During his prime “Best Rapper Alive” era (2005-2009), and maybe even extending a couple years past that period, there was pretty much nothing in hip-hop more exciting than a new mixtape from Lil Wayne. Yes, he released proper albums that amassed extraordinary hype and attention, but it was on his free internet mixtapes that Weezy truly was the best version of himself- an alien rap monster with a peerless flow, let loose over the best beats of the current music landscape. He’d take a hit instrumental and make it completely his own, so satisfyingly that you didn’t need to hear the original song ever again. 2007’s Da Drought 3 and 2009’s No Ceilings showcase an artist with so much fun musical energy and charisma, it’s impossible to pull your ears away.
However, Lil Wayne’s longest-running mixtape series is his Dedication saga. It’s too bad that after the acclaimed second installment, the output on these tapes gradually regressed into a cesspool of sloppy auto-tune and cringeworthy wordplay as Wayne steadily faded from his prime. In the last five or so years, fans have been more likely to hear news of Wayne suffering another drug-related seizure than to hear a decent project by him, besides an occasional flash of brilliance.
I’m pleasantly surprised to report that his latest, Dedication 6, though no game-changer, contains the most flashes of his former dominant self than any release of his in a long time. On back-to-back freestyles over 21 Savage’s “Bank Account” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3,” he sounds like a man possessed, ditching the auto-tune for breathless flows that are in a way different league than the familiar vocals 21 and Uzi applied. He also displays plenty of energy on the beats to Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” and Kodak’s “Roll In Peace.”
Elsewhere, his takes on Kendrick’s “DNA” or even Post Malone’s “Rockstar” can’t match up to the originals, making this tape an uneven listen. Still, overall, Dedication 6 at least manages to be reminiscent of Lil Wayne’s glory days, making it worthy of attention. I wonder if pharma-bro Martin Shkreli will ever let us hear Tha Carter V.