Lil Wayne FWA

“Rest in peace to Cash Money Weezy,” Lil Wayne raps early into his “Free Weezy Album.” “Gone but not forgotten.”

The rapper has yet to resolve the nasty legal battle with his longtime label, Cash Money Records, but he’s continuing to sate fans awaiting his studio album by offering another project, this time a fully realized album in the form of a free mixtape.

Shortened to just “FWA,” it was a surprise release exclusively to Tidal during the Fourth of July weekend.

Wayne’s new mixtape is a raw, incendiary offering of relentless rhymes, tight production and, like this year’s “Sorry 4 the Wait 2,” features some of his best work in recent memory. Appearances from Young Jeezy, Wiz Khalifa, Cory Gunz, Bibi Bourelly and more dot the 15-track project.

The status of Wayne’s studio album has been up in the air since December, when he shocked rap fans by claiming the label and mentor Bryan “Birdman” Williams were withholding the album and that he was owed tens of millions of dollars.

Earlier this year, Wayne hit Cash Money with a $51 million lawsuit, claiming that Williams (whom Wayne has long referred to as his surrogate father) and the label had withheld substantial payments for the album.

Other allegations outlined in the suit included failure to pay for overhead costs for the rapper’s Young Money imprint (a subsidiary of Cash Money) and neglecting to file royalty reports for Drake, a Young Money signee along with Nicki Minaj.

For “Tha Carter V,” Wayne says he is owed $10 million, per a 2012 contract extension that would see Cash Money giving him a $10 million advance per solo album — $8 million paid at the start of recording and $2 million paid upon delivery, according to the lawsuit.

As the legal battle rages, the rapper can’t legally put albums up for sale but can release music free. So, instead of dropping “FWA” on SoundCloud or a mixtape site such as DatPiff, he became the first artist to drop an entire project on Tidal.

But the move shouldn’t come as a surprise. Last month, Wayne announced he was joining Jay Z’s fledgling streaming venture as a co-owner. Wayne celebrated his stake in the company by issuing the fiery “Glory,” which opens the new album.

Gerrick Kennedy

Los Angeles Times

Various Artists


This album is the companion piece to the Netflix documentary “What Happened, Ms. Simone?” about the life of singular singer and pianist Nina Simone in the context of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It deserves attention, on at least two counts.

First, it recasts songs written and covered by Simone by contemporary acts such as Usher, Mary J. Blige, jazz man Gregory Porter and Philadelphia R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan. A superb example that resonates in America’s particularly fraught moment in race relations in 2015 is Sullivan’s take on “Baltimore,” the Randy Newman song about the Charm City where “it’s hard, just to live.” The song was a part of Simone’s repertoire. And why no one thought to cover “Mississippi Goddamn,” Simone’s angriest, most arresting song, is an unanswered question.

The second newsworthy element about “Nina Revisited” is that it was executive-produced and contains five songs by Ms. Lauryn Hill. The former Fugee hasn’t released a studio album in 17 years, but she’s clearly energized by the opportunity to honor one of her heroes. She raps over Simone’s “I’ve Got Life,” and she turns chanteuse en Français on “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” And the dramatic interpretation of “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” is one of “Nina Revisited’s” three high points, along with Alice Smith’s hypnotic take on Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” and the lone track by Simone herself, Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” which closes out the album with inimitable, unbowed spirit.

Dan DeLuca

The Philadelphia Inquirer


When an artist gets an opportunity to curate a soundtrack (let alone executive-produce the movie), he or she has a chance to do more than simply pick other people’s hits.

For the soundtrack of “Dope,” set in South Central Los Angeles in the midst of nerd culture and ’90s hip-hop, uber-producer/singer Pharrell Williams did pluck period smashes, songs from such standout acts as Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest. But Pharrell did more: He inhabited the minds and souls of this ominous comedy’s lead characters, the fictional hip-hop/punk band Awreeoh (pronounced “Oreo”) — and wrote, produced and played songs shaped by the film’s circumstances, and speaking, singing and rapping in the characters’ voices.

It’s a bold, funky move. Soul-rap-rocking numbers such as “Can’t Bring Me Down,” “Go Head” and the singsong “It’s My Turn Now” sound radically reminiscent of N.E.R.D., Pharrell’s much-missed band with his Neptunes production partner, Chad Hugo. Best of show is the hard-hearted “Don’t Get Deleted” by Awreeoh. If you close your eyes, it sounds like a mix of N.E.R.D. hits “Lapdance” and “She Wants to Move.” Pharrell even uses songs by other “Dope” actors, such as George Ramirez (aka Kap G) and Zoë Kravitz (her band LolaWolf) as part of the mix. Nice.

A.D. Amorosi

The Philadelphia Inquirer