By Brad Wete
September 07, 2011 at 05:44 PM EDT
Jason G. Bahr/Getty Images

Okay, let’s answer the headline’s question first: No, Lil Wayne is not the best rapper out right now. In my mind, Eminem, Jay-Z, and Kanye West are duking it out for that crown. He is, however, the most popular.

Yesterday Billboard reported the final first-week tally for his new album Tha Carter IV. It sold 964,000 copies, making it the best selling hip-hop debut of the year and the second biggest opening week overall—second only to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, which moved 1.11 million copies.

Wayne’s no newbie to colossal numbers, either. The last edition of his Carter series scored big with 1.01 million records sold in its first seven days on shelves in 2008.

Wayne’s C-4 debut more than doubles the opening figures rap peers Kanye West and Jay-Z’s collab album Watch the Throne (436,000), causing the blogosphere to come to the rash conclusion that Wayne, as he’s said often before, is “the best rapper alive.”

Really? Sure, numbers mean plenty. But as I so eloquently wrote in under 140 characters on Twitter recently, “If I ate a doughnut for every bad album that’s been commercially successful, I’d be fatter than that fattest person you know.”

And people, Tha Carter IV is a bad album. I, and many other writers agree on this much: It’s a set highlighted by about five fantastic songs. Unfortunately, utter duds surround them.

Such is the norm with Weezy’s studio catalog. Check out our review of Tha Carter III. His albums are an hour’s worth of scatterbrained musings. When he hits the jackpot and zeroes in on one particular idea—whether it’s getting a girl, proclaiming his greatness, or both—it’s something to be appreciated.  On his latest, cuts like “She Will” and “How to Love” (both currently in the top 20 of Billboard’s hot 100 chart) accomplish as much and are the greatest joints C-4 has to offer. What it lacks is cohesion.

His songs make you feel like it’d be hard to have a real conversation with him. Within a four-minute song, he raps about so many disjointed ideas that are only connected because he makes them rhyme. In one line, he’s on a quest for greatness. The next thing you know, he’s talking about stealing your girlfriend. Then he’s on to violent threats. Excuse me while I yawn.

One, he’s on probation. The threats are empty ones. I don’t believe that he’s got  tools (guns) like Home Depot. Two, he’s been rapping about all that other stuff, basically in the same way, for years now.

Compare that to Watch the Throne, which sold less, but offers way more. Instead of just talking about their riches, Jay and ‘Ye are rapping about what comes along with them. The good and, more interestingly, the ugly are masterfully explored in new ways. Granted, my teammate Kyle doesn’t feel like I do. But it’s a way better album than Tha Carter IV.

So why did Wayne outsell them? Well, promotion has a lot to do with it. Throne basically had none. The two didn’t do any magazine interviews, no radio spots, late night TV shows, or even tour to announce their album. Wayne’s been on the road for months, been on the cover of the leading hip-hop magazine out, and performed on MTV’s 2011 VMAs just minutes before his album hit stores.

And simply put, people like Lil Wayne more than Kanye West—the album-purchasing audience does, at least. For reasons I can’t exactly explain, it’s easier to root for the rock-star rebel than it is to toast to a douchebag.

But to say Lil Wayne is the best thing hip-hop has to offer is a hell of a statement to make, mostly because it’s incorrect. I won’t give him that title until he puts out a complete body of work that competes with, say, recent goodies My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Eminem’s Recovery, or even Rick Ross’ Teflon Don. Wayne’s albums are Frankenstein-like amalgams of strong and dreadful parts. I need more.

That said, we’re all entitled to our opinions. What’s yours? Do you think Lil Wayne is the best rapper right now? If not, who is?

Read more:

Lil Wayne lyrically attacks Jay-Z and ‘his lady’ on leaked cut from Tha Carter IV: Will Jay answer?

This week in Lil Wayne: Rapper crashes out on skateboard, reveals new album release info