At this point in his long, undeniably interesting career, Lil’ Wayne might quite possibly be the most polarizing figure in hip hop. Four or five years ago, he was in the middle of one of the most undeniably prolific and impressive runs in hip hop history. With critically acclaimed and voraciously embraced mix tape series like The Dedication and Da Drought is Over, and the first three Carter albums, he propelled himself to global superstar status and became one of the most recognizable and commercially successful artists of the 2000’s– inside and outside of the hip hop culture.
For a man who’s quite blatantly stated, tens of thousands of times by now, that money is his biggest motivation, it’d be tough not to argue he’s accomplished his goals as much as anybody on the planet. However, when his career is looked at from an outsider’s perspective, many music listeners (even a large portion of hip hop die hards) would tell a much, much different story. In fact, you could probably make an argument that he’s become one of the most “hated”, criticized, and controversial superstars in the music business.
Back in his artistic prime, he might not have been the most insightful lyricits in the game. Outside of a few rare moments, introspective is the last thing you probably would have called him. But, when it came to the flow – and pardon the language – the guy could just straight rap his ass off. He was off the wall, blunt, and free associative, but the way he put words together made it so he could call himself the best rapper alive, and you’d believe him (at least until the track ended).
But, after he made the jump from “potential hip hop legend” right around the post Carter III days, to bon a fide superstar, there was a noticeable change in his music. What once used to be intricate rhyme patterns and often undeniably clever (yet usually crude) similes and metaphors became a much more simplistic musical experience. Reasonably, you could say things got a whole lot simpler, felt lazier – and worth mentioning – accessible to non-hip hop heads. For a large portion of very vocal fans, that marked the point he “fell off”. These days, when the hip hop community talks about Lil Wayne, there’s more often than not a clear distinction made, usually “the mixtape Weezy” “The Old Wayne” or “The Dedication 2 era Wayne”.
For his older fans, and those who never got behind his music, his new album, I am Not A Human Being II, isn’t going to change their current view of the dude’s music. In fact, it’s probably only going to reaffirm that the old Wayne’s dead, gone, and never, ever coming back – or further their belief that the guys always been overrated and undeserving of everything he’s achieved. It’s apparent at this point, that Lil Wayne probably doesn’t care all that much about that portion of the music listening public anymore though…if you fall into one of those two before mentioned categories, you can probably stop reading now, or keep going just out of resentful curiosity.
To be blunt, it’s felt like Wayne’s been trying to skate by (literally and figuratively) on fads and musical trends more than anything else over the past three years or so. For a business-motivated artist who emerged as a superstar around that time span, it makes perfect sense why he would take that approach. He developed a huge audience, and now he seems to be giving them exactly what they ask for. Unfortunately for his old fans, the larger music listening population isn’t asking for complicated flows, or truly witty wordplay.
“The people” are asking for larger than life, bass dominated beats. They want simple, fun, accessible lyrics that don’t scratch the surface of anything that could be considered depth. They want EDM, and its take on Trap, especially with festival season kicking off….and that’s exactly what Wayne’s giving us with IANAHB II. Honestly. 80% of this album obviously could be seamlessly worked right into any House DJ’s rotation. Pure and simple, this album is more for the molly popping, dancing masses than the hip hop scene. That statement isn’t meant to be a criticism at all either, just an honest – and accurate – assessment of the ‘I Am Not A Human Being 2′ album.
From a rapping standpoint, it’s what most fans of lyricism or traditional hip hop would consider a joke. In fact, you could probably call 95% of what Lil Wayne delivers on this album a joke and it wouldn’t be much of an insult. Wayne’s definitely not trying to spit with even a hint of being serious about anything through most of this project. About half of the bars we get are sexual puns that sound like something a middle school student would come up with to get his buddies to laugh.
For example, less than a minute and a half into the album’s lead track, “IANAHB” he drops “I’m in the ocean getting shark pussy”. On one of “I Am Not A Human Being 2′s” more serious sounding songs, “Romance”, he sings (to the exact tune of the Foldgers coffee jingle no less), “the best part of waking up/ is breakfast after a nut”. I sincerely challenge anyone not to listen to that without letting out an audible laugh – whether it’s in pity, or genuine, is up to you.
Admittedly, there is one song that provides a little bit of esoteric introspection, and gives a dark yet seemingly honest depiction of the modern American experience with “God Bless Amerika”. It’s probably the one track that feels even closely reminiscent to the old Wayne, and would have fit perfectly on the Carter III. It should also be noted that “Gun Walk” feels like a throwback nod to some old No Limit stuff, and “Back to You” shows some rare glimpses of storytelling and cohesiveness. But, outside of those three tracks, this one is blatantly meant to be so lyrically simple that anyone who’s ever passed a sex ed course, or has unsupervised access to the Internet, would be able to understand 100% of what’s going on.
That isn’t always a bad thing though, and there are a few tracks where the approach makes for some downright infectious results like the Juicy J assited “Trippy”, Gunplay featuring “Beat The Shit”, and the 2 Chainz driven “Rich as Fuck”. However, the combination of juvenile sexual talk, and apparent commitment to simplicity, lead to some almost unlistenable tracks from a lyrical sense. “Wowzers” might be the worst song ever professionally recorded, and “Hello” isn’t far behind it (though that’s for a number of reasons – some of which we’ll get to in a minute). But, on the whole, Lil Wayne comes off so ridiculous on this one, he makes Chief Keef look like a potential future poet laureate.
Luckily, for the album’s sake at least, the production on this one is a completely different story. While lyrically, it ranges from merely passable to downright painful at points, minus it’s few misguided attempts at rock (on the bonus track “Hot Revolver” and Limp Bizkit reminiscent “Hello”) this one is full of what could be considered flawless bangers. Don’t take the use of the word flawless too seriously there though.
These aren’t beautifully arranged, complex beats that would impress someone whose music collection is full of MadLib, Dilla, or Flying Lotus. If you’re approaching this from a more traditional or refined musical point of view, it might not be for you. But, if you’re into a fun, infectious, and loud sound that’s going to transfer over into the rapidly growing EDM world…this one doesn’t do much wrong from a production standpoint at all. With that in mind, and considering the turnouts major DJ’s are consistently drawing in every corner of the planet these days, it’s hard to imagine that this one won’t find a lot of emphatic supporters.
The Juicy J and Crazy Mike produced “Trigger Finger” is the most obvious standout, with its immaculate organ and synth work, and a riff that feels almost exactly like the drop on the old Juvenile favorite “Back That Ass Up” (though Soulja Boy’s verse holds it back). The duo comes up big again on the before mentioned “Trippy” and “Gun Walk” too.
Cool & Dre offer up two of the more subdued, yet still loud as hell, tracks on “Days and Days” and “God Bless Amerika”. Relative newcomer to the production world Detail probably boosted his going fee in a big way with his work on “Curtains” and the album’s lead single “No Worries”. T-Minus continues his hot streak on “Rich as Fuck” with his masterful use of a strong 80’s house vocal sample, and Mike Will does the same on what’s probably the album’s one hip hop club friendly track on “Love Me”.
Overall, IANHB II, is a far, far cry from the Wayne music that made him one of hip hop’s most critically acclaimed and respected artists back during the Dedication/Carter days. For his die hard fans that were hoping for more of that Weezy, this one is almost 100% absent of that sound, and might be an even further move from that stage of Wayne’s career. If you’re more of a fan of lyrical prowess from a writing or technical standpoint, this might be your least favorite album he’ll ever drop (and based off of the vocal backlash over his last few projects, that’s saying a lot).
But, if you’re a fan of fun, infectious music and can separate what’s going on lyrically from your overall enjoyment of the material, this one is on par with any of the recent “banger focused” albums we’ve heard. It definitely stands up with the recent efforts by guys like 2 Chainz and Future, which were embraced commercially in a huge way. Based off its obvious slant towards the undeniably popular and growing EDM/House scene, this one’s going to do extremely well, and for obvious reasons.
If you aren’t feeling its direction, we could give I am Not A Human Being II a negative 5 out of 5, and you probably would feel it wasn’t low enough. But, for what it tries to accomplish, it deserves every bit of what we’re going to objectively give it. (And for what’s it’s worth, this reviewer is a huge fan of the old Wayne…and in a way it pains me to give it this with as much I would have liked a return to his old style).