Lil Wayne - I Am Not A Human Being II

 5.5/10

I have a very good friend who reminds me greatly of Lil Wayne. No, he isn't a rapper, but he said something to me a few weeks ago as we sat together on a friends bed. He simply remarked, with a wry chuckle, 'I burned out'. He is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, and, for the majority of the time we knew each other, the hardest worker. Bar none. He was top of the tree. Working in Finance, he spent his first 3 years finishing an insanely hard degree whilst working full time (a degree that took me 5 and a half years), then after graduation continued to chase even harder qualifications whilst working even longer hours. Then one day he was made redundant. That was 18 months ago, and he has not worked a day since. He burned out. He's 24.

It saddens me greatly to say it, but Lil Wayne has walked a similar path. His back story is legendary. Between 2004 and 2008, he released 3 stunning, classic LPs. And I mean classics, they will be viewed as such in time. Tha Carter's I through III. III especially is one of the greatest hip-hop releases of all time. During these years he also released a slew of critically acclaimed mixtapes, starting with Da Drought in 03 up to No Ceilings in 09, which included the world-beating Dedication 2, generally regarded as the best mixtape of all time. And yes, there's more. Countless, and I mean countless, guest spots. For about 5 years he barely slept by all accounts, and old-timers like 2 Chainz have testified to his work ethic, saying he is the hardest worker in the industry.

Fuelled by Syrup and Weed, his claims of I am not a human were almost under-stated. The only misstep was Dedication 3. But by the time Tha Carter IV came around, alarm bells began to ring. By no means a poor release, and sparked to Platinum status via the brilliant single How To Love, Weezy began to sound, for the first time ever, sloppy. Considering his prolific output up to then, you'd be amazed at his quality control. Contemporaries like Gucci Mane and Lil B are just as prolific, but sifting through their myriad of releases to find the gems is like finding the grain of sugar in a mountain of salt. Lil Wayne never had that issue.

As his behaviour and music became increasingly erratic, many questioned his 'dedication'. And rightfully so. Talks of retirement were rife, and his incarceration spawned the flawed but passable I Am Not A Human Being, as well as Sorry 4 The Wait. Rebirth was a write-off. Dedication 4 was a delightful romp but at no stage did Wayne surpass the original tracks he was rapping over. By 2013, the once great man was basically pronounced dead on Twitter days before the release of IANAHB II. He had officially burnt out.

IANAHB kicks it all off, and it's an extremely promising start. An odd producer selection, ELEW (Eric Lewis), spawns a rolling piano epic upon which Weezy lays some vintage era rhymes with a stunning ear for flow, giving the track an epic, stadium filling effect. There's some severe crassness, lines like 'I stick it in her ass like some fucking steroids', or '90 billion bitches on my dick like a skewer', but his focus and dexterity are a sight to behold, he speaks truth when he remarks 'No rubber, I just fucked this piano'. Even the second song, the Future inspired Curtains, is on point. There are few artists who can pull auto-tune off anymore, and Wayne's foray in to it in the past (read: Dedication 3) has been chequered, but on this it gives him this hallucinogenic quality. He's rapping from out of space, spazzing out. He even introduces a rare moment of clarity, 'Spent my birthday in jail, I was making bad decisions'. You warm to it, he doesn't sound like a human being. Has Lil Wayne come back?

Umm.. Not quite. Rather than treat us to the bounty of scattered insights we recieved on Tha Carter III, or the insanely driven and aggressive manner in which he destroyed competition on Tha Carter II, we're delivered a rolling mass of sex, drugs and violence delivered in single doses. In fact, someone has taken the time to document all 80 similes used on the record. Lines are just grabbed out of the ether and thrown at you, whether they make any sense or not. It results in the most confusing rabble of a rap album I've ever heard. On Days and Days he raps 'Pussy on my mind, on my breath and on my fingers / Niggas try to bite my style, but my style a jalepeno / I got skinny ass jeans, trucks on the pocket / Money talks, nigga, I'm caught up in that gossip / You know all my bitches badder, and all my swishas fatter / I milk this shit like cattle, that's my word like Scrabble'. Yes these are back to back bars. On Beat The Shit he rhymes 'They say we all gotta pay the price / Fuck it, man - ring me up / Fuckin' right I skate, ho - pussy is my scapegoat'. The fact that you can find his lyrics on Rap Genius is a joke, I don't think even Wayne can explain his ramblings. These are of course lowlights I am showing, but they just make the record feel like a mixtape. Lil B does this too, as does Gucci Mane and a colossal number of other DatPiff warriors. None with as much wit as Wayne of course, but it begs the question why it wasn't just released as a mixtape.

The reason I say that is two fold. Firstly, his lackadaisical attitude towards his record has been well documented. Apart from announcing an impending retirement, he has more than once declared his boredom with rap and a desire to skate more. From a man once so scrupulously dedicated to his craft, why put out something less than his worth? The second reason is there are 6 or 7 truly excellent tracks on this record, songs that are worthy of carrying the pre-2009 nameplate. No Worries, first introduced during the Dedication 4 mixtape, is an insane auto-tuned romp that absolutely went off at the 2012 VMAs. IANAHB and Curtains have already been mentioned. God Bless Amerika, standard political fare, again sees Wayne in a zone he relishes, when he actually emotes on a track it makes for compelling listening. Lines like 'Everybody wanna tell me what I need / You can play a role in my life but not the lead' and 'Granted we do it for vanity not humanity' punctuate a truly strong frame of mind. There's a thoughtful human being in there, and it's so refreshing to see it.

Trippy, a beasting affair orchestrated by Juicy J (who should've left his verse at home) sees Wayne walk us through his vast drug addictions that has you constantly hitting the rewind button to catch his fractured thoughts, 'I graduated to better drugs, my cap and gown on / Don't knock me off my high horse, what I do is my choice'. Rich As Fuck is the best track on the record. T-Minus sets it off with a delightful halting, spacey synth number that has Wayne inspired, his one line thoughts are more insightful and cutting, his voice swirls and catches the beat as 2 Chainz, who's hook is only 4 lines, still manages to inject his inherent energy acapella. Love Me is even a decent track, Future saves it with his trademark auto-tuned funk contrasting with Drakes deadpan delivery, and if you hear Mike Will Made It at the start of a track it's a sure thing.

The thing is, technically, Wayne is one of the most gifted and class leading rappers in the world. His flow is never off and he displays such diversity on the beat. Beat The Shit displays his impactful spitting whilst Trigger Finger harks back to Carter II where he demolishes beats with a relentless string of detached maliciousness. Even on Wowzers, a truly awful track, his cadence is admirable, and the simplicity of Soulja Boy's piano and snare is no match for his melodic tendencies. I think Wayne probably knew his lyrics were going to let him down here. His uncaring nature didn't extend to his competitive acumen. Drake doesn't have a verse, Nicki only has one (which she murders Wayne on), and 2 Chainz has a verse. No Kanye, no Eminem, no Jay-Z, no Gucci Mane, no Mack Maine, not even Tyga. Gunplay, 2 Chainz, Nicki, Corey Gunz, Big Sean and even protege Boo all deliver better verses than Wayne. He only manages to body Juicy J, Soulja Boy (Duh) and Gudda Gudda lyrically. The end of an era? Mixtape era Weezy was challening Jay-Z on his biggest ever tracks. 2013 Weezy can't even take down Corey Gunz..

5.5/10. This is Lil Wayne we're talking about here. By no means is this a total write-off. But it's a desperately depressing release. You're witnessing the decline of one of raps greats. He's had ample opportunity to prove he can still cut the same swathe through rap music he did in the mid-2000s, and he continues to disappoint. Just like my good friend I mentioned earlier, he has well and truly burnt out. It's time to focus on his skating. As for a summary, IANAHB II should've been a mixtape. Beat selection, technical prowess and 6 or 7 extremely good songs and some typical insane quotables save this release from total anonymity. Will it even go platinum? I doubt it.
Best Tracks: IANAHB, Rich As Fuck, God Bless Amerika





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