Very rarely are album names an indicator of quality, but Lil Wayne is an exception to this rule. Throughout his roughly two-decade-long career, his most impressive projects were the five iterations of Tha Carter; the rest have been placeholders.
When Wayne released Funeral on Jan. 31, history unfortunately repeated itself, as fans found themselves with another lackluster project.
Funeral starts strong with a dramatic title-track intro, but quickly becomes tiring and makes you want to listen to hits from 2018’s Tha Carter V to make up for it. It’s hard to tell whether “Mama Mia,” the third song on the project, contains a good verse from Weezy; the screeching metal sounds in the instrumental make it damn near impossible to discern and tolerate.
“Clap for Em” starts too abruptly and sounds like a knock-off of Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance” or Rae Sremmurd’s “Throw Sum Mo.” The song contains the usual strain of cringeworthy lines on the subject of watching women dance, including the refrain “Shake that ass like a salt shaker.”
Most tracks on Funeral sound as though they were songs left off his last album that he repurposed for this new project. The features on the album — including a lazy Lil Baby verse and a mediocre XXXTENTACION mini-verse — are equally as unimpressive. Even 2 Chainz, whose name is a welcome sight on any project, punches severely under his weight.
Adam Levine joins in for “Trust Nobody,” a song about, well you guessed it, not trusting people. It’s got a catchy hook, incorporating a famous line from Joseph Addison’s poem “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” which you might be more familiar with as the hook of Kid Cudi’s “The Prayer.” Wayne has always been good at these emotional tracks since his voice is perfectly suited for a pain-filled verse.
“Ball Hard” might be the best song on the album, if only for its bouncy buy simple beat and a strong verse from Young Money rapper Lil Twist. Wayne’s verse is far from the best he’s ever churned out, and contains a laughably phoned-in series of lines where he lists names and subjects that seemingly have nothing in common.
“Lawrence Taylor, Taylor Swift, tailor-made, made in China / Blac Chyna, Black Mamba, baby mama, Lady Gaga,” Wayne raps.
Although it may have been written months ago, the Kobe Bryant “Black Mamba” reference here feels especially meaningful with the tragic passing of the NBA superstar less than a week before this album’s release. Wayne also includes a 24-second moment of silence (an ode to Kobe’s number) to end the song “Bing James” on which Los Angeles rapper Jay Rock is featured.
The album as a whole, however, seems to be without a distinct focus or purpose. There are points during the project where it feels like there’s more intentionality to the cover art — where the word “Funeral” doubles as the word “Lil Wayne” when flipped upside down — than the entire project.
As album length increases, cohesiveness often decreases. Funeral is a perfect example of this. It sits at 24 songs, nearly the most of any album in his entire discography, and there’s little desire from the listener’s perspective to make it this long.
From Wayne’s perspective, however, a longer album makes sense. Albums like Funeral, or Drake’s 25-song behemoth Scorpion, have potential to make more money because they have more tracks, meaning more streams. On the flip side, Pusha T’s DAYTONA sat at just seven songs and was a to-the-point project with every track being effective. If that fat were trimmed on Funeral, and 10 or so songs were cut, the album would get a major upgrade.
The album doesn’t hurt Lil Wayne’s legacy like Eminem’s recent albums have hurt his, but Funeral is just plain uninspired. Even after a roughly two-decade career, Wayne is still a gifted rapper. But, unfortunately, his most recent project does a poor job reminding fans of that.