Far from simmering down, the Lil Wayne / Birdman beef proves to be just heating up, as new talks of legal action emerge with figures in the millions. Tha Carter V still has no release date and what some initially side-eyed as a publicity stunt to hype the album looks more like legitimate bad blood with each passing day. That conflict is both the catalyst for and the crux of Wayne’s new mixtape Sorry 4 The Wait 2, and while the ongoing situation has clearly left a bad taste in the mouths of the Cash Money titans, it‘s also become fodder for the fans to eat up.

Tunechi comes out swinging on the tape opener “Coco,” contrasting a relaxed auto-tuned flow with bare-chested lyrics like, “Who kept this shit together? Nigga, me, that's who / Who was there when niggas left us? Nigga, me, that's who / Cash Money is an army, I'm a one man army / And if them niggas comin' for me, I'm goin' out like Tony.” Whether overt diss tracks or subtle jabs, the tension never strays far from the forefront throughout the mixtape. And while for other rappers this might make for a sinister project, no one in the game is better than Wayne at interjecting infectious comedy with authentic thuggin’.

The mixtape is crawling with punchlines, which means some don’t land, though most do. “Preach” has a dense first verse littered with gems like, “Too much fuckin’ talent / Rap Shakespeare go Hamlet,” and, “I just got a package / I let my bitch test it, with flying colors passed it.” Wayne blacks out on “Selsun Blue” with his aggressive stream of consciousness flow that sounds so effortless; “Got the yay locked down like Kim K” steals the spotlight at the end of the verse. “Try Me” also flexes some of the rhyme patterns that have made him a God amongst the underground verbal worshipers: “Triple A dick, that's amazin' and amusin' / I'm sedated and secluded, I'm the greatest and improvin'.”

Part of what’s made Wayne a mixtape legend (see Dedication 2) is his ability to show out over the diverse beats of his lyrical peers. On S4TW2, in contrast, he selected some of the year’s biggest singles, mostly from industry rookies (OT Genasis' “Coco,” Rae Sremmurd's “No Type,” ILoveMakonnen' “Maneuvering” and "Tuesday," OG Maco's “U Guessed It”) which makes Wayne’s moments of original track flips and verbal superiority slightly less thrilling.

In a project of few truly glaring missteps, “Drunk In Love” stands out as the most obvious. What’s meant to ooze sex appeal sounds contrived, with Christina Milian’s thin vocals and Wayne’s aimless flow. In other spots (“No Haters,” “Fingers Hurting” and “Selsun Blue”), Weezy’s animated style borders on cartoonish as he slides up an octave or two and adds autotune. His voice stands on its own; it doesn’t need the heavy handed production. And of course, as we pointed out, the number of times he says “sorry” is staggering. Though from the man who’s used repetition better than most to effectively brand himself (words, phrases, mixtape and album titles), that’s pretty much par for the course.

Sorry 4 The Wait 2 is not the glorified Mixtape Weezy of the mid-2000s, but the fire is definitely lit, and Tunechi gets it largely right. It’s the heated Cash Money conflict that’s carrying the project, no question, but aside from some of his singles and featured verses, this is as focused and engaging as we’ve heard Wayne since Tha Carter III. S4TW2 falls short of being a great standalone project, but it’s not built for that anyway. It’s an opportunity to quell the restlessness of his loyal fan base, and build anticipation for The Carter V; in that regard it’s a success. Right now he’s got the lights flickering; we’re ready for him to flip the switch. —Rachel Chesbrough

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