Lil Wayne's 'Tha Carter IV' sells 964,000 copies, lands second-highest first-week numbers of the year: Is he really the 'best rapper alive'?


Image Credit: Jason G. Bahr/Getty Images

Okay, let’s answer the headline’s question first: No, Lil Wayne is not the best rapper out right now. In my mind, Eminem, Jay-Z, and Kanye West are duking it out for that crown. He is, however, the most popular.

Yesterday Billboard reported the final first-week tally for his new album Tha Carter IV. It sold 964,000 copies, making it the best selling hip-hop debut of the year and the second biggest opening week overall—second only to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, which moved 1.11 million copies.

Wayne’s no newbie to colossal numbers, either. The last edition of his Carter series scored big with 1.01 million records sold in its first seven days on shelves in 2008.

Wayne’s C-4 debut more than doubles the opening figures rap peers Kanye West and Jay-Z’s collab album Watch the Throne (436,000), causing the blogosphere to come to the rash conclusion that Wayne, as he’s said often before, is “the best rapper alive.”

Really? Sure, numbers mean plenty. But as I so eloquently wrote in under 140 characters on Twitter recently, “If I ate a doughnut for every bad album that’s been commercially successful, I’d be fatter than that fattest person you know.”

And people, Tha Carter IV is a bad album. I, and many other writers agree on this much: It’s a set highlighted by about five fantastic songs. Unfortunately, utter duds surround them.

Such is the norm with Weezy’s studio catalog. Check out our review of Tha Carter III. His albums are an hour’s worth of scatterbrained musings. When he hits the jackpot and zeroes in on one particular idea—whether it’s getting a girl, proclaiming his greatness, or both—it’s something to be appreciated.  On his latest, cuts like “She Will” and “How to Love” (both currently in the top 20 of Billboard’s hot 100 chart) accomplish as much and are the greatest joints C-4 has to offer. What it lacks is cohesion.

His songs make you feel like it’d be hard to have a real conversation with him. Within a four-minute song, he raps about so many disjointed ideas that are only connected because he makes them rhyme. In one line, he’s on a quest for greatness. The next thing you know, he’s talking about stealing your girlfriend. Then he’s on to violent threats. Excuse me while I yawn.

One, he’s on probation. The threats are empty ones. I don’t believe that he’s got  tools (guns) like Home Depot. Two, he’s been rapping about all that other stuff, basically in the same way, for years now.

Compare that to Watch the Throne, which sold less, but offers way more. Instead of just talking about their riches, Jay and ‘Ye are rapping about what comes along with them. The good and, more interestingly, the ugly are masterfully explored in new ways. Granted, my teammate Kyle doesn’t feel like I do. But it’s a way better album than Tha Carter IV.

So why did Wayne outsell them? Well, promotion has a lot to do with it. Throne basically had none. The two didn’t do any magazine interviews, no radio spots, late night TV shows, or even tour to announce their album. Wayne’s been on the road for months, been on the cover of the leading hip-hop magazine out, and performed on MTV’s 2011 VMAs just minutes before his album hit stores.

And simply put, people like Lil Wayne more than Kanye West—the album-purchasing audience does, at least. For reasons I can’t exactly explain, it’s easier to root for the rock-star rebel than it is to toast to a douchebag.

But to say Lil Wayne is the best thing hip-hop has to offer is a hell of a statement to make, mostly because it’s incorrect. I won’t give him that title until he puts out a complete body of work that competes with, say, recent goodies My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Eminem’s Recovery, or even Rick Ross’ Teflon Don. Wayne’s albums are Frankenstein-like amalgams of strong and dreadful parts. I need more.

That said, we’re all entitled to our opinions. What’s yours? Do you think Lil Wayne is the best rapper right now? If not, who is?

Read more:
Lil Wayne lyrically attacks Jay-Z and ‘his lady’ on leaked cut from Tha Carter IV: Will Jay answer?
This week in Lil Wayne: Rapper crashes out on skateboard, reveals new album release info

Comments (87 total) Add your comment
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  • Hey Now!!!

    Is he really the most popular? Eminem’s last CD sold over 3 million. Wayne’s CD will probably drop about 80 percent next week. He will be lucky to sell 2 million total before it falls off the charts. Rap albums tend to sell most of it’s copies the first week.

    • lefty

      I feel Em’s numbers are the only reason he’s still in “best rapper” contention. I feel like he hasn’t thought outside of the box since 2005. Kanye is absolutely changing the rap and hip hop game.

  • To Quote “LOL”

    America loves crap!

    • Little comment

      I think you meant America loves rap!

    • wakeforce

      And idiots love LOL!

  • Eric Wolfe

    I agree that much of the buzz around the album is through his own self promotion. Even though I love Jay Z and thought Watch the Throne was a great album my personal favorite rap/hip hop album of the year has to be hot sauce commite part 2 by the beastie boys.

  • the_girl

    Lil Wayne isn’t the best rapper alive. He isn’t even the best rapper in his age bracket. He likely isn’t the best rapper in his county, unless you are only counting people with record deals.
    The fact that people think he is so great just goes to show how much our taste in hip-hop has declined.

  • james t

    Yes he is da best and will go down as one of da best ever .. sorry guys I know it hurt but deal wit it .. wat jay say .. men lie women lie numbers dont

    • @ james t

      I think it hurt more to try to read your comment.

      • james t

        Yess I’m glad ur hurt jus like Wayne is glad yall hating

      • wakeforce

        Go back to school, james t. Or else, Bubba will be waiting for you, in prison.

    • Fred

      James is right, except for the part where Wayne is terrible. He has an annoying, totally predictable flow and he lacks any true personality or innovation.

  • crispy

    He may not be performing much anymore, but I’m pretty sure Rakim is still alive.

    • the_girl

      … and had a fantastic album that came out in 2009, The Seventh Seal is incredible. That is definitely a name that deserves to be on any best of rap list.

      • lisa

        Isn’t Rakim an R&B singer?

      • the_girl

        Umm, no, Lisa, he is not.

      • Brenda

        Thanks for the write up! Also, I ntceoid that your RSS feeds aren’t working. Could you take a look at that?

      • Torre

        I just added this feed to my baokmorks. I have to say, I really enjoy reading your blogs. Thanks!

  • Aprilcot26

    No, but he may be the most disgusting…

  • Lauren

    Jay-Z, Nikki Minaj, Drake and Eminem just off the top of my head are much better current mainstream rappers.

    And then there’s Common, Lupe Fiasco, BEASTIE BOYS!!! and Big Boi to name a few more.

    Yeah, I wouldn’t even put him in my top ten.

  • PN

    Remarkable sales for Lil’ Wayne’s album! Almost hit 1 million like his last album 3 years ago with Carter 3, but I’ll take that strong 964,000 for Carter 4! I had to go to another store on Sunday to get it, because it was sold out at my local Target!

    • Phil

      Preston,you really stilkl buy physical cds?? And if so, did Target even sell the Deluxe version with the bonus tracks “Mirrors”Featuring Bruno Mars? That track makes the highest debut at #16 on the Hot 100 tomorrow. Bruno is a star and Wayne was smart to recruit the hitmaker !

  • anybody

    I think Lil Wayne has great beats but he is not the best rapper alive . Lil Wayne does not make sense . He has no message . NOTHING HE SAYS IS THOUGHT PROVOKING . He’s just popular for whateva reason , I don’t get it . I bet you he does not write his own lyrics.

    • tom sea

      If you had done your research you would know that he does not write his lyrics, he memorizes everything and ‘free- styles’ while recording. Perhaps you should by the new Glee soundtrack if you are looking for a message.

      • Phil

        I am pretty sure he went on record saying that ever since he got off the syrup and all drugs & went to prison he started writing his lyrics down…I’m almost sure I read that in an interview he gave. Not arguing with you, but pretty sure about this.

      • Fred

        Almost nothing Tom Sea said made any sense. Well, except the part about buying the new Glee soundtrack; it’s probably better.

    • sam

      free syles? he has the same exact flow in every song. and its really slow. I could probably do the same if i smoked so much that my voice sounds like sandpaper.

      • Karoline

        Really nice disgen and style and good subject material , hardly anything else we require : D.

  • PN

    I think he’s the 5th best rapper after Jay-Z, Eminem and Kanye West and Nas. He has the flow, but he mumbles a lot even with that metal in his mouth.

  • PN

    I don’t think he’s the best rapper alive–I think he tends to boast himself a little too much. He needs to tone it down and accept that he’s a good rapper and not put himself to grand, inflated proportions like that.


    Weezy F. Baby Please Say The Baby! Lil Wanye is Awsome! I just have sooo much respect for weezy, he’s the only openly gay rapper ot there, think how hard that must be. But he still came out of the closet and repersent! I would lovvvveeee a weezy and gaga collab! Now yall hate on Mr. Carter just becuse your homophobic! If wanye was strait everone would say he’s the best, his skillz are better then jay, em, pac, or big, in there prime. If you cant be comfortable with lil weezyz sexuality, that’s your problem not his!

    • datruth82

      Uh…who’s little Wanye? Is that Kanye’s little cousin?

    • Jeremy

      Uhhh, sorry to burst your bubble but Lil’ Wayne is straight.

  • PN

    I liked most of The Carter IV, but it tends to drag in the middle. There’s like 3 bland songs in a row, as if he’s the rap version of some bloated overproduced power ballad by some pop singer that I won’t name. He didn’t place the songs right in the sequence of the album. He changes his subjects maybe three times too many within the songs. Wayne sold more albums his first week, but I still think that the Jay-Z/Kanye West Watch the Throne is the better album.

  • Vince from NYC

    Best rapper alive? Nah.. He’s good but here’s my list in order: Eminem, Jay Z, Nas, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss. Ok I’m partial as most are NYC based but these guys have been doing it for a long time and say some crazy stuff everytime they spit. I’m rating based purely on skills on the mic, not album sales.

    • Nate Dogg

      Everyone knows the Best Rapper Alive is Ice Cube. West Side motha f&%$!#

      • d

        ice cube sucks

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