With eight new songs, the extended version of Lil Wayne’s ‘Funeral’ is quite the marathon, but it improves upon the decent-versus-skippable ratio of the original tracklist.
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On many occasions, veteran rapper Lil Wayne has managed to inspire extraordinary public fascination in his albums before they’ve even been released. The apex of this strategy came with 2008’s Tha Carter III, which Wayne hyped up by means of oceans of free mixtapes, monster lead singles, and vigorous marketing— and then basked in his success when C3 sold a million copies in its first week out, a feat no other rap album has achieved in the dozen years since then. He’s operated in a similar vein with several subsequent albums, most recently 2018’s Tha Carter V — which sold 480,000 copies and drew a record-busting number of streams over its initial week of release.
Stream: ‘Funeral (Deluxe)’ – Lil Wayne
For reasons known only to Weezy, his thirteenth album, Funeral, eschewed this pre-release hype-building almost entirely. He simply put out a casual announcement in January that his new album would be coming out soon, and then fulfilled his promise a few days afterward. On the strength of its front man’s celebrity power, the album topped the charts. Yet it never produced anything remotely resembling a hit single and was met with less-than-adulatory critical reception. Before long, Funeral had faded from the forefront of pop-culture consciousness. And that, it seemed, was that.
Until, that is, on May 29 when Wayne reemerged with a deluxe edition of Funeral which added eight songs and brought aboard several new guests. One has to wonder: does the new material strengthen the overall release, or does it take an album that was already overlong at 76 minutes and make it overbearingly so at 103 minutes?
The answers to those questions are mixed— as is the album’s content itself, per clear critical consensus. Always a man of witty words and clever couplets, Funeral finds Wayne adding to his stash on a number of standouts. “Gas to the floor, I’m pressin’ fast forward, I race a NASCAR,” he raps on “Mahogany,” one of the album’s top songs. Wayne has long since established that “I am a Martian,” but “I Do It” further enlightens us that “I am a mess, I am a mutant. Bullets go through your vest like it’s translucent.” His duet with expert MC Jay Rock, “Bing James,” is plenty riveting as well, and even some of the less upbeat tracks make their mark too, such as the auto-tune-fueled “Dreams” and the sensual “Sights and Silencers.”
Conversely, a fair number of songs here feel somewhat lethargic at times. On a record of this length, that results in a somewhat plodding listen. Even though Wayne has always been hailed more for his wordplay than his narrative skills, Funeral could have also benefited from more introspective content. The personal and professional relationships that surely must have been ruptured during his recent record label disputes aren’t described in particular depth. Yet plenty of room is made for the mindless erotica raps that characterize “Clap for ‘Em” and “Mama Mia,” among multiple others. Wayne’s early-2010s records were criticized for having too many songs of that nature; that only underlines how applicable such critiques are now, close to a decade onwards.
Although Funeral remains an uneven record, the bonus content on the deluxe edition puts a considerable amount in the plus-column. Wayne achieves a further series of exciting duets with his fellow MC’s, most impressively Lil Uzi Vert on “Multiple Flows” and Benny the Butcher on “Russian Roulette.” Meanwhile, both the EDM production and the ODB-sampling hook by Doja Cat make “Shimmy” a delightfully bouncy track. The consistency of these new songs offers a hint as to how Funeral might have been improved as a tighter, shorter LP.
While Funeral may not be Lil Wayne’s strongest or most focused release, it still has a considerable amount of quality tracks for hip-hop fans to pick and choose from. Its strongest moments speak to Wayne’s enduring capabilities as a rapper— especially with the impressive new content he’s tacked onto the album this past week.
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