Lil Wayne - I Am Not A Human Being II
He's diced with death this month - if you believe TMZ - and fought off a barrage of seizures, but Lil Wayne isn't going to let a few silly health foibles stand in the way of him dropping his tenth studio album. Weezy has endured almost two decades in the rap business, survived being shot by himself, and nothing short of the apocalypse will halt his flow. The New Orleans icon is arguably one of the most important rappers of a generation, consistently spewing popular, if not always technically great, music and founding Young Money, the label behind Drake and Nicki Minaj. He's a pillar of the hip-hop community, no doubt about it, but can the man behind those grills and tattoos still put out material of quality beyond his Tha Carter series? Rebirth was dire, and the first instalment of his I Am Not A Human Being collection hardly blew anyone away. Even Tha Carter IV showed signs of Wayne's lyrical bones creaking. Unfortunately, that seems to be the road he's continuing down.
Opener 'IANAHB' rolls out desolate piano as an overture. There's booming chords and melodic passion, but as soon as Wayne rolls in with cracking lines like: "She said my dick could be the next black president," and "Had a dream that my dick turned to Megatron," it's clear that the master of crudities has gone nowhere. Numerous lewd witticisms litter the track, jarring against the classical backing, and it just feels a bit self-conscious, like he has to constantly remind us that he's knee-deep in girls to be believed. It gets a bit Jay from Inbetweeners. It's something of a staple in rap to parade bravado, but when you get to a certain point in your chest-beating spiel, you just sound desperate. It's not just the opener that suffers from the 'less is more' cliché, and most of the LP is laden with overblown bluster, a farcry from his humble(r) beginnings. 'Gunwalk' explains his gangsta limp, but it's hard to believe anyone takes him seriously when he spouts "Don't open up yo fuckin' mouth, cause I'll pull the trigger like teeth nigga." If anyone actually took this rhetoric as gospel, he'd be locked up for conspiracy to commit murder - so doesn't the fact he walks free kind of mean no one takes him seriously? Maybe it's just an elaborate hoax, or a well-constructed parody of rap culture. Maybe. Probably not.
As always, he's got a veritable who's who of guests. There's the obligatory 2 Chainz spot, Drake features, Juicy J, Soulja Boy, Nicki Minaj (only on the deluxe version)... Diplo and Hudson Mohawke are guest producers on 'Lay It Down'. It's a pretty generic roster, there's not really any surprises (save perhaps Mohawke), which is a little disappointing given the collaboration rumours that have surrounded Kanye and Odd Future. It's unfair to gauge a record by Lil Wayne on the calibre of his guests, but it again shows a lack of desire to modernise and mature. He's hit 30 now, and if he still wants to be relevant by 35, he's going to have to diversify. It's not really enough to just churn out the same hour of braggadocio and sexual anecdotes every few years.
There are some glints of promise though. 'Back To You' samples Jamie Lidell's 'Compass', and becomes a soaring ballad that could have been ripped from the Django Unchained OST, if it weren't for some choice lines: "That dick all in yo' windpipe," and "Should I call somebody else? 'Cause girl it's almost twelve and this dick ain't gonna suck itself," sully the mood of Wayne longing for his one and only. 'Wowzers' has ticking 808s and rhythms reminiscent of protogé Minaj's 'Stupid Hoe', blaring klaxons and more references to getting laid than the gents at that skeevy pub in town you cross the road to avoid. 'Stupid Hoe' was a vitriolic diss aimed at Lil' Kim', but 'Wowzers' is a glorified chat-up line - yet somehow it's still magnetic. 'Hello' brings back memories of the mash-up album between Linkin Park and Jay-Z, with chugging metal chords and blistering drums behind a staggeringly on point Weezy. It's a high note to end the album on.
Lil Wayne is ridiculously talented artist - he would be nowhere near this iconic without the chops to back that reputation up. He's just let his attention waiver in recent years, and allowed himself to revel in the celebrity status rather than that of messianic musician. If he placed as much effort into putting out quality noises as he does into hedonism, then we'd have a masterpiece on our hands. As it is, there's a few moments of quality here, but nowhere near enough to sustain interest over the albums hour. After he's finished hammering home his tales of hammering, you're left irked more than impressed. We get it Weezy, you get laid a lot. Stop rubbing it in.