‘Tha Carter III’ Lil’ Wayne’s golden album

Silvino Edward Diaz

For the past two weeks, the only melody that’s been fueling my eardrums and my gait around campus is Lil’ Wayne’s “Let the Beat Build.”

A great minimalist composition (produced by Kanye West and Deezle), the record is a lesson from Wayne on how to effectively work and maintain a crescendo in hip hop.

The song, through its simplistic approach, challenges the basic structure of hip hop by letting the sample play and slowly integrating the kicks, hats and snares as the beat progresses.

The beat reaches its apex when Wayne cries, “And that’s how you let the beat build,” making everything fall into place.

It’s the best hip-hop record of 2008, regardless of whether it’s released as a single or not. What’s more, the album that the song belongs to, “Tha Carter III,” will win the Grammy for Rap Album of the Year.

This year, the battle for the Best Rap Album Grammy will be between one of the game’s hottest and one of the game’s greatest – Lil’ Wayne versus Nas.

But Wayne will come out the victor; no questions asked. Nas’ untitled project turned out to be too political and way too dark for its own good.

Nas once again proves that his poetic genius is aging like a fine Spanish Chardonnay; his concept album is a brilliant socio-economic monologue, as well as a bold illustration of the many struggles ravaging the United States today.

But Wayne’s “Carter III” is a breakthrough in hip-hop production, and there lies the key difference.

Because come February, when the National Academy of Recording Artists is forced to weigh these two productions against each other, it will ask itself one thing: “Which one contributed more to the advancement of hip hop as a musical and social institution?”

And the answer to that is “Tha Carter III.”

“Tha Carter III” stamps and seals Lil’ Wayne’s position as one of the top MCs around and, more importantly, as the undisputed top vocalist in hip hop.

Right from the opening record, “3 Peat,” Weezy has us gasping for air as he delivers punch after punch after punch of some of his best material: “I control hip hop and I’ma keep it on my channel/ Watch me!” He goes completely off-the-wall in “La La” with an exaggerated stream of wordplay inferior only to that of Oscar Wilde.

And in “Dr. Carter,” Wayne’s strongest lyrical performance of the album, he literally saves hip hop’s life.

But not only is Wayne’s lyrical prowess in top form, his schizophrenia is wilder than ever.

The tattooed man unravels in every song a whimsical array of voices and characters.

Wayne plays an extraterrestrial in the David Banner-produced track “Phone Home,” stating over and over that “We are not the same; I am a Martian.”

In “Lollipop,” despite the fact that the track has been hailed as a complete waste of time for the true Weezy fan, Wayne pulls off an undeniable club anthem and dominates the vocoder effect to the audience’s advantage.

However, as enjoyable as the crazy – at times demented – antics of Wayne are, I must not get let myself get swayed from reality.

Lil’ Wayne is not the best rapper alive.

Artists including Common, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, Rakim, Nas, Jay-Z, OutKast, Eminem and Lauryn Hill all rank above Mr. Dwane Carter Jr., not only because of lyrical and vocal skill but because of their versatility.

Hip hop is a combination of writing skills and vocal flow, but it is also about versatility – the ability to reinvent, recreate and rediscover your style, constantly.

Wayne needs to prove that he can be an effective wordsmith without relying on his usual suspects of strong wordplay and braggadocio.

Wayne needs to see the art of songwriting beyond a verse-to-verse basis because hip hop is not all about quips and punchlines: it’s about bringing a story – a struggle – to life.

That’s what made Christopher Wallace Notorious B.I.G.; it’s what made Sean Corey Carter Jay-Z.

Wayne is without a doubt a revelation – a breath of the freshest air in an industry flooded by electronic enhancement (the T-Pains) and brainless songwriting (the Soulja Boy Tell ‘Ems).