As the riddle goes, a man walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the evening and three legs in the afternoon. Spanning a watery hour and 16 minutes, Lil Wayne’s latest release “Funeral” is further proof the rapper has long been in the afternoon of his career.
Dwayne Carter Jr. is, by many standards, a legend. Many of his contemporaries have called him the greatest rapper alive. We’re talking about a man who can not only pride himself on the several classic albums under his belt but also jump-started the careers of rappers with a similar impact on hip-hop and the music industry at large. The man is a godfather of modern rap, which is why it’s so odd to hear him style himself in such a reactionary and trend-friendly manner on this album.
The album’s introductory stretch — everything between the title track “Funeral” and the track “Dreams” — is boisterous and fiery. “Mahogany” is the closest Lil Wayne has been to the top of his game since perhaps “Mona Lisa” from “The Carter V.” However, even on these, which turn out to be the album’s cream, seem to be looking side-to-side for a trendy flow or theme to latch onto and synthesize. If it wasn’t for low-hanging fruit such as “I don’t want beef, I just want green/That’s vegetarian dreams,” you couldn’t be faulted for thinking Lil Wayne had hired the same person who writes for Lil Uzi or 2 Chainz to pen any one of the mountain of tracks that landed on this record.
The quality wears off quickly, or perhaps Lil Wayne exhausts the reserve of goodwill and anticipation his status affords him. While “Stop Playin with Me” isn’t the weakest point on the album, it’s the first sign the tracklist is going to lose its stamina. By the time we reach “Bing James,” Wayne is in autopilot, and even a decent Jay Rock feature can’t pull the song together. Around this point, Wayne showcases how little he’s grown since 2013, regardless of how he’s adapted his sound.
“Tha Carter V” was a compilation of years of work, which left it hectic but at least dynamic. “Funeral” seems to grow into monotony the further down in the setlist you progress. Compounding this is how anything that stands out feels unwelcome. Who was asking for a dull and manufactured Adam Levine hook in 2020? Why couldn’t 2 Chainz bring anything interesting to a track of which he eats up half the runtime? Why would Lil Wayne resurrect an awful XXXTentacion feature only to spend his verses shoddily emulating the late rapper’s style?
The lowest points leave the listener curious as to what Wayne’s purpose was in releasing this album. He’s already established himself as an icon of 2000s hip-hop. There’s little evidence to support any financial deficiency. If this was a labor of love and he did it for the sake of the music, it’s curious that so little soul was put into the overwhelming majority of the tracks. Going so far as to cut the fat and focus on the album’s highlights would still leave you with a forgettable collection of Lil Wayne B-sides, something even his core fanbase can’t be chomping at the bit for these days.
Perhaps when Lil Wayne accepts his place as a forefather of the modern era as opposed to a proponent of its future, he’ll be better positioned to craft an album that will play to his strengths. It would take a truly horrific release to tarnish his legacy, but only a few more mediocre and bloated drops to overstay his welcome. Until then, the best we can hope for is a sustained plateau and a shorter tracklist.