By Sabrina Ford
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Lil Wayne released his newest album, "Tha Carter IV," just after midnight on Monday to huge media hype following MTV's Video Music Awards, but early reactions show the record falling short of high expectations from fans and critics.
After several delays, "Tha Carter IV," hit digital music retailers at midnight, almost immediately following Lil Wayne's rowdy, rocked-out performance at VMAs.
The MTV honors show, where trophies are handed out in categories for best video among others, annually draws top stars in music and is a key promotional stop for singers trying to boost sales. Sunday's show drew a record 12.4 million viewers to the network, up from 11.4 million last year.
Fans watched Beyonce reveal she was pregnant with her first child, Lady Gaga dressed in male drag, Jay-Z and Kanye West perform a song from their new record "Watch the Throne," and the late singer Amy Winehouse remembered in a moving tribute.
Wayne closed out the show with his top 10 hit "How to Love," which with Weezy's crooning vocal, sounds as much R&B as hip-hop, and he performed "John," remixed over Black Sabbath's rock tune "Iron Man."
The crowd went crazy, and the show likely was a key factor in helping lift the album's 19-track deluxe edition, featuring an exclusive bonus track, to a fast start at No. 1 on iTunes.
Wayne's label mate and protege Nicki Minaj tweeted her support with a simple, "Buy the Carter IV."
Veteran rapper Busta Rhymes, who is featured on the album, was in a more celebratory mood tweeting that Wayne had "smashed the Vma's KRAZZZZYYYYYY!!!" Adding, "By the way CARTER 4
AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE RIGHT NOW!!!"
Critics, however, were not so enthusiastic.
HARD TO TOP 'CARTER III'
"Tha Carter IV" is the ninth studio album from the New Orleans rapper born Dwayne Carter, but the fourth in his career-defining Carter series.
Wayne, aka Weezy, released two albums last year, "I Am Not a Human Being" and his rock experiment, "Rebirth." Neither album came close to the first-week sales of 1 million copies for 2008's "Tha Carter III" whether due to a break from formula or to Wayne's being unavailable to promote the records while serving an 8-month stint for a weapons charge.
Billboard.com wrote that Wayne's most recent effort may have had unrealistically high expectations, saying in its review that "Tha Carter IV" "is not a bad album," but adding that it may be "may be more easily digested and supported by those largely unfamiliar with Weezy's antics and unaware of his previous highs (pun intended)."
Rollingstone.com gave the album a respectable 3-1/2 out of 5 stars but admitted, "Weezy doesn't have the same speed-demon intensity he had five years ago."
In its review, HiphopDX.com noted that more attention was being paid to a new lyrical jab Lil Wayne took at rap impresario and music mogul Jay-Z, who was a featured guest on "Tha Carter III," than on the album's music.
"The fact that most of us have spent a week debating what the fallout will be from Wayne's Jay-Z diss on "It's Good," instead of the album's wins, was probably a bad omen," HiphopDX.com wrote.
And a comical trending topic emerged on Twitter Monday with the hash tag, #ThingsBetterThanTheCarterIV. The answers offered ranged from a colonoscopy to "Watch the Throne."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)