Lil Wayne, 'Tha Carter III' (Cash Money/Universal Motown)

Critical Mass
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by Charles Aaron

Whether you love, hate, or can even decipher Dwayne Michael Carter's platinum-plus sixth "official" album (mix tapes excluded), you gotta cop to what it represents. Lil Wayne (a.k.a. Weezy, Weezy F. Baby, Lil Weezyana, Young Money, Young Carter, Weezy Wee, et al.) is the purest product of the most transformative, chaos-inducing man-made disasters of the 21st century -- New Orleans, hip-hop, and the Internet.

A proud parasite feeding off our finest, ingeniously mongrelized artistic impulses, darkest, short-selling, capitalistic shell games and primal, do-me-now! desires, this tiny vulgarian griot talks more shit about our confounding times than anyone in pop culture. Never has such a gifted MC been more motivated and distracted, piercing and random, clear-eyed and stoned into total bewildering oblivion. Who can't relate?

He vulnerably tears at your heart on the Katrina-mourning "Tie My Hands," artfully stalks and probes Kanye West's rhythmic boom on "Let the Beat Build," and chillingly confronts his own faults on the sprawling "Shoot Me Down." But then he idiotically compares himself to Martin Luther King and screams, "Assassinate me, bitch!" and almost ruins the mesmerizing minimalist stutter of "a Milli" by drooling (no!), "We pop 'em like Orville Redenbacher."

Dazzlingly flawed, Tha Carter III isn't an album to grade (see above) -- it's one to bang insanely all summer, and not try to understand. It's that kinda year.

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