Tha Carter III
Actors of a certain standing live by an old adage - "one for the money, one for the work" - a bit of career calculus where they switch off between working on money-making blockbusters and more artistic, less commercial pursuits.
Rappers, especially in this declining economy, can't afford that kind of luxury, but Lil Wayne comes close on Tha Carter III (Cash Money), bouncing between irresistible pop hits and some wild hip-hop experimentation. He performs at 1st Mariner Arena tonight with Birdman, Yo Gotti and Gucci Man
The hits are pretty self-evident. The spacy, synth-filled single "Lollipop" is already a chart-topper, and the club banger "Got Money," with T-Pain, is already starting its run. There's also the much-publicized "Comfortable," a response song to Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" that features smooth soul from Babyface and his own defiant lines. ("To the left, to the left, if you want to leave me, my guest, you can step.")
Lil Wayne could have stopped there, packing the rest of Tha Carter III with Dirty South filler, but instead pulls out the creative stops, rhyming over what sounds like a cartoon theme in "La" and a stunningly simple loop on "A Milli." He even calls out Al Sharpton in the sprawling rant "Misunderstood."
Lil Wayne has always been a hit maker, one who spices up his surroundings. On Tha Carter III, he shows he is capable of building a memorable landscape on his own as well, a place where he isn't just the entertaining jester but where he can be king.
Suggested download: "Dr. Carter"
Adele proves herself to be gloriously hard to pin down on her debut album, 19 (Columbia).
The British singer-songwriter, just turned 20, sounds positively Winehouseian on "Right as Rain" and "Cold Shoulder," when she works with Amy Winehouse producer and collaborator Mark Ronson on the upbeat retro-soul number. She sounds like a brokenhearted Corinne Bailey Rae on "Daydreamer." And on her first single, "Chasing Pavements," she seems like a less-quirky Macy Gray corralling a big neosoul ballad.
All the shifting makes 19 feel more like a guessing game than an album, but the pleasant surprises make it worth playing.
Suggested download: "First Love"
"You Oughta Know" singer Alanis Morissette returns with Flavors of Entanglement; jam band My Morning Jacket unveils Evil Urges; Jakob Dylan, son of Bob Dylan and front man of the Wallflowers, releases his first solo album, Seeing Things.
Glenn Gamboa writes for Newsday.