He talks of his lyrics as the kind that “shoots to kill,” while later meekly apologising, “sorry for the wait until my album drops.” “Rollin'” has a sombre military style, with Wayne as a kind of hip-hop commando, shooting down the invisible man, who’s got the whole world watching; if only it was in the vein of the great Ralph Ellison. He says “I’m talking heavyweight, I cut down on the syrup, now I’m in better shape,” but I’m not so sure. While he is possessed of a great delivery, and a certain swagger, he, like Odd Future, churn out below par lyrics; there is nothing interesting about rapping about “bitches” as he does on a track like “Gucci Gucci”, it is all a bit unseemly, and worse than that – boring.
“Marvin’s Room” is a case in point, with Wayne taking Drake’s track and making it a bloated song about flesh, with Wayne at different turns zoning out, absent-mindedly chit-chatting, when the piano-solo kicks in. At this point I started wondering whether Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton would have done a better job, considering their experience in the film of the same name. “Grove St. Party” makes great use of Lex Luger’s beat, and Wayne thrives on winding, complex sounds, but again the lyrics let him down, or perhaps I am just not a fan of the word “chillax”; and Lil B’s addition is not good, making me yearn for the fizzing, natural talent of someone like Rakim.
“Racks” benefits from the epic production already established by YC that frames Lil Wayne’s freestyle quite well, but instead of evidencing Wayne as a great rapper, it evidences him as a great curator of other people’s production.”Hands Up” has an old-fashioned feel to it, courtesy of Big Sean and Chris Brown’s “My Last” and sounds like something someone might have found on a lost episode of Taxi, since it has that seventies/eighties New York feel to it. It is a straight up Weezy freestyle, but the unfortunate thing is, by now, it all feels quite tiresome. He can still come up with classic lines, but there are so many shout-outs that are just filler, as is his continuous repeating “sorry for the wait”, after which he asks others to “catch up” with him, but it’s just not clear where he’s running to.
The title track of the tape begins with finger-plucking guitar, which unflatteringly brings to mind his terrifying rock detour and Rebirth record, but luckily it evolves into a jaunty two-step, taking over Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, which works quite well, with Weezy exhausting himself by providing one of the best freestyles on the tape, at one point laughing in mid-flow because he knows it, serving to remind us what a talented presence he can be.
Beyonce’s “Run the World” gets the most terrible service on “IDK”, it is such a chance missed, the stripped back beat is magnificent, but this is all down Major Lazer, not Wayne. It is like someone is playing this in the hallway, while he talks to himself as he gets ready to go out. He literally gives over five minutes of shout-outs, thanking people for their patience, but by the time we get here, our patience is run ragged, especially when he drops the lyric “hit a bitch with a carbomb”; but there is nothing explosive about Wayne’s latest offering.