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Hip-hop has seen a large number of album series throughout its lifetime. From Jay-Z’s Lifetime collection to Guru’s Jazzmatazz compositions, series in hip-hop are known for establishing a firm foundation in artist’s career, typically creating a foundation that can easily be attached to the rapper’s image. One major sequence of records that immediately comes to mind would be the ecstatic Carter series from Lil Wayne.

Experience one of the toughest troughs in rap history, Cash Money Records seemed to be heading downhill from the flashy plaques and hit records they often boasted. With three of the four members of the Hot Boyz out of the picture, the tides turned to Weezy to carry the once-acclaimed record label to the top of the charts. Many questioned the lyrical ability and star power of the crew’s youngest member, doubting he would serve as the catalyst for change in his camp; and what was Weezy’s reponse to the madness—Tha Carter.

Released in 2004, Tha Carter embraced core aspects of Wayne’s lyricism and turned them up a notch. Before the record was released, Wayne was viewed as the “Drop It Like It’s Hot” boy, mirroring the imperfections that stemmed from Cash Money’s strip anthem culture. However, when Tha Carter dropped, Wayne put all these conversations to rest, showing the world he was capable of more than flashy hits. Listeners couldn’t believe what they were seeing: an artists that was able to flip his springy flow and witty attitude into a lively masterclass of Southern slanged lyricism. Not only that, but Wayne was still able to deliver hit records that rang like fire throughout the streets, echoing the greatness of the Hot Boyz days.

Tha Carter served as the beginning of Wayne’s transformation, leaving him in a springy state that would require more than bouncy beats to get his point across. Mannie Fresh production reigns all throughout the record, providing the New Orleans regional stamp as Wayne steps out of norm for his newly reformed style. The album is thrives through bouncy bangers like “Go DJ” and “This is the Carter”, but its the joints like “I Miss My Dawg” and “Walk In/Out” that prove Wayne is capable of delivering more, lyrically, than flashy raps and regional NOLA classics.

After boosting Cash Money back to the top of the charts, Wayne immediately followed with a series mixtape run that would subconsciously set the stage for his follow up to Tha Carter series. One of the main aspects that translated from the mixtapes was the difference of sound, expanding past the traditional NOLA bounce. Tha Carter II exhibited Wayne in a similar pocket, spazzing over an array of different production styles. From sped-up New York boom bap to chopped-and-screwed Houston originals, the beat selection for Tha Carter II showed that Wayne was capable of growing past his city limit to evolve artistically, fueling his growth to superstar status almost overnight.

While Tha Carter opened the doors, Tha Carter II helped set the stage for the main phase in Wayne’s career that would see him reach international fame. Though he catapulted himself into the best rappers conversation (with an electric single on the album titled ‘Best Rapper Alive’), Weezy was far from where he needed to be; but records like the electric single “Hustler Muzik” and the lively anthem “Fireman” did a good job of exhibiting the potential Weezy had to occupy a lane in the mainstream. Nonetheless, Tha Carter II was still exploding with potential and was a pitstop away from the blinding lights of stardom in Wayne’s career.

Arguably the most widely know hip-hop album of all time, Tha Carter III served as Weezy’s superstar status claim. Tha Carter III was Wayne’s victory tour as the world finally came to their senses with Weezy’s ‘best rapper alive’ claims. After a successful run spanning across two Dedications, four Da Drought tapes and an impressive number of features, Weezy catapulted himself into the upper echelon of the music industry, completely taking over both the airwaves and the streets.

Wayne records remained heavily present in radio throughout this time, but he also had a lock on the streets as many flocked to any bit of Weezy content they could find (which would also include notorious leaks). This record was a big moment for Wayne and would cement Tha Carter as one of the most prominent albums series in hip-hop history. The record covered all bases sonically, taking over the billboard with flashy bagers like “Got Money” and “Lollipop” while remaining rooted in a traditional style through joints like “Mr. Carter” and “Comfortable”; and who could forget the colossal moment that was the release of “A Milli”.

Tha Carter III was truly an unfathomable moment in hip-hop, showing the new lengths to which hip-hop music could go.

One of the more overlooked additions to the series, Wayne manages to find the balance between his superstar image and creative direction for another blockbuster release. At the height of the Young Money empire’s success, Wayne found himself in a sticky situation with the law, facing incarceration for gun possession. While we remember the moment for the severity of the situation (and the iconic deposition video), Weezy’s bid in the infamous Riker’s Island would act as the foundation for Weezy’s creative spike on Tha Carter IV. After an momentous radio run and an iffy attempt at a rock record, many doubted Wayne’s decisions, questioning if he would bounce back creatively.

While Tha Carter IV would see a fair amount of strives towards radio, the album showed that the Cash Money mogul was able to balance his artistry with those under his new imprint. Wayne updated the formula used throughout Tha Carter III‘s format, utilizing new tricks from his bold adventures. The iconic “How to Love” features a guitar string and melodies from Weezy himself; in addition, the record makes use of various contributions, placing features throughout the record with some remaining hidden. But with each innovative approach, Wayne includes a “6 Foot 7 Foot” or a “Blunt Blowin” to remind folks he can still rhyme laps around your favorites.

While the first half of the decade would see a complete Young Money takeover, the latter half would experience a complete 180 as we saw a legal battle take place for nearly five years. Amidst the chaos lied a mythical project, one that we thought would never see the light of day: Tha Carter V. Though many would say it gained its rep for its status as an urban legend at one point, Tha Carter V was beloved upon release date due to its deep dive into Wayne’s personal life.

Here you have a rapper who served as a role model for his ‘life fast, die young’ attitude and he’s opening up about his relationship with his mother and almost dying due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Tha Carter V emphasizes the personal aspects of Wayne’s writing and proves a rap veteran can still find success in his career by remaining transparent with his audience. Of course Wayne was going to return with joints like “Mona Lisa” and “Used 2” to keep listeners invested in the rapper’s incredible wordplay, but the record thrives when Wayne keeps his pen intimate. Cuts like “Open Letter” and “Problems” gives listeners that inward-facing look on Wayne’s life that we never had – and who could forget the emotional ending that was “Let It All Work Out”.

Tha Carter V was long overdue for release, but provided a thorough perspective into the life of an artist who we thought was unaccessible.

As we know, Lil Wayne has teased the release of another series addition with Tha Carter VI. Being that Wayne has conquered every possible realm in hip-hop, its difficult to predict the creative trajectory of what Tha Carter VI would, or could, sound like.

That being said, the hope is that Wayne could delve deeper into the missing holes of his life, fully explaining the substance of his idle years.

There is also the possibility of Wayne embracing his newly established OG status and introduce a new wave of trailblazers. That being said, any drip of content that Wayne has for us is more than welcomed, as the veteran has rapped his way into the new decade as if he has a chip on his shoulder.

Whatever it is, may the outcome live up to the legendary standing of the entire Carter series.