Let’s face it; breakups are hard, especially when it’s between two parties that have been inseparable for nearly two decades. When news broke that Lil Wayne wasn’t happy with his current situation over at Cash Money Records and wanted “nothing to do” with the very people he considered his closest family, it felt like the hip-hop world was out of balance.

For as long as most can remember, Lil Wayne and Cash Money have been fully interwoven, with no bond stronger than the one between Wayne and the house Birdman built. Nevertheless, Tha Carter V was pushed back repeatedly, money was reportedly withheld and before anyone could even scream out “YMCMB” for the last time, Wayne had said sayonara to the entire operation in a series of tweets last December that announced to the world that one of rap's longest-tenured partnerships was dissolving before our eyes.

The fifth installment of Wayne’s Carter series was first set for a release almost a year ago and like a typical Cash Money album rollout, pushbacks got out of control and Wayne had enough. Unfortunately for Wayne, getting a major label to release you from your contract just because you want to leave is next to impossible; just ask Lupe Fiasco. With Wayne’s hands tied up in crippling label legalities and a plethora of new music just itching to be released, Wayne took matters into his own hands and dropped the Free Weezy Album.

The Free Weezy Album, or FWA, as it is more commonly referred, is what some people hoped would be Wayne’s return to rap supremacy. Since Wayne came back from his eight-month stint in jail in 2010 things haven’t exactly been the same for him musically. It wasn’t hard to tell that over the last few years his punchlines got less crafty, his flow got lazy and from top to bottom the quality we came to appreciate from Wayne was not there. Naturally, with everything happening with him and Cash Money and his current spot in hip-hop history, people prayed that FWA was going to be his lyrical rap revolution, proving to everyone that he can still rhyme with the best of them.

Despite the album being released through music-forward streaming service TIDAL—which itself set off a lawsuit—the 15-track LP isn’t exactly revolutionary. In no means does this album have Wayne rapping on Carter II or III levels, but if anything, he is rapping better. On the album’s opener "Glory," Wayne is clearly at his best. It serves as the album’s best track and could be considered “mixtape Weezy” level. The song has no chorus or no real structure, but what it does have is, well, bars. His rapid fire delivery and multi-syllable rhymes are of the highest quality. Lines like “I'm awkward, cuckoo, I turn your Fruit Loop to chocolate Yoo-Hoo/I'm hotter than Honolulu, my clothes and socks and shoes new,” sound almost poetic over the thundering beat, whereas lines like, “These niggas' soft as teddy bears, talk to Marky Mark” are reminiscent of the Wayne fans know and love.

The next two songs are also very well put together. "He’s Dead" showcases Wayne speaking on the Cash Money situation as metaphorically as possible. He doesn’t divulge anything too specific, but as he raps, “Rest in peace to the Cash Money Weezy/Gone, but not forgotten,” it feels strangely relieving. “I Feel Good" is another standout track but for a completely different reason. The James Brown sample and jazzy production gives Wayne the perfect platform to rap in pure “Martian” form. It’s at this point where you can tell he is more self-aware and quite possibly wrote some rhymes down instead of the one-take, half-asleep freestyling that has crippled his past few years.

Despite the three openers being strong, Wayne quickly falls back into old habits on the latter half of the album. "My Heart Races On," "London Roads," "Psycho" and "Murda" are fairly forgettable and fail to display any standout lyrics, message or even production. It isn’t until "Post Bail Ballin’" and "Without You" that Wayne shines again. Both tracks are unique enough to not forget about but catchy enough to have a placement on your summer playlist.

As the album dwindles down, it becomes clear that the best songs on the album are the ones that sound least like 2015. On one half of the album, it seems as if Wayne is reaching for a sound that doesn’t fit his strengths. On his best day Weezy is one of the most versatile rappers on the planet, but his cutthroat rhymes and eccentric wordplay get lost when he's trying to rap over the same beats, talking about the same things with the same flow. All the standout tracks on FWA are the ones that sound like the old Wayne. The Wayne that truly believed he was the “best rapper alive” and was determined to prove that point via wacky flow and pinpoint creativity.

In close, FWA is polarizing. There are redundant tracks that fall into the same pile you would place most of Tyga’s music, but by the same token there are songs that remind you the “mixtape Weezy” could still be alive. In an era where everyone has to be to progressive and forward thinking in order to survive, all Wayne needs to do is go back to the basics. —Scott Glaysher

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