Lil Wayne: Human After All
Friends. Romans. Martians. I stand before you not to bury Lil Wayne and I Am Not A Human Being II, nor do I intend to praise it. Instead, I implore you to marvel at this album's sheer existence, because yet again, Lil Wayne has managed to accomplish something only great artists can: he's made something that's so quintessentially him that you can't help but respect it.
That's not to say this album is, like, good. Far from it. In preparation for writing about this, I took out my notebook and made two columns: one for the good songs, one for the bad songs. Nearly immediately, I made a new column for songs outside the realm of comprehension and defied judgment. Over half of the songs on this album ended up in that column. See also: Lil Wayne, Future, and the Ouroboros of Defensive Trendhumpery
It's not that Lil Wayne has jumped the shark. No, friend, he ollied that particular Carcharodon carcharias several album cycles ago. Instead, Lil Wayne has entered dangerous territory, that of the superstar who no longer innovates, only duplicates. He's inhaling the same air as 50 Cent, but where 50 looks upon the scorched earth of modern pop-rap and sees opportunities to make shittily conservative 50 Cent versions of things, Lil Wayne sees A$AP Rocky's "Wild For The Night," with its blustering chasm of Dubstep/Trap/EDM/Whatever, idly pop-shovits over a four-stair, and says, "Eh, needs more Gunplay." His approach to music is, oddly enough, analogous to that which his Trukfit clothing line takes, tackling the normal and vaguely refined and rendering it garish and ill-conceived. He's become one of the lords in Game of Thrones, too weird and skeezy to live, but too powerful to be made to behave any differently.
The original I Am Not A Human Being album has aged well. It's bizarre and menacing and funny in a uniquely Weezian way (who else is rapping about needing Benedryl for their itchy trigger fingers?) and plus it was relatively short and featured a Drake who was then not above with playing Lil Wayne's straight man. Most importantly, it retains much of the feeling of looseness of Wayne's classic mixtapes. When you ask if I Am Not A Human Being II adheres to that same model, the album answers you by starting off with nearly two minutes of austere classical piano, and by the time Lil Wayne raps the phrase "shark pussy," you've pretty much realized what you're in for.
One of the more confounding things about I Am Not A Human Being II is how pretty much every song that should work ranges from either sucky to boring, and all of the songs that should be disasters are so wily that your opinion changes every time. If you're undeterred by humans using the words "Folky," "Dubstep," and "Rap-Rock" in that order and them actually making sense you'll find a winner in "Back To You." Like your protest songs extra-halfassed and Lana Del Rey-influenced? Wowzers, you're gonna like "God Bless Amerika." Also, the song after "God Bless Amerika" is literally called "Wowzers." It's produced by Soulja Boy, features an amazing Trina verse, and might be the best song on the album. If nothing else, Trina emasculates Lil Wayne because he likes skateboarding now and that's really funny.
Given his output at the height of his powers, it's not really out of the question to assume Wayne has hundreds of unreleased songs in the vaults. So why, then, did he pick these to put on his album? For example, "Curtains" and "No Worries" are pretty much the same song. One of them could have never seen the light of day and literally no one would have complained. Or, consider the bonus track "Hot Revolver," an unreleased track from his Oh-God-Are-You-Kidding-Please-No-Don't-Make-Me-Listen-To-That-inducing rock album Rebirth. It's nearly four years old and manages to rip off both Green Day and Rick Springfield in the span of three minutes and 21 seconds. I like it, but that's because I love terrible things.
That's not to say there's not a great EP of conventionally good songs hiding in here. "Rich As Fuck" is vintage Wayne--no ifs, ands, or buttfucks about it--while "Trippy" is basically a good Juicy J song featuring Lil Wayne, which isn't the worst thing of all time. "Bitches Love Me" is as good as it was when it first popped up on Future's FBG: The Movie tape. Sadly enough, the only song on the album where Wayne truly sounds like his old, freewheeling, effortless self is also perhaps I Am Not A Human Being II's most grating. Closer "Hello" is something of Wayne's one-man tribute to Public Enemy and Anthrax's "Bring Tha Noize" or perhaps even a well-intentioned but still clueless misinterpretation of the Death Grips aesthetic, with Weezy rattling off unhinged and debased bursts of id over one of the more grating instrumentals of rap memory. If you make it to the FIDLAR-ishly stupid, "SKATE/ SMOKE/ FUCK/ YEAH!" conclusion to Wayne's verse, you'll have fully absorbed that the man who once led hip-hop by the nose is clumsily, overwhelmingly, and charmingly uniquely human after all.
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