The album was the last featuring Cash Money's former in-house producer, Mannie Fresh before he split from the label. The album is based on "The Carter," the empire crack house from the movie New Jack City, and his last name.
Tha Carter is generally considered as Lil Wayne's "break out" album, due to the maturity in both his subject matter, and delivery compared to his first three albums.Tha Carter was the start of a highly successful album saga for Wayne. The album spawned four sequels over the next decade; Tha Carter II which was released in 2005, Tha Carter III which was released in 2008, Tha Carter IV which was released in 2011, and the fifth installment entitled Tha Carter V which will be released by the end of 2014.
The album debuted at number 5 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 116,000 copies in the first week. On September 7, 2004, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of over 500,000 copies in the United States. The album has sold over 1 million copies to date.