As far as legacy goes, Lil Wayne has already reached the pinnacle. After a historic run in the mid-2000s, every album now for the 37-year-old legend is just icing on the cake. Sure, a few project duds have defined the latter half of his career, but that hasn’t stopped the hysteria from hip-hop heads whenever a new Weezy album drops.
Funeral comes at a peculiar time in Wayne’s career. Carter V’s release in 2018 was the end of an era, with many wondering whether the album would be Tunechi’s last, and if not, where his sound would go next. It turns out, the Lousiana-bred rapper is back and attempting to keep up with the modern-day rap aesthetic:
“What the new thing is for me is actually trying to put out music that sounds a little more like today’s music,” he explained to a New Orleans radio station. “What that means for me… is adding hooks. I forget about hooks. I forget ’em. Somebody gotta come in the booth and stop me from rapping, like, ‘This is where you stop it and add a hook.’”
Personally, I’d prefer for Weezy to dig deep into the past for his newer material, but if he plays his cards right, I wouldn’t put it past him to rediscover lightning-in-a-bottle once again.
Here are my rapid-fire takeaways and favorite songs off Lil Wayne’s new album Funeral:
2 Quick Takeaways
Mixtape Weezy Is Back From The Dead
The first section of Funeral is a welcome return for a rapper whose legacy will never be questioned. The lighter flick — like the Undertaker rising from the coffin — begins a three-song resurrection of Mixtape Weezy that delivers dose after dose of nostalgia. The cinematic title track is a precursor to the energetic explosion that is to come. “Welcome to the funeral / Closed casket as usual” Wayne croons. Savor the singing while you can, however, because Tunechi spends the next two and a half songs eviscerating everything in sight.
It’s a welcome callback to the rapper’s peak, where no beat was safe from Wayne’s aggressive onslaught. When Weezy is firing on all cylinders, like he is between “Funeral” and “Mama Mia,” it just doesn’t matter if there’s not a single hook or bridge in sight. When I’m listening to Lil Wayne, I’m not looking for flawless song structure and immersive soundscapes. Just give me stream-of-conscious bars and passionate rhymes and I’m satisfied.
Tunechi Needs To Learn How To Trim
As soon as I found out Funeral was a 24 song marathon, I immediately knew this project wasn’t meant to be played front-to-back. Sure enough, one listen deep and I have little desire to return to Lil Wayne’s thirteenth studio album, outside of a few select tracks. Is it Tunechi’s performance that is negatively affecting its replay value? No, there’s no question Wayne’s rapping holds up well for the majority of the project. Unfortunately, 24 songs of the exact same thing is bound to grow stale eventually, no matter who it is. If Weezy trimmed Funeral of all of its excess fat, you could discover a highly-replayable 8 song EP. But for what it is, Funeral is mostly a snoozefest.
In addition, the production throughout Funeral really lets Wayne down. There are a few diamonds in the rough from esteemed producers, but the duds show that Wayne’s ear for beats leaves something to be desired. From the rock-inspired “Dreams” to a Metro Boomin disappointment on “Stop Playin With Me” to a “Bing James” beat that sounds like an out-of-tune Schoolboy Q banger, the production value fails to lift Weezy to his true potential.
2 Best Songs
THIS is what we want from Lil Wayne. For all the cringe-worthy Adam Levine collaborations, experimental rock-infused tracks and tone-deaf beat selections we suffer through every project, there’s always an oasis that sucks us back into Mixtape Wayne nostalgia. For Funeral, “Mahogany” is that lyrical paradise.
Mannie Fresh throws together a hypnotic sample loop with a chest-pounding drum kick — sounding like it was pulled straight from Jay-Z’s 4:44. Before you can even process Wayne’s trademark lighter flick, he jumps straight into a run-on-sentence flow, reminiscent of the rapper’s “A Milli” days. From that point, it’s one-liner after one-liner with a fiery aggression rarely seen from the New Orleans legend these days. “I’m too eager to wait it out / Stuck the heater in Satan’s mouth,” he snarls. “Mahogany” is like jumping into a hip-hop time machine and is one of the few replay-worthy standouts on the album.
Somebody get Lil Wayne on the line and force him to do a whole project filled with soul loops. Right now. It’s remarkable how rejuvenated Wayne can sound with the perfect production elevating every codeine-soaked bar. It’s night and day.
“Harden” remains one of the only cuts on Funeral that ties together a coherent structure with a story that is riveting from beginning to end. The song involves an unnamed woman who keeps rejecting Tunechi’s advances. “So I tried to call, but I couldn’t reach ya, you blocked my number / I feel like James Harden, you blocked my jumper, goddamn.” “Harden” has a classic, early-Carter days sound that showcases Wayne completely in his comfort zone. STREETRUNNER should’ve handled ALL of the production on Funeral.
What do we want from a Lil Wayne album in 2020? If it’s strictly for the rapper to drop a few lyrical bombs for us to cherry-pick onto our playlists as an ode to the “old Wayne days,” then Funeral more than delivers. Several of the songs are solid, and Wayne proves he still has the capability to burn down the studio with his breathless flows and relentless one-liners.
As an album, however, Funeral is a mess. More than a dozen of the tracks are unnecessary filler and the production feels out-of-touch and inconsistent from song-to-song. Funeral is more mixtape than album, which would be fine if I wasn’t so darn bored for the majority of its excessive one hour and sixteen-minute runtime. It’s frustrating to know the perfect project combination to capitalize on Wayne’s talent (wouldn’t an eight-song, Mannie Fresh-produced EP be insane?), but realize it will more than likely never come to fruition.
All in all, Funeral doesn’t rewrite the storied excellence of Lil Wayne. The wordsmith may be past his prime, but you can still hear snippets of the heart and soul he puts on every verse. Wayne’s final act is comparable to the last few years of Kobe in a Lakers uniform. You can see that both have lost a step, but it’s those rare glimpses of glory (Kobe’s 60 point farewell, Lil Wayne’s “Harden”) that add to the legend status of their careers. I, for one, am glad that Wayne refuses to compromise who he is despite his declining talent. There’s a part of him that will always embody the Mamba Mentality. Kobe would be proud.