Anticipation for the fifth instalment of Lil Wayne's "Carter" album series has lasted longer than a lot of people's rap careers. But Thursday at midnight, the New Orleans rapper finally put "Tha Carter V" into the world.
The 23-track album, the sequel to 2011's "Tha Carter IV," has been held up for years, reportedly over legal issues. In the meantime, Wayne did put out some new music in 2015: the mixtape "Sorry 4 The Wait 2" - whose predecessor, 2011's "Sorry 4 The Wait," similarly came out during the constant delays over "Tha Carter IV" - and the Tidal exclusive "Free Weezy Album."
There's a lot to unpack with "Tha Carter V," though, so here's what you need to know.
What's this about legal issues?
"Tha Carter V" had first been scheduled for a December 2014 release but got held up as Wayne's relationships with his label, Cash Money Records, and his longtime collaborator Birdman deteriorated. Birdman and Wayne had long been close - the former helped discover the rapper - but in 2014, Wayne publicly called out Birdman and Cash Money Records over the delay in releasing "Tha Carter V."
Wayne sued Cash Money Records and Birdman, its co-founder, for $51 million over the delays, among other things, according to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ in January 2015. The next month, Wayne told Rolling Stone that "Tha Carter V" was "super done. Cake baked, icing on top, name on top, candles lit. I would have released it yesterday if I could. But it's a dead subject right now. It's a jewel in the safe. It's that stash-house money." Reports emerged in May that the suit had been settled.
"Per our settlement agreement, the matter has been amicably resolved to the satisfaction of all parties," Wayne's lawyer, Ron Sweeney, said in a statement to Billboard that June. "In terms of the particulars, we're prohibited legally from saying anything further. I can say that my client is happy. He is his own man, a man that owns his assets, his music and himself. At some point, Wayne will let his fans know what's going to happen next."
Is that XXXTentacion's name I see?
Yup. XXXTentacion died in June after being shot at a motorcycle dealership in South Florida. Before his death, the 20-year-old rapper lived a violent life: At 6, he tried to stab a man who was "messing" with his mother; while locked up, he beat up a gay inmate; and he allegedly abused his girlfriend for humming someone else's rap verse.
But as the rapper awaited trial in March - having been charged with false imprisonment, domestic battery and aggravated battery of a pregnant woman - his album "?" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. His work continues, as he is featured on "Don't Cry," the second track of "Tha Carter V," which deals with death. XXXTentacion will also be featured in Kanye West's album "Yandhi," set for a Saturday release.
And another Carter?
Two! Reginae Carter, Wayne's 19-year-old daughter, sings the chorus of "Famous." Wayne's mother, Jacida Carter, opens the "Tha Carter V" with the teary spoken-word track "I Love You Dwayne" and appears throughout the album - and on its cover.
"Lil Wayne, mama proud of you," she says. "You done came so far. I can't wait for your album to come out. A lot of people ask me when it's coming out. They can't wait for your album to come out. I'm just proud of you."
But where's Drake?
Not here, apparently - at least not at length. While some have been quick to point out that the guy who raps, "Weezy, where you been? The people miss you," on the track "Hittas" sure sounds a lot like Drake, the Toronto rapper doesn't appear in the album credits and he certainly doesn't have a verse on any song.
Drake's career has long been intertwined with Wayne's. Drake signed to Wayne's label in 2009, the same year MTV asked if the protege would be "the next big thing." (We now know the answer was yes, absolutely.) Because the two have collaborated for years and even toured together, fans were surprised to see that Drake is nowhere to be found on "Tha Carter V."
What about the other guests we hear?
You know who is on the album? Barack Obama! Wayne closes "Dedicate" by sampling an Obama speech: "They might think they've got a pretty good jump shot, or a pretty good flow," the former president says. "But our kids can't all aspire to be LeBron or Lil Wayne!"
Others on this album include: Travis Scott, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Sosamann, Snoop Dogg, Ashanti, Mack Maine and Nivea.
Wait, is this the album Martin Shkreli somehow got ahold of?
Uh, yeah. We know very well by this point that the universe works in mysterious ways, and one such way is the disgraced pharmaceutical CEO claiming in December 2016 that he had legally purchased the unreleased "Tha Carter V." Shkreli reportedly got ahold of a CD after Wayne left it in a car that he sold.
Mysterious, we say.
Because this is Martin Shkreli we speak of, the drama does not end there. He leaked part of the album on Periscope, after which, according to TMZ, Wayne's team sent him a cease-and-desist letter. Fortunately for Weezy fans, earlier this year, a federal district court ordered a convicted Shkreli to forfeit the album, along with the sole copy of Wu-Tang Clan's "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin," to the federal government as a way to pay off part of the $7.36 million he owes.
Could this be Wayne's last solo album?
Sadly, yes. After Wayne first announced "Tha Carter V" in 2012, according to Billboard, he also said he would retire after its release in December 2014. Things obviously didn't go as planned, so who knows whether he will stick to his word? Maybe Weezy leans more Brett Favre than Daniel Day-Lewis.