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Snap judgment: Lil Wayne's (apparently not fake) album cover

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Lilwayne_lLil Wayne’s feverishly anticipated, infinitely delayed album Tha Carter III may not have a firm release date yet — latest word is it’ll be out on June 10 — but boy, does it have some cover art. Since last night, when Amazon.com posted the oddly enthralling image to the left, the hip-hop blogs have been ablaze. Wayne, it would seem, wants the world to see his magnum opus as the work of a thoughtful, tatted-up toddler. Is it real? Is it fake? In sum, HUH?

First things first: Wayne’s label confirms that yes, this is the actual cover art for Tha Carter III. Wow. Maybe all those times he dubbed himself “Weezy F. Baby, please say the baby,” he wasn’t honoring his mentor Bryan “Baby” Williams after all. He was just shouting out his inner mafioso-esque child! What’s more, I think I finally understand why last summer, the one time I talked to Wayne — shortly before he abruptly began screaming profanities for no apparent reason and hung up on me — he told me he’d been recording Tha Carter III “my whole life… working on every album I ever dropped my whole life.” I’d assumed it was just another semi-coherent boast, but I see now that he was being mad literal. Ladies and gents, we have now seen the face of the nursery-schooler who composed “Lollipop.”

Okay, jokes aside (they’re just too easy!), I actually kinda dig this cover. It’s a clear play to place Carter III in the pantheon of all-time classic rap albums featuring baby pix: Illmatic, Ready to Die… Weezy’s power resides in his unparalleled chutzpah, his refusal to surrender an inch of creative freedom to his legions of detractors. Why shouldn’t he slap a patently ridiculous, self-important Photoshop job on the front of his new CD? Besides, if he’s finalized his album cover, maybe that means we’re a little closer to actually hearing this thing within our lifetimes. Hallelujah! But what do you think of all this?

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