In 2015, Lil Wayne sued Cash Money CEO Birdman for $51 million, claiming that the record label was repeatedly delaying the release of his twelfth studio album. A huge rift opened in the rap world. The relationship between Birdman and Lil Wayne was previously like that of a father and his son. They not only called themselves such, even releasing a record together titled Like Father, Like Son, but it was Birdman who “rescued” Wayne following a suicide attempt at the age of twelve by placing the young rapper in his new group, The Hot Boys.
The long-delayed album, Tha Carter V, didn’t see the light of day until late 2018, and now Wayne’s latest, Funeral, is technically the first release apart from Birdman and Cash Money. Not-so-accurately titled, Funeral contains possibly the hungriest Lil Wayne performances of the past decade. Rattling off verses without a breath or even hooks, like on “Mama Mia,” Wayne’s abnormally long, 26-hour studio sessions seem to be on full copy-paste display. Spending his time honing his craft rather than listening to what’s charting, Wayne is often criticized (unnecessarily) for not being aware of his contemporaries, such as who is signed to T.D.E. or that 21 Savage is one rapper and not a group.
That’s not to say that devoting hours to rapping and not the “pulse” of what’s trending is a negative however, as while he may be “checked out,” it’s pretty clear on Funeral through features, collaborations, and producer choices, that influences have certainly rubbed off on Wayne. “Dreams” seems like the kind of song that would not be possible without his involvement on “See You in My Nightmare” from Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak. On “Stop Playin With Me,” he borrows the flow from “Furthest Thing” by Drake, one of his original protégés. On “I Do It,” there’s a heavy Big Sean presence, which probably wouldn’t have been possible without Wayne’s appearance on “Deep” from the end of Dark Sky Paradise back in 2015.
With any legacy artist thirteen albums deep (without counting nearly 30 mixtapes on top of that), there does exist the pop-crossover faux pas. The-Dream and Mike Will Made-it collaboration on “Sights and Silencers” is something that looks fine on paper but bizarrely doesn’t deliver, and “Trust Nobody” is yet another example of why I don’t want to hear Adam Levine on anymore rap songs. Even more, the 24-track, 1 hour and 17 min length doesn’t quite make for easy replay.
Missteps aside, the two greatest moments of the record are when Wayne looks back to move forward. The first, working with longtime New Orleans producer Mannie Fresh on the stellar “Mahogany,” and the second, “Clap for Em” and its use of the sample “Triggerman” by The Showboys. The sound most famous for the start of bounce music back in the late ’80s rap scene in New Orleans, the song was sampled countless times by artists such as Mannie Fresh, DJ Jimi, and Juvenile (who later rapped alongside Wayne as part of the Hot Boys), and to hear Lil Wayne glide over the beat while paying homage to what started it all for him is truly something special.
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