Written by Angelo Gingerelli & Keshav Pandya
Lil’ Wayne’s’ Free Weezy Album” (aka “FWA”) was released appropriately on July 4th to commemorate the rapper’s first independent release after nearly two decades with Cash Money Records and while the album does prove why Wayne is one of the elite rappers of his generation, it’s not quite the declaration of independence most fans are expecting.
Lil’ Wayne began releasing music in the late 90’s as a teenager with the now defunct Hot Boyz collective on Cash Money Records, but didn’t really hit his stride until the mid-00’s when that group disbanded and he was able to develop as a solo artist. Arguably, there has been no artist better suited to be a rap star in the 21st century than Wayne. His rapid fire similes/metaphors/punchlines are tailor made for a generation with a short attention span, his hedonistic attitude (sex, drugs & hip-hop) appeals to the rebellious teenager in everybody and his ability to shift his persona from menacing to lovable at the drop of a hat made him one of the most unlikely pop stars of the last decade. Further, he was one of the first artists to really capitalize on the current state of the music industry by releasing an almost unfathomable number of mixtapes/freestyles/guest appearances to keep him fresh in the minds of the youth while still putting out a quality “real album” every few years to appease the establishment (radio, video outlets, award shows, etc.).
The Free Weezy Album comes at an interesting point in Wayne’s career. His former label Cash Money Records has shelved his Tha Carter Five album (the last in a series of albums that saw Wayne progress from dirty south cult figure to worldwide pop star), fans have seemingly shifted their attention to newer/younger MC’s and critics have grown tired of the “Lil’ Wayne” formula, despite acknowledging his undeniable talent. Needless to say, the man called “Lil’ Tunechi” has a lot to prove with this record.
“FWA” is solid form beginning to end and will satisfy hardcore Wayne fans for the summer. It may draw some casual fans as well, but for people in the “Lil’ Wayne is Over Rated” club, this album will do little to change their opinion. The record is 15 songs deep and starts off very strong with the dramatic “Glory,” the anthem-like “He’s Dead” and the James Brown sampled “I Feel Good.” After this trio of bangers the album loses some steam with the majority of the next 12 songs being either passable cuts about typical rapper stuff (money, cars, being tough, etc.) or women/love/sex. All of the songs are listenable, none of them really stand out. The production is decent and Wayne’s rhymes are compelling in a “Wow, that was clever the first time I heard it” way, but nothing really demands repeated listening. This can possibly be attributed to the album being released independently without big name (i.e. expensive) producers and his normal collaborators/label mates (Baby, Drake, Nicki Minaj) being replaced by up-and-coming artists (Hoody Baby, Euro) and younger MC’s he’s clearly influenced (Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy).
However, the biggest glaring omission from the album is a thorough explanation of his current situation and why we should Free Weezy. It’s very possible he can’t address the issue because of legal ramifications, but as a fan it was disappointing not to hear his side of the dissolution of one of the longest standing relationships in Hip-Hop. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next album or his memoirs.
Best Songs: “Glory,” “I Feel Good” and “Living Right” ft. Wiz Khalifa
Perfect For: A cardio session on the treadmill. The beats are good enough to keep you going and the lyrics are interesting enough to distract you from the monotony.