As any longtime listener of Lil Wayne can attest, his late-2010s return to form has been truly remarkable. Coming off the lean-drenched, autotune-laden career lows of Rebirth, IANAHB2, and Dedication 4, the Louisiana rapper rebuilt his style from the ground up with thoroughly compelling results: Dedication 6 and D6 Reloaded replicated the sheer fun of mixtape-era Weezy, while 2018's Tha Carter V teased refreshing new sonic directions. Funeral arrives, then, on a wave of change. After regaining his footing through this string of releases, the rapper's 13th studio album is a sounding board. The project's 24 tracks flip through a number of styles in order to see what sticks, fitting throwback club anthems and kitschy guitar-trap alongside modern updates of Wayne's original approach.
When garish production and newer styles are given prominence over the rapper's bars, the result is utterly forgettable material. The trendy bass-driven sonics of "Ball Hard," "Bing James," and "Bastard (Satan's Son)" constrict Wayne's personality into a low-energy drawl, resulting in tracks that would be better left on the cutting-room floor. At its worst, the album strips away all character in favor of flavor-of-the-month styles: the flute-trap of "I Don't Sleep" is painfully generic, the XXX-featuring "Get Outta My Head" is a ghastly attempt to adapt to SoundCloud sonics, and "Sights and Silencers" sounds like a the-Dream B-side with a lackluster Wayne feature.
Yet when Weezy's formidable rap skills are the focus, he can still produce something spectacular. The "A Milli"-esque looping of "Mahogany" and "Line Em Up" demonstrates this to a T, letting the rapper's inimitable flows and endless charisma take the wheel. And when the production complements rather than clouds, Weezy is in top form: "Dreams" sets the tone with some hair-raising braggadocio, "Harden" continues the warm reflection of Carter V gems like "Demon," and the virile "Not Me" entertains with classic bars like "I'm rollin' like my n*gga on Degrassi!"
Ranging from typically excellent updates on the classic Weezy sound to weak attempts at trend-chasing, Funeral is the work of an artist continuing to question exactly which ground to stand on. Cobbled together in the style of a compilation rather than a cohesive album, it's a wonky, slightly disappointing collection that provides diamonds and duds in equal measure.