9. “Dark Side of the Moon” feat. Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj has become quite a divisive figure all on her own, as she takes on any and all subjects (and perceived enemies) on her Queen Beats 1 Radio show. On “Dark Side of the Moon,” Nicki makes another potentially questionable decision, as she fully opts out of dropping any bars and instead, offers up a completely sung verse. As for her actual pipes, there’s definitely some range that I’m not sure we heard fully displayed on some of her one-off pop songs, but it’s still not as good as some old-school Nicki bars.
The song’s most redeeming quality might be the nostalgia it conjures up, as it’s always comforting to hear these two vets on the same track. But it would’ve been better to hear them both at their full MC capacity.
8. “Don’t Cry” feat. XXXTentacion
When XXXTentacion was shot and killed three months ago, the ethics and intersection of art and personal life became a mainstay in the conversation, as rap fans reckoned with the domestic violence charges against him. Now, as iconic rappers like Kanye West and Lil Wayne continue to bring the late Florida rapper into new music, it seems like the ongoing debate may not ever be over.
“Don’t Cry” is the first time we hear a verse from Wayne on the album -- after an emotional spoken-word intro from his mother -- so it seems noteworthy that it’s XXXTentacion whom he’s chosen to bring along with him. As for the song itself, we don’t hear much from XXX, aside from his melodic addition via the song’s chorus, which has the rapper cryptically crooning “don’t cry” in what has now become a punk-pop-influenced staple on a handful of rap tracks in 2018.
As for its place in the iconic Carter series, the hook adds a modern touch but does not amplify the sound or add anything spectacular. The rapper’s controversial inclusion doesn’t seem to be worth the fans who might be lost, or isolated, by Wayne’s latest co-sign.
7. “What About Me” feat. Sosamann
“What About Me” fills the "sad love song" slot on the roster, and its fairly straightforward sound is solidified with a verse from Taylor Gang’s Sosamann. The rapper joins Wayne to croon about a lost romantic connection over a smooth R&B-infused beat, all in his signature sluggish, nearly slurred flow. Wayne laments, “I can’t stand you with another man,” only to have Sosamann follow up with the additive “I just want to see you smile.” It’s a sweet song, but it’s far from a standout.
6. “Dope New Gospel” feat. Nivea
A major motif on Tha Carter V is family and rebirth, and there seems to be nothing that encapsulates those two topics more than featuring Wayne’s ex-girlfriend and mother of one, Nivea. The beat is much more up-to-date than most, but it doesn’t necessarily separate itself from anything fans have heard before -- and not just from Wayne, but from any rapper.
The disappointment in its extremely standard sound is that Nivea’s voice is as beautiful as ever, but it would’ve been better to hear her on a track much higher up on the album, or a track with Wayne doing a little bit more. Regardless, as with some of his other choices for features, this one seems to be about something greater than just the music.
5. “Famous” feat. Reginae Carter
To continue the theme of family, Reginae Carter’s chorus on “Famous” is a simple and enchanting hook, proving that Wayne’s 19-year-old daughter wasn’t given this feature just as a family favor, but rather as a well-deserved showcase of talents that seem to run in the Carter clan. The song could have quickly developed into a father-daughter duet, or digress into dad rap, but instead, Wayne showed Reginae a greater level of respect, by simply treating the collaboration as he would any other track.
4. “Let It Fly” feat. Travis Scott
At first, “Let It Fly” appears to be a throwaway Travis song, yet what might be considered a B-side for Scott is still pretty notable. The rapper goes uninterrupted for two verses with no Wayne, allowing Travis to dazzle with his frenetic pace. It’s not until around the two-minute mark of the song that Wayne drops in and hits hard with an incredible breathless verse, reminiscent of some of his best fast-spitting bars from the early 2000s, but with an updated, almost Valee-sounding vibe to it all. Wayne’s mastery and modern adaptation makes it clear that Travis’ verses were really just an opening set for what he had coming -- he reminds fans as always with “a best rapper alive” tag before exiting.
3. “Start This Shit Off Right” feat. Ashanti & Mack Maine
There is nothing better than an Ashanti hook on a rap song. And there is really nothing better than an Ashanti hook on a 2000s-caliber rap song. While Tha Carter V is obviously a 2018 release, it also seems to be an ode to Wayne’s time as a chart-topping bandit, who wreaked havoc every time he dropped a record. And nothing is more reminiscent of those years than Ashanti’s angelic vocals paired with his gruff growls. Ashanti doesn’t have much as far as lyrics on this one, but it seems to be a dedication to the sheer power that even just a snippet of her voice can have. Plus, the song is intro’d by Cash Money Records president Mack Maine, which seems to be another example of Wayne merging two eras together.
2. “Dope N---az” feat. Snoop Dogg
Tucked on the backend of the project, this Ro & Camo-produced track quietly holds one of the best and most well-developed overall sounds on the album, and it yields a perfect entrance for Snoop. When Snoop first comes in, it’s a refreshing interruption to Weezy’s raspy reverberations, as he raps in his signature smooth swagger. It’s not only the octave that offers something new, but nowhere else on the album is there a flow as controlled and as relaxed as what he delivers on the last 30 seconds of this track.
1. “Mona Lisa” feat. Kendrick Lamar
There might not be a better combination in hip-hop than the overlapping sounds of two of the most iconic voices in rap followed by Wayne’s trademark lighter-flick sound effect. On “Mona Lisa,” two different eras' "best rappers alive" morph and collide into one another, borrowing from each other’s styles, while independently delivering some of the best verses on this album.
Wayne opens the track with three verses all on his own, and while it’s all Weezy, he’s seemingly mimicking the up-and-down flow that we know best from Kendrick, but executing it effortlessly and powerfully -- a testament to his iconic ability to take something that’s hot and make it even hotter.
As Wayne wraps, the beat cuts for a moment, with the silence only coming to an end with a signature “ah” ad lib from Kendrick. What follows is Kendrick going deep into a verse, morphing into a sad and desperate character, complete with a crackly high-pitched voice. While the track’s beat isn’t up to the caliber of the people spitting on it, the sheer talent and pairing of these two on a track still makes it the best feature.