Lil Wayne is the Al Green of rap: He could recite the phone book and have listeners hanging on each of his curvaceous consonants and smoldering vowels. On Tha Carter, Vol. II, Wayne more or less does just that, injecting familiar rap tropes (sample chorus: "Get money, fuck bitches, get money, fuck bitches . . .") with his preternatural grasp of rhythm. He stretches out his flow for the classic boom bap production of "Mo Fire" before contracting it over the tighter crunk riddims of "Fireman." Though his voice is somewhat slight by nature -- nimble and exact rather than full and forceful -- he handles the busy bombast of "Best Rapper Alive" with the sort of finesse not seen since Jay-Z circa Vol. 2. For the slow ballad "Lock and Load," he affects a raspy drawl -- weaving around the beat to create complex counter-rhythms to reinforce the somewhat plodding production. And while many of the sentiments amount to little more than rehashed aspirational lifestyle fantasies, there are notable exceptions: On "Get Over," which mourns the death of Weezy's father, his voice is little more than a grisly whisper as he raps, "'Stay strong, be tough,' that's what the preacher tell ya/He never really felt ya, so he can't even help ya/Ya need a shoulder to lean on, somebody to cry to/Standing on stage in front of thousands/Don't amount to not having my father." It's a seductively sad performance from one of the finest hip-hop albums of the year.
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