Midway through his sixth official albumalready well on its way to meeting industry expectations as the bestselling release of 2008 and widely hailed by critics as a classic thanks to early leaks and mix-tape previewsthe former Dwayne Michael Carter employs his trademark vocodered/electronically altered vocals in a song called Phone Home, croaking, We are not the same/I am a Martian They dont make em like me no more/Matter fact, they never made it like me before.
The wildly inventive black artist as cosmically inspired extra-terrestrial routine is one with a noble history, encompassing talents as diverse as Sun Ra and George Clinton. But Weezy, as the laconic, sing-song New Orleans rapper is also justifiably known, works way too hard to hone his eccentric image on The Carter IIIas opposed to his prolific flood of Internet product, which is much loved for its off-the-cuff freestyle charmsand its hard to accept that any bona fide alien would have caved so quickly to his record companys demands that this big bid for crossover superstardom had something for every demographic imaginable, violence-loving gangstas to hook-crazed teenyboppers and Robin Thicke-adoring soccer moms to ADD-suffering indie hipsters.
As scattered and unfocused as this collection is, theres no denying that several tracks midway through are almost strong enough to justify the hype, chief among them the two musically inventive, lyrically inspired jams crafted by Kanye West, Comfortable and Let the Beat Build. But other tracks that are fun lyrically are dragged down by lazy musical backings (Dr. Carter, where Weezys operating room spoof suffers from producer Swizz Beats lazy lift of a straight David Axelrod riff) or vice-versa (Playing with Fife, Streetrunners re-invention of the Rolling Stones Play with Fire in collaboration with old-school soul singer Betty Wright, is wasted on a Lil Wayne lyric that seems to have been devoted to being as inanely sexist as possible).
Ah, yes: Inane sexism. That, of course, brings us to Lollipop, the record-breaking, chart-topping single destined to be the summer soundtrack of 2008. Musically irresistible, its not that the track is thematically reprehensible; some of the greatest hits in pop history have paid subtly veiled homage to oral sex, Please Please Me, Sugar, Sugar and the B-52s Roam among them. Its just that Lil Wayne is irredeemably lazy, mired in what New York Times critic Jon Pareles called the single entendre (why trouble with two when one will do?) and, like much of the album, falling frustratingly short of what could and should have been a career climax. Even a sucker deserves better.