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Lil Wayne – if you don’t dig his beats, you have to appreciate his flow. If his flow isn’t flow enough for you, you have to admire the wordplay. If “Two bitches at the same time, synchronized swimmers / Got the girl twisted ’cause she open when you twist her” doesn’t sit well in the temporals, then you’re out of luck. There’s enough pseudo-intellectual pontificators out there who never even smelt Queensbridge (or Hollygrove, for that matter) whose flow is smooth enough for you to chuck into your iPod and wedge between How I Got Over and Let’s Get Free.
This is a Weezy record.
He’s given up the “greatest rapper in the world” schtick to target that laser-beam chutzpah the he always made look so organic onto something every other rapper today is apparently a prodigious talent at. Weezy has never been one for lyrics, which is dandy, because rhymes have always been where he excels. And excel he does, as you’ll see.
His obsessions with sagas and sequels prove less a desire for ongoing narrative and more an obsession with archiving. Just what it is he wants to chronicle is still hazy – the man’s interests jump around like a story told by a cokehead – but it’s the lane-switch from balls-deep in the grime to a desire to play on the same monkey bars as the rest of the Top 40 herd (something Weezy discovery Nicki Minaj has managed seamlessly, yet effortfully) that reveal an anima that is today’s hip hop.
So if I Am Not A Human Being was the first book in this particular saga in that weighty tome that is The Book of Weezy, and he’s excused himself fully for Rebirth, what can one glean from II, like so many Kafka office writings?
The album opens with Weez sparking up. No-one in the studio had the good humour to use a bonafide field recording so this is probably take 4 or 5 of Wayne flicking a lighter and inhale-exhaling into a Neumann U87. And even though the spark and the subsequent reverb-heavy piano opening gives the listener the impression that they’re about to be regaled, this is merely about the dope lines, “I’m in the crib butt naked, bitch / She said my dick could be the next black President”.
The most salient thing about I Am Not a Human Being II is the sheer focus. It’s never been a virtue of any MC, particularly Weezy, but any hip hop album worth a listen past the singles has always been a work of profound focus and discipline. Even the Silence Of The Lambs-esque cover suggests contrivance, in a way that is both good and reassuring. The beats and hooks are as far away from ringtone territory as you’d like them to be and he’s one of a handful of rappers you can still see writing words down on paper and not his iPhone.
2 Chainz collab Days And Days quantifies just how much Weezy has left in him, and the well is deep. “Money ain’t shit, bitches ain’t neither / You know I’m on that grass, don’t cut on the sprinklers / Pussy on my mind, on my breath and on my fingers”, and while he never seems to self-edit stringently enough to get rid of ham-fisted lines like “I go tape worm in that hoe / Let my snake squirm in that hoe”, they’re concessions for 1-2 combos like “All my niggas gangstas, all my bitches freaks / I tickle her pussy, got that pussy tickle pink”.
One tweeter recently asked, pertinently, “How did Soulja Boy end up on the new Lil Wayne album? Lol.” It’s not an unfair question, one Weezy could probably recall, but are you really so surprised? He’s chill. What’s more interesting though is that appearing on a Weezy joint doesn’t lend Soulja (or is it Boy? Tell ‘em, maybe?) any kind of credibility and it’s difficult to tell if that’s because of Weezy’s merits or Soulja Boy’s cemented position as Soulja Boy.
Human Being II falls well short of the “work of art” yardstick that Dark Twisted Fantasy set for all other main-name-in-the-games to measure themselves against (and for the punk kids like OFWGKTA to rebel against) but at least he’s trying. If you add it all up, this album is no worse than Tha Carter IV. The eery Gunwalk is analogous to She Will and mercifully bereft of the pop sentimentality of the latter. He’ll never be willing to be seen as vulnerable like Ye’ or Drake, as the almost-ballad Back To You proves, but that figures. After all, he’s not a human being. He’s trying to remain a vital rapper though, and that’s enough for now.
That said, he still hasn’t gotten around to learning how to play that guitar.