Following Big Tymers' Hood Rich on up the charts, Lil Wayne's third album tries to trump the big Cash Money hit by ex-labelmate Juvenile (400 Degreez). With the smooth, laid-back productions of Mannie Fresh leading the way for Wayne's drawling delivery, 500 Degreez does just that. Yes, it's a little top-heavy, but the highlights come quickly, with the leadoff (after the intro) "Look at Me" sporting a freakfest vibe along with Fresh's top-flight beats. The whole album's powered by the infectious party hit "Way of Life," building on the rocksteady rhythm of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full." Even better is "Gangsta Shit," a synth-heavy roller with Petey Pablo besting even Wayne himself on the mic.
John Bush, Rovi