There is always a bleary ballad on a Lil Wayne album, a foggy moment of reflection and empathy. He has a playlist’s worth of these tracks—“I’m Single,” “How to Love,” “Shoot Me Down,” “Tie My Hands”—and “Mess,” from Tha Carter V, deserves a slot on the best of “Tender Moments with Weezy.”
Over a distant loop of acoustic guitar and some small pings from a keyboard, he spills himself all over the track, mixing up double-time rapping with crooning and half-confessions with boasts and corny jokes. It isn’t quite a banger or a ballad, but something surprising in between. The song is, well, messy, but purposefully and excitingly so, sloshing over its own edges with Wayne’s unstable momentum.
Like he always does, he mixes metaphors and feeds clichés into a wood chipper, from “Put yourself in my shoes, but you gotta tiptoe” to “She don’t believe in ghosts till I get ghost,” but he moves lightly enough on the track to make it all blend together and dovetail. Forget Best Rapper Alive: Wayne, at his most thrilling, is the most musical rapper alive, and “Mess” taps back into that well.