Let’s call this a social science experiment and see which artist has the dumbest dickriders…
For my generation, ‘Illmatic’ is considered the greatest rap album of all time. I’m pretty sure that I nominated OB4CL or some shit by Public Enemy, but after the votes had been tallied ‘Illmatic’ stood at the top. And why not? It was ballyhooed with tremendous fanfare when it was first released. Everyone acted as if the landscape had been altered for Hip-Hop. NaS gave rappers a blueprint to describe their surroundings. The public bought it up because it felt like we were sitting beside NaS looking out the housing project window while he narrated the scenery.
That feeling also comes across when you look at the album art on ‘Illmatic’. There is a noisy, confusing streetscape looking through the housing projects and a young boy superimposed in the center of it all. This was a high art photo concept for a rap album. This was also released fourteen years ago. That would be ancient history to someone who is only 18 yrs old now. In that time rap music has moved on from the introspection of why the ‘hood is so troubled to the place it exists in now where the ‘hood is celebrated for its shortcomings.
No moral platitudes from me on this fact. It is what it is. My point being is that the cover art for ‘The Carter III’ reflects the reality of disenfranchised youth today. As a matter of fact I think it takes the swagger aspect of the disenfranchised and places it on a ridiculous higher level. This album cover will inspire some parents to have their children tatted before their baby pictures are taken. At least the children will be accessorized with a pinkie ring. ‘The Carter III’ cover art speaks to the values that are held by today’s rap fans.
The question of whether ‘The Carter III’ will contain musical entries that evoke the same passion 15 years after the release date like ‘Illmatic’ does really doesn’t matter anymore. The fact that the album is being discussed prior to its release guarantees as much. There will be a whole contingent of young people between the ages of 13 through 18 years old who will hear ‘The Carter III’ and have their lives changed forever.
I don’t give too much credit to Lil’ Wayne as of late because he has had more of the wrong images of his likeness publicized, from the surly mugshots to the horrendous p.r. fiasco of those condom advertisements it didn’t seem to me that Wayne had the right people calling the shots. His new album’s cover art is a step back in the right direction for someone who is being handed the keys to rap’s kingdom. Albeit still only a baby step.