What made Tha Carter II so special is that you could tell Wayne put his entire foot into this project’s proverbial ass. The production was beautiful and top-notch and through the beats, Wayne and his team were able to emote properly about the struggles of being a hustler, a rapper, and just a man in general. Try playing “Hustler Muzik” or “Receipt” and not either stand up and get your own shine on or call up that old flame. And I haven’t even got started on Wayne’s lyricism, which was at its peak on this project.
There was still a bounce to things, but there were also bars on top of bars. Now, Wayne isn’t the most-lyrical rapper of all-time. Not by a long shot. However, you could put Carter II up against, say, Food and Liquor and not look like a complete jackass. All in all, this was Wayne’s zenith as a rapper.
Think about this: Tha Carter II is considered a classic to some for its production, bars, punchlines (without the pregnant pauses to boot), storytelling abilities and the fact that Wayne went in completely on it. It was the album that allowed “real hip-hop” fans to take notice of the Louisianimal. It was the one that made the world take notice and paved the way for even more pop-friendly hip-hop (since it brought a bunch of new fans into Wayne’s music).
It was Wayne’s Blueprint, his Illmatic, and his 400 Degreez all wrapped up into one dread-having rapper’s stories. Because of this newfound excellence, there wasn’t much more Wayne could do within the “real rap” arena. So, he possibly decided to go even more commercial-friendly and embrace more aspect of music. That’s we got stuff like “A Milli,” which is so not Wayne’s best song. But, we also got stuff like Rebirth, which was definitely that bad.
When a rapper gets to a certain point, fans often expect more of the same. With Jay, we wanted more stuff like The Blueprint 2. So, Jay listened and we got Blueprint 3 and “On to the Next One.” Granted, we also got 4:44. However, we still got stuff like “Run This Town,” music moreso based on the moments it created and less about the music itself. With Nas, people wanted more Illmatic. So, we got Stillmatic and other similar albums. Wayne kind of went the other way and said “fuck convention.” Now, am I saying that Carter III is better than 4:44? Hell, no. However, I’m saying that Wayne completely flipped the game on its head with his Auto-Tuned bars and all that. A lot of artists these days, for better or worse, have Wayne’s music post-C2 in their DNA. Unfortunately, you can’t really say that as much about BP3 Jay or God’s Son Nas.
Wayne made it known that he had placed his claim for best rapper alive on C2, then went the pop route because he knew that he couldn’t go much further doing so-called “pure hip-hop.” He was never destined to be defined by just the “real hip-hop” moniker. Now, let it be known that I’m, in no way, a Wayne apologist. I’ll always say that most of his work post-Carter II is dumpster juice. However, he was never going to be “just a ‘bars’ rapper.”
As always, this is just my opinion, guys. Feel free to disagree.