2008 was the year for hip-hop. With Eminem and Jay-Z apparently taking the year off, the younger heavy hitters in the game were given free rain to make their claim of being the best in the world. On Paper Trail, T.I. dropped a little of the pretentious bipolar characterization he’d been pushing on his last few records and dropped a solid hip-hop album with massive versus and choruses far beyond the simplicity of his first breakout hit, “Rubberband Man”. Kanye West proved that he is still the most artistic rapper in the world right now with 808’s and Heartbreak, a pop album that seemed doomed to fail until it was released in all its auto-tuned glory. Then, there is Lil’ Wayne. For three years, Weezy has been doing guest verses with anyone and everyone, honing his craft and after all that, we get Tha Carter III. Like some of the other big releases in hip-hop this year, C3 (as it is known to fans) showcases a completely different rapper than we first met when Wayne was a member of Cash Money. Everything about this record seemingly represents the release of a legend. Lil’ Wayne has been saying for awhile that he is the best rapper in the world but he says this with a reverence for the game that young hip-hop has not had in yeas. He knows that the only thing that would make him the greatest in the world would be to legitimately rhyme better than any other rapper and, surprisingly, he’s close.

Of course, some would be quick to cast Wayne off as just another southern rapper in the vein of Lil’ Jon or any of those clowns who popularized “snap music” a few years ago. But Wayne demands to be heard, as he says in the lead-off track “3 Peat”, “Swallow my words/Taste my thoughts”. Wayne has something more to say than his contemporaries, who seem to be too preoccupied with leaning with it and rocking with it to piece together a passable verse on any of their records. This is where Wayne stakes his claim to being the best. Just as Bob Dylan did, Wayne seems to have dedicated himself to not wasting any words in his songs, creating a constant flow of poetry in his songs (“A Millie”). The poetic effects don’t end there as his alliteration, metaphors, similes, and structures are all top notch (On “Got Money”, “Bitch, I’m the bomb like tick, tick.) It is as if Wayne has taken the best aspects of all his contemporaries and predecessors and combined them on one album, again, a representation of his immense respect for hip-hop. On C3 he drops praise for Kanye West, Andre 3000, Biggie, and Tupac, to name a few.

The beats on Tha Carter are perfect for Wayne. His eclectic personality, sometimes bordering on the strange, is the perfect voice to fill beats like that on “La La” or “Mr. Carter”. His “swagger” is perfect. You will not hear another rapper who phrases his words the same way Wayne does, in that unforgiving ghetto southern drawl (“Playin’ With Fire”). Don’t look at Weezy and try and make conclusions about him. His radio singles may be simple enough to impress mainstream audiences but C3 is full of lyrics and themes far beyond what most rappers will ever accomplish. I’m not quite buying that Wayne is the greatest in the world but he certainly is the best of the year.

Overall rating: 8.5/10

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