Is Lil Wayne Really Done?

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

The controversial rapper Lil Wayne has revealed the cover artwork and release date for his upcoming album, Tha Carter V, which he’s said will be his final record before retiring from the hip-hop game. Wayne unveiled the album cover, which features a picture of the rapper as a young boy with his mother, on ESPN’s Sportscenter on Thursday, August 14.

Wayne regularly uses baby photos for the covers of his albums, though he said he’s particularly proud of the image for Tha Carter V because of his mother. He added that his announcement was the first time she would learn about the image herself. “I’m sorry, moms. I didn’t tell her about the picture that I was using for the album cover,” he said. “I don’t think she’s going to be upset, but I know personally that she don’t really like that picture of herself ’cause she’s not looking in the camera.”

“It’s perfect. I always go with a baby picture, and I wanted to go with one with my mom on it this time,” he continued. “This album means a lot to me. People been waiting on this album, and I’m just at the point in my life and stuff to have my mom on there. It’s more than an accomplishment, it’s an achievement.” Wayne said that the album will drop on October 28 and feature guest appearances from Nicki Minaj and Drake. Including some collaborative efforts and his records with his early group Hot Boys, this will be Wayne’s eighteenth studio album.

Aside from being hugely prolific, Wayne is also best known for being a massive stoner and for spending ten months in prison in 2010 on charges related to attempted criminal possession of a weapon when a handgun was discovered among his belongings on his tour bus. His incarceration led to a huge “Free Weezy” campaign among Wayne’s fans and made the misbehaving rapper a household name for even those who don’t listen to hip-hop or whatever’s topping the Billboard charts.

In 2012, Wayne said that he envisioned his career ending after a fifth installment in his acclaimed and top-selling Carter series. He confirmed that intention more recently in another interview with MTV, saying: “I personally plan on this being my final solo album, yes, and it’s definitely the final Carter album. It’s the final Carter album. It’s stopping at five.”

There were some caveats to that statement, with Wayne saying “25 to 35 million would get me to do another solo album after this,” though he added, “I didn’t smile when I said it.” The rapper is also known for very frequently lending verses to other artists’ songs, something he says he will continue to do once his solo career is finished. That could be enough to keep him fairly busy, as the number of his collaborations has led to criticism from some of his peers in the hip-hop community. 50 Cent once said of Wayne to Hot 97′s Funkmaster Flex: “A whore sleeps with whoever will pay ‘em. So we gotta call him a whore. If he’ll just go with whoever pay him to be on their records.”

While lending his talents to others could keep him working, the retirement from solo material might not stick. Rappers are notorious for making grand statements about their intentions to quit hip-hop, only to follow those statements up with new music. Jay Z is the most notorious example of this, as at the end of 2003 the rapper held a giant concert at Madison Square Garden that was supposed to be his retirement party and claimed he was done making studio albums. In 2006, he released his comeback album Kingdom Come, and has since continued to be a prolific solo artist as well as collaborator. Kid Cudi, Waka Flocka Flame, Nicki Minaj, Lupe Fiasco, and Azelia Banks are among others that have cried wolf on their retirement plans.

Whether or not Tha Carter V ends up being Weezy’s final album, the rapper is facing a hip-hop climate where he’s just not as popular as he once was. Between 2006 and 2008 Wayne was at the top of his success, but his prison time was a set back in terms of putting him behind on the game.

Things changed even in the ten months he spent at Riker’s, and Tha Carter IV did not perform as well critically or commercially as previous efforts. Wayne recognized this in a keynote he did at South by Southwest this spring. “Today, when I hear a Euro song, I’m like ‘Man, I didn’t even know that was a word,’” Wayne said, referring to one of the new rappers on his Young Money label, per The L.A. Times.

We’ll have to wait until this fall to see if Wayne can get his groove back for his final effort, and if he does, chances are it might not be the last we hear from him.

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