Apr 2, 2013

Music Review: "I Am Not A Human Being II" by Lil Wayne


By Ian Cory

When Lil Wayne was my age he was calling himself the best rapper alive and was making an interesting case in support of that statement. There were, and are, more technically gifted MCs and a host of rappers with more profound things to say, but Wayne was unique, a complete anomaly. His seemingly endless stream of puns and warped punch lines combined with his squeaky croak of a voice made him come across as hip-hop’s court jester, and set the precedent for current jokey goofballs like 2 Chainz and Big Sean. For a time, from 2006 to 2008, his parade of mixtapes* and guest features made it clear that even if he wasn’t the greatest, he was certainly the most prolific. It didn’t matter that his subject matter was permanently locked into money, sex, drugs and guns, because his maddening work ethic constantly pushed him to rap about these topics in increasingly bizarre ways and made it hard to grow bored of the guy. And then things went wrong in all of the ways that they usually do. His anachronistically high record sales made it impossible for anyone to have any real editorial power on Wayne’s output, and his increasing reliance on drugs pushed what was once lovably eccentric into frustratingly nonsensical. After being released from prison, even Lil Wayne himself seemed to be getting sick of his own shit, mentioning retirement in nearly every interview and badmouthing his own guest verses. And so we come, sliding down the slope of quality and relevance, to the nadir of Wayne’s career: I Am Not A Human Being II

There is precisely one interesting idea on this entire album, and it comes and goes very quickly. The opening title track finds Wayne rhyming over a rolling stream of piano arpeggios that match every twist and turn of his flow, occasionally going fully atonal to support his digressions into voice manipulation and propelling him when he picks up the pace. Even though his lyrics are just as suspect as everything else he’s put out in the last two years, one might be lead to assume that Lil Wayne is at least interested in attempting something new and pushing his creative boundaries. This adorably na├»ve notion is then brutally squashed by the ensuing 16 tracks. For the entirety of the album’s running length, the only moments where Wayne does not sound like he’s phoning it in are the times when he screams in the background of a hook; certainly not when he’s rapping, and definitely not when he’s crooning through autotune. The production is equally apathetic, only being notable through it’s perplexing bad decisions, like the constant abuse of air horn on “Wowzers” or the laughably wimpy midi “rock” instrumentation on “Hello”**. There are probably hard drives full of quickly constructed, personality-less synthetic beats like these in every record executive’s office.

At his best on this record Lil Wayne does nothing to improve the beats, at his worst he makes it nearly impossible to make it through the four minutes that he sleepwalks for on each track. Wayne has turned his idiosyncrasies into crutches here. The constant allusions to pop culture, dick length jokes, and scatological puns make I Am Not A Human Being II more similar to watching a full season of Family Guy than actually listening to a rap album. Wayne’s always had a pension for groan worthy punch lines, but he’s really scrapping the bottom of the barrel here. Everyone who I’ve talked to has one lyric that served as the last straw, and trying to list them all would be an exercise in futility, but my personal breaking point involved the phrase “penis colada”. There isn’t a single verse that stays on a single topic or expresses any coherent theme. The sex jokes are the tangents from the gun threats, which are tangents from the weed puns. This is most laughable on “God Bless Amerika” on which he tries to vaguely critique the state of the union before sliding back into rambling non-sequiters. His flow does him no favors either, he mostly stretches out his phrases to afford the most half-assed autotune melodies on earth or falls back on to that god damn “Mercy” flow that everyone is leaning on these days.

Part of me wants to be sympathetic towards a man suffering from some serious health problems and a serious case of disillusionment towards the art form that he dedicated his life towards. The rest of me is only furious at myself for having sat through all of I Am Not A Human Being II. The title alone should tell you everything you need to know about this release. What purpose would labeling your new album as a sequel to a collection of b-sides and cast offs have other than to let your fanbase know that your interest in your own work is at an all time low. In a recent interview, Wayne said, “you’re going to get that shit or you won’t, if not, whatever”. Let me do you a favor by decreasing your options a bit: don’t get it.

Grade: F

*It’s pretty clear that the mixtapes leading up to Tha Carter III set the tempo and served as a template for Lil B truly absurd ongoing mixtape campaign. For that alone we should be thankful that Lil Wayne exists.
**This song also features the most embarrassingly bad Korn impression I’ve ever heard, and having spent my middle school years listening to a lot of nu-metal, I know what I’m talking about here.

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