After a few listens, I'm ready to say that Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne's newest album, is better than my wildest expectations, and is a huge step forward for him as an artist, miles beyond any album he's released before. He's done exactly what I'd always hoped, but didn't dare to believe he'd do: he's largely stepped out of the gangster, crack dealer posturing that has always made it impossible for me to make it through an entire Lil Wayne album in one sitting, and has created a complicated, inventive, nuanced pop masterpiece.
For longtime fans of his misogyny and mindnumbing violence, he throws a few bones here and there, and there is of course the incredibly irritating "Lollipop" song, but most of the album goes places Wayne has never gone before: a vulnerable and heartfelt ode to his hometown of New Orleans, a couple of shockingly inoffensive and entertaining love songs, inventive concept songs about such things as being a hip-hop doctor, a space alien, and lusting after a lady cop, all backed by awesome, r&b based beats from Kanye West and others.
Wayne is "Lil" for a reason: he's been recording since he was a kid, and is still a very young artist, only 25 years old now. I hope that this album bodes well for a long, fascinating career from an artist who looks as though he's no longer content to throw away his immense talents on the same tired nihilistic themes gangsta rappers have been beating into the ground for years.