Let’s say you’re Lil Wayne. You’re a platinum-selling rapper who isn’t unfamiliar with the inside of a jail cell. This, along with other scandals, has overall helped your career.
Now you’re about to drop your ninth studio album, perhaps to less fanfare than you had hoped. Your lead single was released nine months ago, and has been all but forgotten. To make matters worse, your buddies and friendly competitors Jay and Kanye have just set an iTunes record for most digital album sales in a week. Great. Now you’ve got that to compete with. So what’s a rapper got to do to move some units in this economy?
Tha Carter IV is the much anticipated follow up to Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III, which in 2008 sold over 1 million copies in its first week. 1,005,545 to be exact. So even beyond the pressure of Jay Z and Kanye’s success, Lil Wayne has his own past to contend with.
And his most recent work hasn’t been that well received. Albums like Rebirth and I Am Not a Human Being have only gone gold, and for all his mixtape making, critics aren’t impressed. There have been four singles released from Tha Carter IV, but the most successful, “6 Foot 7 Foot,” was released back in December 2010 — light years from his fans’ collective memory. To what length will Lil Wayne go to achieve that same success?
Lil Wayne’s first plan of action is to do exactly what Jay and Kanye did, but call it amazing. Lil Wayne is making a big deal of releasing Tha Carter IV online at midnight after his MTV Music Awards performance on Sunday, then in stores the day following.
“I am extremely excited to be the first artist to utilize such an amazing idea. I hope that I can open the door for others,” Lil Wayne said in a statement Monday.
A ha ha, except Watch The Throne already did that. Jay and Kanye released that album exclusively online days before it was available in stores, a move that contributed to their record-breaking week, no doubt.
How about some homegrown scandal? No such thing as bad publicity in the world of a rapper, right?
A Canadian high school teenager has released Facebook photos of her and Lil Wayne after a concert alluding to having had sex with him. According to her Facebook status that accompanied the photo, “just spent the night with Mr. Carter himself, believee it or dont. I rlly couldnt care less for what my haters r gunnaaa saaay.”
Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but that’s convenient timing, no? Girlfriend is now backtracking on the story, and in a video statement on YouTube she has said saying “I just want to point out, for all you dirty-minded people out there, saying you spent the night with someone is about the amount of time…it’s a really big shame that the absolute best rapper alive might have got his reputation stained for it.” Whether or not the incident really went down, it was enough gossip to warrant one Lil’ Wayne news item of the day.
The other news item? A skateboarding accident, awesome dude! The rapper was supposedly partaking in some skate park recreation in St. Louis when he fell and gashed his head. “The Lou was good but I busted my … head at the sk8park! 9stitches! Gnarly gash over my left eye! Luv the people,” Lil Wayne said via his Twitter account. Details about where and how he was hurt weren’t readily available.
These are sad, sad publicity efforts, and perhaps an indication of what things are to come. Every artist would love to experience the success of Watch the Throne — it set a precedent for the entertainment industry. However the album had built in PR, combining two platinum-selling artists in a much anticipated creative endeavor. The pair barely promoted the album, and yet despite the aurally challenging single, the album probably booked sales on curiosity alone. But can that success be emulated?
Lil Wayne is obviously willing to try, going the publicity route paved with frivolous press releases for headlines and news mentions. The thing is, publicity might get his name in people’s mouths, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that the four singles released from Tha Carter IV have been weak. And this is an album that has been three years in the making. While Lil’ Wayne is struggling to live up to his own hype, he might want to focus on creating good music to sell albums, instead of publicity stunts.