Lil Wayne has always been one of hip-hop’s more mercurial talents. An artist unafraid to fly too close to the sun, fans love him because he takes risks. Dominating the mixtape download era with a run of lawless releases, his ongoing ‘Tha Carter’ series is one of modern rap’s most imposing lineages, a universe unto itself.
With ‘Tha Carter VI’ seemingly lingering on the horizon, Lil Wayne has gathered some studio offcuts as a gift for fans. ‘Tha Fix Before Tha VI’ contains numerous experiments, collaborations, and drafts, indicating his willingness to continually step outside convention – yet it doesn’t always land.
The highs make entrance more than appealing. Opener ‘Act Up’ is savage, Lil Wayne trading bars with Jon Batiste. The supple soul that ripples through ‘Slip’ – the under-stated beat, those spine-tingling notes of piano – tap into his introspective side, while all-star link-up ‘To The Bank’ unites Weezy with Cool and Dre.
Yet ‘Tha Fix Before Tha VI’ is wilfully inconsistent. Offcuts from the studio floor, it can move from free-flowing poetry to half-finished ideas in a heartbeat. ‘Birds’ is messy, an in-joke that probably should have been kept that way; the electronic production on ‘Tity Boi’ doesn’t seem to progression EDM trope that already feels dated.
The pop-punk template of ‘Tuxedo’ falls into both camps. Tapping into Gen Z’s thirst for Millennial tropes, it also fulfils Lil Wayne’s rock ambitions – he’s long cited Nirvana as a formative influence. It’s a fun piece of grunge-laden trap, but it will almost certainly divide fans who are already yearning for ‘Tha Carter VI’.
Closing with the bombastic ‘Good Morning’, the mixtape is brief but memorable, punchy but frequently at odds with itself. Never truly settling into any one lane, it feels more like an entree than a main course.
Words: Robin Murray