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Lil Wayne

Tha Carter IV (Cash Money/Universal Records)

Since “Tha Carter III” made him a legitimate pop star, Lil Wayne spent eight months in jail and released three albums, including a collaborative effort with his Young Money crew.

He also forgot the art of songwriting.

That 2008, Grammy-winning blockbuster succeeded because the genius of free association rhymes found discipline: Nearly every “Carter III” track had a theme, storyline or single emotion for Wayne to wrap his witticisms around.

“Tha Carter IV” proves an unworthy successor. It piles on metaphors, similes, double-entendres and word-images that work as punchlines but don’t cohere. You’ll chuckle along to that distinctive raspy voice and then wonder: What was that all about? Missing a golden opportunity to reflect on his time locked up, away from the spotlight, Wayne reveals little. His world is chock-full of words, empty of meaning.

The New Orleans rapper does find ways to make listeners snap to attention. A sinister beat and cocky chorus from Drake propels “She Will.” “Interlude” features punishing verses from Tech N9ne and Andre 3000. And Wayne uses “It’s Good” to respond to Jay-Z’s recent dismissal of Young Money on “H.A.M.” with a threat to kidnap Beyonce and hold her for ransom. No moving in silence there.

Here’s hoping the diminutive 28-year-old shows some musical growth on “Tha Carter V.”

Ryan Pearson, Associated Press

Red Hot Chili Peppers

I’m With You (Warner Bros.)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have remained musically relevant for almost three decades by tweaking their formula (and sometimes their lineup) from album to album. Their 10th effort, “I’m With You,” continues that evolution, reuniting the group with producer Rick Rubin and revealing that the funk-rockers are (gasp) growing up.

There’s still some irreverent rap and funky pop-punk among the album’s 14 tracks, but the tunes are more melodic and the themes more mature.

Frontman Anthony Keidis broods about inevitable decay and the toll life takes on “Police Station” and “Annie Wants a Baby.” He sings of love and betrayal on “Even You Brutus?” and about his own maturity on “Factory of Faith,” a track anchored by Flea’s thumping bass. Keidis is at his most tender on “Brendan’s Death Song,” an acoustic ballad of goodbye.

That’s not to say the album is a downer. Overall, it’s upbeat musically and lyrically. The opening track, “Monarchy of Roses,” crackles with energy, from Keidis’ bullhorn vocals to Chad Smith’s driving drums and Josh Klinghoffer’s distorted guitars. The single, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” has almost a 1980s new-wave vibe. “Goodbye Hooray” is a snarling rock song, and “Dance, Dance, Dance” is downright jubilant, a happy track about “the holiness of play” and how we’re all in this together.

Kind of makes growing up sound like a good thing.

Sandy Cohen, Associated Press