Photo Credit: Ramona Rosales
Lil Wayne’s thirteenth official studio album titled Funeral is more comparative to a shooting guard’s perfected mid-range jumper, opposed to expecting a triple-double every game. For example, like the pronounced skillset of James Harden, over the fluidness of LeBron (In fact, he makes reference to the Houston Rockets star, but we will get to that later). The laser sharp punch lines are still there, the zany mindset is still intact, and the clever wittiness of the syrup sipping MC that defined classics like The Carter III is all still very much alive.
Through a decade filled with label disputes, money woes and a few very public health crises, Weezy has still managed to escape the jungle unscathed, as he’s done for most his life. Although at a lengthy 24-tracks, the LP does lack energy and artistic motivation here and there but all in all, it continues to show Wayne’s pension for defying adversity and above all else, remaining one of the true masters of his craft. Steadily conquering intricate details that have helped catapult and add longevity to his stellar career thus far. This is evident on the opening track “Funeral” where he hits the ground running like a cannon firing off signature one liners like: “Life is a movie and it’s in theaters // Some of y’alls already went to cable.”
Sending a stark reminder to those who may have had reservations regarding his lyrical competence. Good pal Mannie Fresh returns to provide a little magic on the easy beat bopping flows of “Mahoghany.” As Weezy weaves in and out of snares and jazzy 808’s like a thief in the night. Rhyming over a wavy set of drum lines: “I’m a Libra, I weigh it out // Hope the reaper don’t take me out // I’m too eager to wait it out, stuck the heater in Satan’s mouth.” It’s apparent the pair’s chemistry is still a fruitful one, as the Cash Money producer shows up again on the excellently laced “Piano Trap.” Which sounds like it belongs on any one of the diamond-grilled rappers more notable masterworks; (The Carter series, I am Not A Human II or even the Dedication mixtapes).
Ironically, it is on these highlight tunes, taking it back to his throwback Cash Money roots, that Wayne shines the brightest. On tracks like these his energy peaks the highest, and his creative juices flow the deepest. The times when you feel like he’s rapping until there’s not a breath in him left, as he vows to show everyone he still hasn’t lost it. For example, the crafty trap hitting “Clap For Em” channeling 2000’s Hot Boyz vibes. The bouncing track even samples their 1999 summer banger “I Need a Hot Girl.”
On the defiant “Not Me” he spews lines like: “Walked in the pet store said let me get a cobra, gotta keep your friends close and enemies closer,” and “I’m running outta time so I bought another rolex.” Other witty lines can be found on tracks like “Stop Playin With Me” with flows like: “I been on time for a long time, and time sure flies, but it’s on a long flight.” Elsewhere on songs like the splendid “Mama Mia” the tattooed MC goes in on a sizzling three-minute solo rant which is so direct and in your face that it sounds like he’s in a rap battle with himself.
Wayne also includes numerous odes to NBA stars throughout the LP, including Russell Westbrook on “Ball like A Dog” and the late great Kobe Bryant on “Ball Hard” respectively. On the song “Harden” Wayne reminisces regrettably about a lost love, or arguably about the rap game itself: “You blocked my number // I feel like James Harden you blocked my jumper.”
In contrast, unfortunately Lil Tunechi’s obsessiveness with keeping up with the current, almost clouds his signature style at times. For example, tracks like “Never Mind” and “Wayne’s World” all feel uninspired with little creative effort, and ultimately fall flat. When Wayne’s mind veers out of his lane, the artistic well runs dry, and his raps start coming off forced and just doesn’t work. This is the dilemma with many of his collaborations on Funeral. For instance, on the Adam Levine assisted “Trust Nobody”, the rock/pop combo is an unconvincing attempt and fails miserably. As is the case on the darker “Get Outta My Head” featuring a verse by the late rapper XXXTenacion, and “Know You Know” (despite a respectable verse by 2 Chainz) is nothing we haven’t heard from Wayne before. “I Do It” with Big Sean and Lil Baby spawns the most potential, and elsewhere, “Bastard” (Satan’s Kid) which addresses his dad’s mistreatment of his mother fairs well enough.
With almost three decades in the game, it is safe to say the Young Money honcho is still lyrically unmatched, except for the likes a select few of his generation. However, Funeral serves as more of a modern-day version of a roller coaster Weezy ride only Lil Wayne could provide. In the high times he combines sure spit fire lyrics with the lean sipping Southern Louisiana style that he’s made all his own. Then in other moments like past times, his flow gets so complex that he tends to out-rap himself and it comes off as saturated overkill. Like a race car driver who doesn’t need the fastest car to win, Wayne is already gifted enough to beat anyone on the track. In short, overcompensating is unnecessary for a rapper of his caliber. And, the solution is simple. Stick to the script Wayne! It’s worked for you thus far.