Lil Wayne's nearly two-decade tenure in rap has been punctuated with moments of audacity that not even the grimiest rappers dare touch. Wayne's led a double life in the game, where one moment he is yearning to penetrate pop territory and the next he's firing back as the "mixtape Weezy," delivering bars that could rattle his own grillz at the gum line. "Tha Carter IV" was Wayne's moment under the mainstream sun. Topping the Billboard 200 and clocking in at a staggering 964,000 sold in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, Wayne's ninth studio album was perhaps his loudest battle-cry that he was (at the very least) attempting to sit at the table of G.O.A.T. royalty.
Lil Wayne has always been a polarizing figure, though. Once he shed the skin of a Cash Money second-class citizen to ultimately stage a polite coup and brand takeover, Weezy transformed from the student to the YMCMB teacher. Many did not find that move palatable, especially coming from whom some deemed as a half-baked lyricist. In that respect, "I Am Not a Human Being II" (March 26, Cash Money Records) is a step backwards. With 2010's "I Am Not a Human Being," Wayne was paying for the sins of the rocky "Rebirth," but continued with upward mobility toward "Tha Carter IV."
"I Am Not a Human Being II" was geared to be Wayne's moment of clarity. He was off that lean (though that's up for debate after recently suffering seizures) and carefully crafting this two-year opus. While the original was slapped together before serving a prison bid, part II was supposed to be finely tuned. There are stellar moments to the work though, buried deep within the lewdness that riddles the greater whole. It's perverse, it's bipolar, it's abrasive, and it's dark, yet it's oddly bright. Hell, it's Lil Wayne.
Extended rolling piano keys at the entry suggest that this partial title track will be some sort of inspirational anthem. Wayne shuts all of that down with his first line: "I'm in the crib butt naked, bitch / She said my dick could be the next Black President." He continues to say he ingests medicine like peppermints and talks threats over an unplugged piano. The lyrics are strong, albeit graphic.
2. "Curtains" feat. Boo
Lil Wayne takes a chapter from the gospel of Future with Auto-Tune cooing and shouting out sizzurp (then later saying he's straight edge) over sturdy basslines and handclaps. The sing-songy crotch grabbing braggadocio is at best Wayne at his recent worst, where arrogant lines like "I'm the original gangster, he the remix" set the stage for Boo to check in, only to rhyme in Wayne's cadence. Buzzkill.
3. "Days And Days" feat. 2 Chainz
Barbara Lynn's "Good Woman" is the dominant soul sample that enhances the rattling drumlines ricocheting throughout this track. This is quintessential Weezy, where he rides the beat with ease, despite some simple one-liners ("So much weed I got grass stains"). 2 Chainz is a proper cameo, briefly checking in before Wayne takes over again. It's just enough Chainz though, much like his moment on A$AP Rocky's "Fuckin' Problems."
"Gunwalk" feat. Gudda Gudda
Trap music at its finest. "I don't do no arguing, I let my gun talk" is Wayne's mantra as he recites a laundry list of ways he'll unapologetically shoot anyone in his path. The surprising star of the show is Gudda Gudda, though. While mediocre was once his manifesto, Gudda fires off some proper bullets about Molly, Scotty Pippen's nose and breaking jaws... starstruck.
"No Worries" feat. Detail
Wayne beats around the bush (literally) as he juggles bars that only make half-sense, continuously returning to discussions about the female anatomy. "She said, 'Sorry I didn't shave so that pussy is a little furry' / I put that pussy in my face, I ain't got no worries" is an example, paired with "I would talk about my dick, but man that shit be a long story." Lowbrow entertainment.
"Back To You"
What could have perhaps been Wayne's version of Kanye West's "808's & Heartbreak" era misses the mark because Wayne can't get out of his own way. Jamie Lidell's "Compass" sample navigates the beat in one direction while Wayne lures the lyrics in another. He waxes philosophical about the only girl he really loves, yet says she uses his "dick as a chair" and that his "dick won't suck itself." So much for vulnerability.
"Trigger Finger" feat. Soulja Boy
Empty stomachs, full clips, itchy trigger fingers. Pick your repetitive poison, as Lil Wayne suffers from a lyrical shortage on "Trigger Finger." If Tunechi's pathogenic flows were an allergic reaction, then Soulja Boy's cameo is anaphylaxis. He bids adieu to the game and layers it with "I'm fresh to death" repeated umpteen times. Of all the rappers to pluck and gently place upon "Trigger Finger's" faulty foundation, why Soulja Boy?
8. "Beat The Shit" feat. Gunplay
There is a dichotomy on this track that somehow works. While the hook on "Beat the Shit" includes an upbeat Weezy singing ironically over chirpy production, the verses are punchy and tough. He gleefully wails "and I'll knock the muthafuckin' snow off your cone." Gunplay yells through his bars, still strangely striking a balance in time for Wayne to carry the rest of the song. The highs and the lows make "Beat The Shit" a pleasant roller-coaster ride.
9. "Rich As Fuck" feat. 2 Chainz
There is no denying that T-Minus' production enabled "Rich As Fuck" to be a single off "I Am Not a Human Being II." The reality is that anyone could have turned this beat into a hit with the right reputation and marketing vehicle. Wayne has some comical lines "Never talk to the cops, I don't speak pig Latin," while the second 2 Chainz cameo really is as brief as his part on "Fuckin' Problems."
"Trippy" feat. Juicy J
It's almost a shame that Juicy J chose to waste his "Trippy" brand on this song. While Wayne explicitly details his psychotropic reactions -- from vibrating retinas to spinal pain -- Juicy J is a little more subdued. Wayne basically admits to enjoying every drug under the sun, while Juicy likes dipping blunts in lean (oh, is that all?) The hook evolves from slaphappy into chopped and screwed before slowing down completely to sound, well, trippy.
"Bitches Love Me" feat. Drake & Future
"Bitches Love Me" is an inevitable hit thanks to the trifecta of Mike WiLL Made It's synthy production, Future's weird hook, and the Young Money lothario Drake smoldering all over his ad libs. Wayne is merely a filler, delivering his usual breed of arrogance in the midst of everything else going on. It's perhaps the smartest way to be a guest appearance on his own record, even when Wayne arguably has the most to say.
Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg had a recent skit on SNL where they referred to "railing on your butt" as "romance." Lil Wayne travels along a similar vein, citing examples of "romance," none of which are particularly romantic. He even destroys Folgers' ad campaign with his own hackneyed jingle, "The best part of waking up, is breakfast after a nut / And that's romance." No it isn't, Wayne.
13. "God Bless Amerika"
A rare jewel on "I Am Not a Human Being II," where Wayne pairs social commentary with self-actualization. He poses the question "Will I die or go to jail today?" as he rhymes with cautious optimism about ducking prison for good this time. It's refreshing to know that Wayne is cognizant of his missteps and chose to reveal them on wax. Hopefully life will imitate art going forward.
14. "Wowzers" feat. Trina
This is the second beat Soulja Boy produced on "I Am Not a Human Being II" (the first being "Trigger Finger"), though this one sounds like a small child banging on the left side of a piano. It is by far the worst song to follow something as poignant as "God Bless Amerika." Not even Trina could save this record, blandly comparing her mouth to a jacuzzi. For a song titled "Wowzers," it's awfully uneventful.
"Hello" feat. Shane Heyl
It's the return of "Rebirth" Tunechi. Do what you will with that information, in addition to digesting Wayne's three commandments to skate, smoke, and fuck. He flip-flops from an Anthrax-style of rappish shouting to a vague semblance of the Ramones' breed of early punk. While "Hello" might come across as completely insulting to Wayne's rock predecessors, it's still better than Weezy's previous genre jumping endeavors.
"Lay It Down" feat. Cory Gunz & Nicki Minaj
The first bonus track brings the reunion of Wayne with YMCMB First Lady Nicki Minaj. It often feels like most songs featuring Nicki are merely a setup for Nicki's verse. This one is no exception. Both Wayne and Cory Gunz ask forgettable questions before Nicki arrives with some answers. "I sit and count this money while I watch you bitches audition," she raps. It's good to know an American Idol judge can still spend a little time slumming with friends.
"Hot Revolver" feat. Dre
A stuttering bass guitar sets the stage for Wayne to interpolate Green Day's "Basket Case," while Dre (of Cool & Dre) sings a strange pop-rock hook. "Hot Revolver" is nearly five years old (even pre-"Rebirth") and sounds displaced on "IANAHBII," even as a bonus song. Couple that with Wayne's cryptic line, "And I be havin' seizures, but she says she can't shake me," and this song could have easily missed the final cut.
18. "My Homies Still" feat. Big Sean
The closer to "I Am Not a Human Being II" is schizophrenia in the best way possible. Wayne mulls over practicing safe sex in the name of Slick Rick – with a patch over his third eye – as Big Sean talks about tricking out your little sister over a percolating beat. Out of all the ways to end an imbalanced tenth studio album, this is by far the greatest. It's Lil Wayne straight, no chaser.