First things first
. Tell your friends.
Now that business is out of the way, let's talk pleasure. Do you need more nerdy white crits extolling the genius of Lil' Wayne? Of course not, so don't read any further, because the grade at the end is going to infuriate you.
Lil' Wayne - The Leak
All the ink...er, pixels, that went into Da Drought 3
last year? I can jive with that. Actually-produced rap doubles disappoint so often that the fact the only mixtape I've ever desired to play three times is a minor miracle, even if most of those listens were work, trying to absorb and retain as much of Weezy's wildly entertaining freestyling gifts as possible. The man's so obsessed with money because, well, as the last best rapper alive put it, skills don't sell, or else everyone would try to be Talib Kweli. Thankfully "skills" don't sell, because that guy's rich now and lay-z. And Lil' Wayne considers himself to be so rich in both money and rhymes at this moment that he doesn't blink about tossing coins from his caravan for the eager peasants to scoop up. He's got plenty where they came from, not worrying about a "drought" at all.
A great double mixtape should
be exempt from complaints like too-long, inconsistent production, and what Jeff Weiss calls unfair beat selection, though I'm more impatient. In the filesharing age, mixtape beats aren't limited, imaginations are. If Aesop Rock declined to jack "Upgrade U," first, he's only holding himself back. Yeah, Drought 3
succeeded in every advertised way. But it was still a mixtape, an appetizer. And I couldn't top 10 something I only wanted to scan for quotables quotes or read about. If Yngwie Malmsteen and Celine Dion aren't allowed to get good reviews for choosing masturbation over craft, then why is Weezy? Craft can make you or break you in hiphop, just ask Ludacris, another wildly entertaining rapper, who hasn't made a good song
, much less a whole album, in four years.
Last year, I termed Weezy F. Baby to be the hiphop Robert Pollard, a solitary oddball who dares you to sort through his leavings. But asserting that he throws all of his junk out there for history to decide, that was wrong. Mr. Carter knows exactly what he is doing. Critics shouldn't waste words on bootlegs that they might want to save for the real thing later, and as accomplished as four cds of freestyled madness were last year, he was only getting warmed up. Critics who thought he was running dry when he played it easy on his two biggest guest slots ever will now realize he was just being stingy. A five-song EP called The Leak
was sneakily slipped onto iTunes over the holidays, and anyone who's still unaware of it needs to hit Shareminer immediately. It's simple really; four perfect bangers and a fifth ("Kush") that's merely very, very good. You've already up your mind on whether you think his jokey similes are the work of a genius or a one-trick pony, but this is where Weezy shows off previously unknown songwriting gifts.
From the punched-in soul breaks in the otherwise scorching "Gossip," to the sung(!) chorus of the piano-and-strings melodrama "Love Me or Hate Me," all five tunes augment his flawless delivery and cleverness with plush bedding and blazing chariots, setting an admirably nonstop flow in place (re: tastefully) for once. The result is bewildering; proving against everything people were starting to worry about on a fucking sampler EP could either whet the world for the best hiphop album of the year or set 'em up for an even bigger fall than expected. If Tha Carter III
is nearly as consistent as this, I won't hesitate to bestow this grade on it. But for now, better than any rap release of dismal 2007, even Graduation
, this perfect overdistillation of an oddball genius is just the right size, and with original beats to boot. And when's the last time a rapper, or any artist, attempted a great EP anyway? As effortlessly cool as Da Drought 3
, and you can fit five of these on that, which means more pleasure in less time. On second thought, if the much labored-over Carter III
isn't the hiphop of the year, it's nothing to be ashamed of, because--and being one of those fallible critics myself, be sure to check back in July to call bullshit--I think he already made it. Crown him.
Lil Wayne - The Leak