Album Review: Funeral by Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne can still rhyme, and is dead-set on proving it

Fans can rest easy knowing that, no, Weezy hasn’t lost it.

Seeing as many of the sessions from Tha Carter V date back to 2014, it’s only fair that followers of Lil Wayne have been a little on edge about his most recent release. So they can rest easy knowing that, no, Weezy hasn’t lost it. He can still rhyme— and for the album’s first several tracks, he almost seems dead-set on proving just that. The titular opener’s 0-100 rev-up is immediately followed by the momentous energy of “Mahogany". Song “Mama Mia” showcases  the man at his most lyrically unhinged, all three opening tracks designed to give you the impression that his glory days are far from over. The latter in particular is an excellent reminder of Wayne’s talent for spitting wild combinations of cultural reference points in the same breath, rendering the whole experience surreal by the absurd juxtapositions. Here, Harry Potter, the Wu-Tang Clan, Planet of the Apes, Diana Ross, and, uh, breastfeeding (don’t ask) come together in an onomatopoeia-soaked torrent.

For eight tracks, the album largely manages to keep up the “Wayne-is-back” feeling, capping off the first third with the ear-worm hook of “Bing James.” Sadly, the album trails off almost immediately after with the forgettable “Not Me,” followed by a series of similarly bland tracks and forgettable cameos. The worst by far is the Adam Levine feature “Trust Nobody,” which commits the unforgivable crime of being both boring and catchy. It’s a stubborn reminder that Wayne’s return-to-form in rapping has not been accompanied by a parallel return to the comparatively focused and concise album format of his masterpiece Tha Carter III.

Then again, Da Drought 3, that other towering achievement of Wayne’s past career, was nearly 30 tracks in length and didn’t suffer from it. If “quantity-over-quality” is his M.O., it continues to pay off on Funeral, albeit with diminishing returns. The last third of the album finds him once more in good form, having struggled through a difficult mid-section towards some late-album triumphs. The general feeling is that Wayne is still at his best when he just “does his Wayne,” as evidenced on “Ball Hard” and especially the tempo-switching “Piano Trap.” He’s got a few new tricks up his sleeve, though, the most notable being a penchant for layering his voice into what ends up sounding like a wailing choir of gremlins, most memorably employed on “T.O." It’s a great comedic device that Wayne would do well to deploy elsewhere— I could see him doing a hilarious mock-“sung” performance like Biggie’s “Playa Hater,” maybe as a send-up of Kanye’s current gospel-rap fixation. Highlights and tricks aside, however, there’s no getting around the fact that Funeral could have been greatly improved by gutting most of its middling middle, not to mention the regrettable XXXTentacion feature. Given that we're in the streaming era and tracklists don't seem to matter much anymore, try listening to tracks 1-8, 16, 17, 19-24 in a playlist for a more streamlined Funeral service.