The Curious Case of Lil Wayne

Celebrating Mr. Carter's best means tolerating his worst

And ultimately, the real legacy of Tha Carter III might not even be the album itself; it'll be the challenge it presents to anyone attempting rap stardom in the future. We'll get plenty of shallow attempts to duplicate its success, of course. Chumps like Yung Berg are already ruining their voices attempting to replicate Wayne's distinctive raspy yip, and producer Bangladesh is already ripping off his own "A Milli" beat for clients like Beyoncé and Busta Rhymes. But I can't wait to see who responds to the album's challenge on a basic, fundamental level. The old model doesn't work anymore. You can't just hire a phalanx of superstar producers, cobble together a few singles and a bunch of filler tracks, and call it a day. Old-model stars like 50 Cent and Nelly already seem helplessly, hopelessly out of date; any rapper hoping for Carter III–level success is going to have to let himself be weird. And so Kanye's icy electro lament, 808s & Heartbreak, ranks as the first real post–Carter III rap album, a sideways bugout move that would've been unthinkable a year ago and still seems pretty bizarre today. If we're lucky, we'll get a few more of those.

Emulate this man at your own peril.
David Atlas
Emulate this man at your own peril.

As for Wayne himself, it is my great hope that he'll live to see the end of 2009.

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