Lil Wayne – ‘Free Weezy Album’

Patches of brilliance shine through in a stopgap release of questionable consistency

Round about 2006, it wasn’t uncommon to hear Lil Wayne hyped up as the Greatest Of All Time, critics lining up to proclaim the Louisiana MC as a sort of Wordsworth for the purple drank generation. But just as underground hype seemed on the verge of mutating into genuine Kanye-sized absurdostardom, things went off course. First there was jail time for weapons and drugs, which seemed to take the wind from his sails. Then, a misfiring rock album, 2010’s ‘Rebirth’. More recently, ‘Tha Carter V’ – Weezy’s long-promised studio album – has been repeatedly delayed thanks to a very public falling out with Cash Money owner Birdman. ‘Free Weezy’, then, is presented as a sort of apology-cum-stopgap – although its release as an exclusive through Jay Z’s skeptically received subscription-only music streaming service Tidal makes you wonder who it’s an apology directed to, exactly.

No artists as good as Weezy go totally off the boil, but ‘Free Weezy Album’ is one of those records you sift through for flashes of greatness, rather than sit back and let it wash over you. No complaints about bullish opener ‘Glory’ or ‘I Feel Good’, Weezy a manic presence rapping about ghetto success atop bawdy horns and raw cries sampled from the James Brown record of the same name. Also worthy of attention is ‘I’m That N*gga’, a bug-eyed collision of semi-automatic rapping and moo-cow sound effects that’s as weirdly compelling – and will probably be as divisive – as Nicki Minaj’s ‘Stupid Hoe’.

Trouble is, these are scattered in between boring bits (see ‘My Heart Races On’, with sung hook from milksop crooner Jake Troth) and the occasional moment when our hero’s livewire tendencies topple into the bathtub of bad taste. A love song called ‘Psycho’ in which he raps about sniffing his girlfriend’s underwear and threatening suicide if she leaves him is, well, uncomfortable at best. Guest spots from Young Money newbie Euro (‘Pull Up’) and Young Jeezy (‘White Girl’) light a fire under the second half, but by now your attention may have zigged as ‘Free Weezy Album’ zagged. Maybe he’ll sever ties with Cash Money and come back with a classic – but for now, it feels like maybe those Greatest Of All Time proclamations were premature.