Every day that passes means that we are, somehow and some way, closer to Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V. The long-awaited conclusion to Weezy's much-celebrated series has been rumored for nearly two years, but—call us crazy—something in the air right now makes it feel like it's time for Wayne to return to the type of form that led Jay Z to pass him the torch as the best rapper alive on 2008's Tha Carter III.

"I'm approaching it like it is my last project," Wayne said in March, throwing fuel on the fire of the anticipation. "I think that's why it's a lot different than everything else, I think that's why the grind is different, that's why I'm working harder. I'm approaching it a whole lot different; I'm approaching it as if I don't have tomorrow."

We've had a couple false starts already since the year began—most notably with Drake's on-stage assertion that the album was dropping May 5—but at the end of April, Kobe Bryant's tweet hyping the album made it as official as it has ever been. Even the fact that Weezy's manager and Young Money executive Cortez Bryant tweeted that the photo was not the album cover was significant; the second part of his tweet declared that it was officially Carter V season, anyway.

So now that it's finally real—with a release date announced today (Aug. 14)—XXL pulled together all the information we know about Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V, all in one easy place. Weezy season is finally here. Dan Rys

Ed. Note: This article was originally published Apr. 30, 2014. It has been updated as of Aug. 14, 2014 to reflect updates to the album in the intervening months.


The Facts

First things first—here's what we know for an absolute fact about Weezy's upcoming album, Tha Carter V. The album will be his 11th solo studio album for Cash Money since his debut effort, Tha Block Is Hot, came out in 1999 and his 16th studio album overall (including three with The Hot Boys—the last coming in 2003—as well as Like Father, Like Son, his album with Birdman that came out in 2006 and his very first album with The BG'z, True Story, which came out in 1995). Including mixtapes, compilations with YMCMB and his EPs, this will be the 40th project Lil Wayne has put out since he first broke onto the scene by signing to Cash Money in 1991 at the age of 9. For reference, Wayne will be turning 32 next month.

And with all that under his belt, Weezy has also mentioned Tha Carter V as being his last official studio album, though he hasn't ruled out guest features, mixtapes or further YMCMB label albums (and despite this claim, he's also briefly mentioned a possible second album for 2014). He's been mentioning since late 2012 that he wants to retire by the time he turns 35 to be able to spend more time with his family; since then, he's said this iteration would definitely be the last in the Carter series—which began in 2004—and said it would take something in the ballpark of $30 million to get him to make an additional album after this. For a game that has had its fair share of retirements and un-retirements, we'll believe it when we see it—but with the level of output he's had in the past two decades, Weezy certainly has earned a break if he wants one.

Of course, rappers such as Jay Z, Scarface and Waka Flocka Flame have announced retirements as well, only to come back to the fold. So we'll take that one with a grain of salt. Having said this, though, let's get into the rumors, statements and confirmed details of what we can look forward to on Tha Carter V.



The Producers

The last time Wayne spoke on his album at any length was at SXSW, when he was more specific about his mixing engineer than he was about the actual people behind his production. "Blessed with some great music, some wonderful producers and some wonderful production," Wayne said at SXSW. "Shout out to my man Fabian [Marascuillo]; he mixes all the music, and he makes me sound like a million, trillion dollars. He helps out a lot."

So we know it will be mixed well, and we also know some of the usual suspects from the recent Carterssuch as DVLP, who revealed he's been working with Weezy and is stepping his game up creatively. "[Each Carter album has] a specific sound, and you have to kind of fit in with that, but, at the same time, you got to be creative and be different,” he told MTV in February. "Maybe bringing back dub-hall, reggae vibe—maybe." And the first two tracks Wayne has dropped from the album—"Believe Me" featuring Drake and "D'Usse"—were produced by Boi-1da & Vinylz and Lee Majors, respectively.

The only other facts we really have came at the end of April. On April 26, a photo taken by Charles Pettaway showed Wayne together in the recording studio with Mannie Fresh, which would be the first time in a decade that the two have worked together, and would really mark a full circle for Wayne, who started out—like just about every Cash Money artist—honing his craft over Mannie's beats (Mannie later confirmed in an interview with NPR in May that he's definitely working on Tha Carter V). That same day, producer Jarvis Kibble posted a short Instagram video that he hashtagged "#Hit #Carter5 #producing#ggmlife #work" and which sounded an awful lot like Weezy spitting bars and a hook over a synthy beat that sounds absolutely outstanding. It was the first actual hint as to what Tha Carter V might really sound like, and it's a promising first step.

Then there are the other go-to producers in Weezy's arsenal, such as Detail, who is rumored to have helmed the first Wayne single and was responsible for recent Weezy hits like "Tapout" off the Rich Gang compilation. Then there's "Pop That" producer Lee On The Beats, who is down with DJ Khaled and produced Weezy's outstanding solo cut "Moment" off Rise Of An Empire and D.A. Doman, who produced the Young Money single "Senile" featuring Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Tyga; more of where that came from, please. Reasonable arguments can be made for the inclusion of names like Cool and Dre and Bangladesh, as well, and we'd put some serious money on a Kanye West-produced track out of the "Let The Beat Build" mold to tie things all together. All seems reasonable so far.

Then there's "Krazy," produced by Infamous, and the second Drake/Wayne collab, "Grindin'," which was also done by Boi-1da and Vinylz. A trend developing? Perhaps, though the production seems more varied than anything else.


The Lyrics

Wayne's caught plenty of heat, and deservedly so, for being a little lazy when it comes to his lyrics; at a certain point, even the most die-hard Weezy fanatics were wondering how many verses in a row he would go without a single mention of pussy. It became a running joke, sure, especially as his songs kept hitting the higher reaches of the charts and the same tropes and metaphors kept coming up again and again. This all became a bit of a laughing point in February, when an 8th grade teacher in Florida got suspended for using the lyrics to Wayne's "6 Foot 7 Foot" off Tha Carter IV as English homework when trying to describe similes and metaphors ("Life is the bitch, and death is her sister/Sleep is the cousin, what a fuckin' family picture/You know Father Time, we all know Mother Nature" counts as a metaphor, sure, but we see what they mean).

But then came "Moment" off Rise Of An Empire, and all of a sudden it seemed like Weezy was back to his strengths, talking about his own success and achievements, looking back at his past, crafting narratives about his own life. “I’m more careful about what I’m doing and trying to be more careful what I’m saying," Wayne told MTV in March about the lyrical content on his new album, referencing both the Emmett Till controversy that got him in how water last year from his lyrics on Future's "Karate Chop (Remix)" and how he's older and wiser than he was on previous records.

Then this April, as part of his Weezy Wednesdays series that he started up weekly toward the end of February, he let fans into the recording sessions for "Moment," where he described what he's been writing lately. "I could never rap about that shit that I rapped about then, because it's mentally where I'm at," he says in the clip. "I come from the dome with this shit...I just gotta make that shit interesting to y'all, to the listeners. That's what I try to do, and I think I do a damn good job." Let's hope he gets back to the heights that he achieved when he was regularly calling himself the best rapper alive; "Believe Me" was a further step in the right direction from Wayne.


The Features

"The usual suspects, you know, on the album," Wayne said in March of who he'd be bringing along for Tha Carter V. "My team, you already know that." That team seems highly predictable, seeing as he could farm hits from any member of his Young Money crew. But again, let's start with the facts, and here we'll start with what we know is NOT true. In February, a track list started going around that listed features from the likes of Game, Drake, Birdman, Future, Meek Mill, Kanye West, The Weeknd, Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, Bun B, J. Cole and Nas. That was debunked by Mack Maine and Cortez Bryant, but there's a reason many people were tempted to believe it.

Less than two weeks prior, Drake had tweeted "CARTER V" for no apparent reason, and the rumor mill started flying from there, eventually being proven correct when Wayne dropped the Drizzy-assisted "Believe Me" on May 3, and followed it up with "Grindin'" on Aug. 8. It would be tough to see the album coming and going without a Drake feature on it—same with Nicki—and it's almost a guarantee at this point that we'll see Birdman and probably Future involved as well. As for Meek, that'd be a worthwhile collab as well; Game, Bun, Cole and Nas would seem like further stretches, though not outside the realm of possibility, and The Weeknd and Quan would be surprise inclusions if they happened (and we already covered Kanye in the Producers section).

The most likely of the list outside Birdman and Drake is Young Thug, who was recently "adopted" by Birdman and Cash Money, and has made no secret of his intense admiration for Weezy, even going so far as to (probably jokingly) claim that his debut album would be called Tha Carter VI. Another likely addition is Euro, Wayne's most recent Young Money signing, who he recently labeled YM's "secret weapon," and who had a breakout role on Rise Of An EmpireAnother good bet at this point seems to be Tyga, who has popped up on a lot of Wayne's recent tracks, including "Senile," the first single off ROAEOf course, T-Pain said last November that he's never given up on the possibility of the long-rumored T-Wayne album coming together, which could produce some collaborations, Juelz Santana has been rumored to be back in the studio with Wayne, and Soulja Boy let loose that he's been working on the album, though maybe more on the production side of things. And then, of course, Justin Bieber has been repeatedly seen in the studio with Birdman and Wayne.

Please not Bieber, Wayne. Please no. Not for a Carter album.

Then again, Wayne has also been known to grab features out of thin air; Tha Carter IV had input from Tech N9ne, Andre 3000 and Shyne, none of which he would be associated with off the top. Maybe a Hot Boys reunion of sorts? Some sort of throwback to the original Cash Money crew? Anything is on the table, which makes it that much more intriguing.


The Singles

Since Wayne launched Weezy Wednesdays at the end of February, he's been in album mode, doing more press than he has recently and generally placing himself back into the spotlight that he can use to launch the official campaign. People started paying attention last October when Mel Smith, the senior vice president of promotion for YMCMB, tweeted that new music was coming soon from the label, before officially name-dropping "Carter 5."

But things didn't get really serious until Rise Of An Empire produced "Moment," the first truly solo Wayne work since I Am Not A Human Being II. It was a return to form, as we've mentioned, but having been placed on the Young Money compilation, it won't be a part of Tha Carter V. Less than a month later, Wayne hinted that he'd be dropping his first single within a week but that he didn't know which track it would be. "I think [manager Cor]tez [Bryant] just gonna pick a song; he probably got a whole idea going," Wayne said. "I just go with the flow. He texts it to me. As long as I check my text messages, I know what's going on."

Then on April 30, Floyd Mayweather took to his Instagram to post a video of Wayne and Drake in the studio working on a song, which seemed set to be titled "Believe Me," a reference to the tweet Wayne sent after Kobe Bryant tweeted the "CarterV Season" image, and the floodgates began to open. That first single dropped days later late in the night, and Weezy's been teasing new songs such as "D'Usse"—which he dropped in its entirety May 15—as well as “Tina Turn Up Needs A Tune Up" and the most recent, "Side Bitch," on Weezy Wednesdays. "Believe Me" seems likely to make the album, while "Krazy" got the full video treatment and "Grindin'" has the pedigree to be included as well. The others seem like they may be little more than teasers to whet the appetite, but it's hard to tell so far.


The Release Date

This is the date everyone wants to know, and the most significant one on the Weezy Season calendar. Wayne first mentioned back in July 2012 that Tha Carter V would "probably" drop in 2013 but that I Am Not A Human Being II would come first. That happened, as IANAHBII came last March; Tha Carter V never emerged. Then on Valentine's Day this year, a story broke that Wayne would be tapping into a Beyonce-style surprise for his fans, which made people think he'd be dropping the album out of thin air with no warning like Queen Bey did last December. That rumor has never really been confirmed, as the nature of the quote seemed to imply that it could have been a surprise release or just that the content would surprise fans.

“We’re very close to dropping the album,” YMCMB VP Mel Smith told the Griffin at the time. “It’s going to be a huge surprise to everyone, it’s an incredible album... I can’t release the date because he wants to surprise people, he [Lil' Wayne] wants his true fan base to get excited, but he’s worked extremely hard on it, and you won’t be disappointed.”

The next day, Drake went against the grain while sharing the stage with Wayne, announcing that the album would be dropping on May 5. At the time, that was an agreed-upon date—confirmed by publicists and used as the definitive date on Wayne's promotional materials—until the following month, when Bryant dispelled that as just a rumor as well.

So here we are, at the end of the road and waiting for more details to emerge. The latest we've heard from sources and the rumor mill implies that Tha Carter V is coming this summer, but no official date, or even month, has been tossed around or confirmed. Yet if we can read anything into Cortez Bryant's tweet—that "CarterV season is here!"—then things are really about to ratchet up a couple notches and the rollout will begin at any moment. Will we get a street single on the heels of a radio banger? Will Wayne let his features on other projects keep his presence high in the clubs and focus on building the project from the ground up? Will he really pull a Beyonce and drop the album from the heavens with no buildup or warning? It's unclear where we go from here. But there's one thing we do know now—the world is watching. And when the world fixates on Weezy, he rarely disappoints.

UPDATE (Aug. 14): Barring any delays, Tha Carter V will officially arrive on Oct. 28. The wait is almost over...