Deep Album Cuts Vol. 118: Lil Wayne

This Friday, we're reportedly going to finally get Tha Carter V, the long-delayed 5th chapter in rap's answer to the Bat Out of Hell series, a moment when Lil Wayne either regains some of the superstar glow that the earlier Carter albums gave him or at the very least returns after a few years of legal limbo. So it's a good time to look back on his catalog, or at least the side of it that's readily available on streaming services.

Lil Wayne deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Remember Me (featuring B.G.)
2. Fuck Tha World
3. Grown Man
4. Bloodline
5. BM J.R.
6. I Miss My Dawgs (featuring Reel)
7. Walk Out
8. Fly In
9. Best Rapper Alive
10. Receipt
11. 1st Key (with Birdman)
12. Don't Die (with Birdman)
13. Let The Beat Build
14. Dr. Carter
15. Comfortable (featuring Babyface)
16. Ground Zero
17. I Am Not A Human Being
18. President Carter
19. Wowzers (featuring Trina)

Tracks 1 and 2 from Tha Block Is Hot (1999)
Track 3 from Lights Out (2000)
Track 4 from 500 Degreez (2002)
Tracks 5, 6 and 7 from Tha Carter (2004)
Tracks 8, 9 and 10 from Tha Carter II (2005)
Tracks 11 and 12 from Like Father, Like Son with Birdman (2006)
Tracks 13, 14 and 15 from Tha Carter III (2008)
Track 16 from Rebirth (2010)
Track 17 from I Am Not A Human Being (2010)
Track 18 from Tha Carter IV (2011)
Track 19 from I Am Not A Human Being II (2013)

Of course, boiling down Lil Wayne's output to his proper retail albums without his mixtape work and guest verses is a bit like only talking the Grateful Dead's studio albums without their live recordings. You're just not getting the full picture and how he set a new standard for how rappers release music and how much they can release. But that's alright, because he has a pretty damn good catalog of albums, in a way I'd say it's underrated because so many people just wanna talk about singles and mixtapes.

It's fun to listen to this stuff in chronological order because you get a good sense of how Lil Wayne evolved and developed over the years. There's probably nobody else in hip hop who had such a prolonged growth spurt, consistently getting better for nearly a decade. But contrary to what some might say, he was pretty good from the beginning, there aren't a lot of 17-year-olds who've made better rap albums than Tha Block Is Hot. That said, you do hear the biggest jump in his skill and presence as a rapper between tracks 4 and 5 on this playlist, that moment on the first Tha Carter when he really arrived.

It's funny to think how much Tha Block Is Hot is talked about in terms of Wayne obeying his mother's wishes to not curse on his first album when there's a song called "Fuck Tha World." But man, there's stuff on Wayne's very earliest songs two decades ago about how he shot himself accidentally at 12, and we're just now starting to hear that it was actually an intentional suicide attempt, wild stuff. I should note that I used the "Grown Man" from Lights Out, which is in my opinion one of teen Wayne's best songs and far superior to the more famous "Grown Man" with Curren$y from Carter II.

I love Wayne with Mannie Fresh on the first 7 tracks of this mix, though. I like to say that Mannie Fresh carried Cash Money for a decade, producing practically everything the label released, and then Wayne carried it for the next decade (and of course the Young Money artists Wayne signed continue to carry it to this day). And for Wayne's first 4 solo albums (plus 3 Hot Boys albums and countless features), they were a perfect combination. You could say that Mannie happened to leave Cash Money right at the moment that Wayne outgrew him and was ready for a wider variety of production, but Mannie kept up with him with darker beats on Tha Carter, I kinda wish we could've heard them work together longer.

I'm also a pretty big fan of T-Mix, the Suave House veteran who produced a couple of 8Ball & MJG's greatest '90s albums and became Cash Money's post-Mannie producers, helming a lot of the best of Tha Carter II and Like Father, Like Son, including "Hustler Musik" and "Stuntin' Like My Daddy." It bums me out a little that after that Wayne seemed to really not build lasting creative relationships with many producers and kind of treat beats as interchangeable, with a lot of the producers of his biggest hits having to sue Cash Money to get proper compensation.

My feelings are a little more mixed about the music Lil Wayne at the height of his popularity. Tha Carter III was not quite what it could have or should have been, and the quality of his rapping has varied pretty erratically from track to track in the years since then. But if you cherrypick the best stuff, as I did for this playlist for The Dowsers, he's made some really great tracks in the last decade. I surprised myself by even finding a pretty good track on his ill-fated rock album Rebirth, although I would say that "Best Rapper Alive" and "I Am Not A Human Being" are this playlist's best examples of rap/rock fusion.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
Vol. 105: The Police
Vol. 106: Sloan
Vol. 107: Peter Gabriel
Vol. 108: Led Zeppelin
Vol. 109: Dave Matthews Band
Vol. 110: Nine Inch Nails
Vol. 111: Talking Heads
Vol. 112: Smashing Pumpkins
Vol. 113: System Of A Down
Vol. 114: Aretha Franklin
Vol. 115: Michael Jackson
Vol. 116: Alice In Chains
Vol. 117: Paul Simon
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