The prodigy has a long journey before he can be spoken of as a truly 'hot rapper'.
David Aaron 2008
''The dude is the hottest rapper'' reads Kanye West's homage to Lil Wayne (AKA Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr) on the album sleeve of the 25 year-old's fourth solo studio album, Tha Carter 3. It's a grand statement, even by the college dropout's standards, but of course the grandeur of 'hottest' doesn’t always have positive connotations. Wayne is one of the world's best selling hip hop artists, and Tha Carter 3 looks set to rack up platinum sales, but Mr West is somewhat overselling the former Hot Boys founding member, who shot to fame with his guest appearance on Destiny Child’s Soldier.
Signed to Universal, New Orleans-born Wayne has attracted the crème-de-la-crème of the hip hop and R&B fraternity to the album, including Jay Z, Busta Rhymes and Betty Wright. Legendary producer Babyface swaps the production desk for the mic on the refreshingly soulful Comfortable, which is sprinkled with West's production mastery, an ingredient which proves to be the cornerstone of a mature, sophisticated hip hop-soul sound throughout. The Clapton-esque, bluesy Tie My Hands featuring Robin Thicke is a political standout making reference to Hurricane Katrina, and the summery anthem Mrs Officer featuring Bobby Valentino is reminiscent of Mark Ronson's Ooh Wee.
West continues the soul flavours on Let The Beat Build which pales into nothing more than a demo compared to the soulful heights reached with Common on Be.
Variety is the spice of life, but this is where the problem lies with Tha Carter 3; there is too much of it, resulting in a nothing more than an average singles collection. Mr Carter is a prime example, with Jigga running through the motions on a tired and over-glitzy offering. But with Lollipop and Got Money (featuring T-Pain), Wayne succeeds by sticking to the winning formula of the club banger.
Sampling Nina Simone's Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood on Dontgetit, Wayne's delivery and debate of the American prison system evokes memories of 2 Pac. But on Tha Carter 3's evidence, the prodigy has a long journey before he can be spoken of in the same vein as one of hip hop's unrivalled godfathers and a true 'hot rapper'.