Spin Cycle

Introduction: Lil’ Wayne is almost cool.

For a few brief, shining moments, Lil’ Wayne’s latest album flirts with being cool. Like, legitimately cool from a musical standpoint, not merely cool in the sense that Lil’ Wayne fans tend to cling to that ludicrous period of time where people were calling him the greatest rapper alive. “IANAHB” opens the record with a flurry of ominous piano chords; it seems as though it’s setting the stage for a dark, piano-laced beat, but the beat never kicks in. Rather, it’s a morphing, free-form piano piece that Lil’ Wayne eventually raps over. No 808, no canned drums, just piano and voice; that’s par for the course in the singer-songwriter world, but practically unheard of in hip-hop. It’s an abstract, fundamentally interesting experiment — that is, except for Lil’ Wayne himself.

“I’m in the crib buck-naked, bitch”, Weezy lazily raps, right before making the first dick joke of I Am Not A Human Being II. It doesn’t matter what the dick joke is. It’s one of approximately 1500, and I honestly believe that’s a conservative estimate. Why focus on the dick jokes, you ask? Certainly Lil’ Wayne has other lyrical content up his sleeve. And you’d be correct — he does. Here, let’s break it down.

I. Lyrical concepts prevalent in I Am Not A Human Being II (in descending order of estimated frequency):

1. Graphic descriptions of the female anatomy.
2. Dick jokes.
3. Anger at “these niggas”*.
4. Weezy speaking about himself in the third person, often using alter ego “Lil’ Tunechi”.
5. Weezy has more [guns/drugs/both] than you.

* For the purposes of this album, an unspecified (but, evidently, tenacious) group of antagonists.

This forms the core of Lil’ Wayne circa 2013. That hierarchy may not be letter perfect, but it’s a good guide to the sort of content you can find on Human Being II; number one, in particular, is quite accurate, as this record seems to be primarily about oral sex. In Wayne’s defense, he’s usually giving it, but he only ever uses the term “pussy” to describe it, so he’s a mere 1 for 2 with any feminist fanbase he didn’t alienate with “She Will”.

Lil’ Wayne’s affinity for his own penis is second only to his love of cunnilingus. Mere seconds into Lil’ Wayne’s first verse of the record, he posits that it could be “the next black president”; elsewhere, it’s an AK, and an Uzi, and a mode of transportation for women to ride. There’s even a “penis colada” pun, which is great, because I think we were all wondering when someone would get around to pointing out that the “pina” of the famed tropical drink bears a tangential linguistic resemblance to the word “penis”. It’s about time, Lil’ Wayne.

And, of course, there are “these niggas”, who Lil’ Wayne is perpetually angry at. They are Weezy’s faceless antagonists; it’s never quite articulated what specific beef he has with them, mind you, but it’s clear through context clues that they’ve incurred his wrath something fierce. This is illustrated in most lyrics — the Lil’ Wayne of Human Being II has no real use for lyrical content that doesn’t involve cunnilingus, puerile penis punnery, or lashing out at “these niggas” — but most egregiously in “Beat the Shit”, wherein Lil’ Wayne, by way of a chorus, repeatedly resolves to “beat the shit out that pussy-ass nigga”. (It’s important to note that this is perhaps the line that comes closest to encompassing all three of Lil’ Wayne’s most prevalent lyrical concerns; if only he could have worked his dong into the chorus. Alas.)

There’s no deeper analysis to be had here, unless Lil’ Wayne is a lengthy experiment in what Americans will regard as quality. Perhaps he’s an alien, and this sequel to I Am Not A Human Being (one of his most poorly-received records, critically) is his way of reiterating “seriously, you guys, I’m not a human being. I mentioned it before and nobody called me on it, but I’m literally not a human being.”

II. Rare musical moments of clarity in a Lil’ Wayne record.

It’s imperative to note that Lil’ Wayne, a rapper of great wealth if not great renown, has enough resources at his disposal to acquire some solid production value. On I Am Not A Human Being II, he rarely cashes in on this, but the stray moments of actual innovation are frustrating reminders of the fact that people continue to waste perfectly good musical ideas on this strange, dark cartoon character.

As previously mentioned, the piano track for “IANAHB” is quite tantalizing divorced from Weezy’s laconic rap. The vocal samples on “Days and Days” and “Back To You” are left-field, and never really gel with the rest of their tracks, but they’re interesting vignettes; “Hello” eventually turns into a grinding punk rave-up, which sounds more like something P.O.S. or The Roots would do, and it’s kind of fascinating and disgusting as the same time. Wayne’s raspy braying has a tendency to ruin everything it comes in contact with. This is all reminiscent of Tha Carter IV, wherein some perfectly serviceable beats were crushed to death under Wayne’s ineloquent waxing.

In fact, there’s little to differentiate IANAHB2 from Tha Carter IV, which is interesting considering that the two records are ostensibly the latest installments in two distinct series of records. Yet there’s no unifying thread anymore between the individual series; this record could just as easily have been Tha Carter V, although perhaps the lack of a massive crossover single prevents that from happening. “No Worries” comes closest to aping the gratingly repetitive mainstream appeal of a “6 Foot 7 Foot”, although how anyone could voluntarily listen to Wayne’s spastic screeching over the chorus is something of a paradox.

III. The anomaly of Lil’ Wayne’s guest roster circa 2013.

Tha Carter IV was a legendarily bad record, but at least Lil’ Wayne had the sense to surround himself with better artists; Nas, Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Tech N9ne, and John Legend all swung by, and it’s not important to ask why.

I Am Not A Human Being II, on the other hand, aggressively courts appearances by the bottom of the hip-hop barrel; these guest rappers, by and large, exist on the same qualitative plane as Weezy. At times, they’re even worse; it’s difficult to fathom a Lil’ Wayne/Soulja Boy duet, for example, and yet here’s “Trigger Finger” to illustrate to us exactly what that would sound like. 2 Chainz, Corey Gunz, Juicy J? Why is Nicki Minaj the best rapper on your record? How is this possible or acceptable?

Seriously, that Soulja Boy verse. I’m beginning to wonder if this thing is some sort of performance art; purposefully bad, experimental, satirical performance art. Nobody can possibly rap that poorly.

IV. Personal observations, confessions, and apologies.

This review sucks.

No, it’s terrible and I know it. I mean, whatever, I have a way with a turn of phrase, but there’s no cohesiveness to my observations, except for this weird, jokey approximation of a scholarly dissertation, classed-up with roman numerals and section headers to give the impression of intellect. I’d like to say that it’s satirical, but it isn’t: I am reasonably sure Lil’ Wayne broke my brain.

I mean, look at the date on this thing. IANAHB2 came out like a week ago! I feel like I have something of a reputation for timeliness, and I crapped the bed by letting another new release Tuesday pass before finally dotting my “i”s. That sounds lazy, but in actuality, I’ve been listening to IANAHB2 quite frequently, allowing it to seep into my consciousness (as I am wont to do with bad music that I intend to give thorough thrashing). Problem is, prolonged exposure to an album this horrific is bound to cause some damage, and in my case it was this niggling migraine that set up shop somewhere around track 2, and built to full-bore pain immersion at about the halfway mark. That’s right — this album is that unique combination of lyrical content and musical vibe (I mentioned the good tracks, but never the bad ones — they’re uniformly slow, fuzzy, minor-key, and vaguely synthy, kind of like every Lil’ Wayne song of all time ever) that can actually make you physically ill. I know, because it happened to me.

So it was a slog, and difficult, but hey, I suffer for my art.

Also, it put my wife into a spectacularly bad mood, although it’s hard to blame her. There’s only so much of this braying jackass being gross you can take before it takes its toll.

Also, I feel like this review implies a lack of objectivity, as though I’m predisposed to dislike Lil’ Wayne. That would be an accurate implication, as I am generally biased against things that are terrible; were Lil’ Wayne to one day not be terrible, I’d be more than generous with my praise of his newly non-terrible material, because I firmly believe that a good song is a good song. Unfortunately, as it stands now, Lil’ Wayne is terrible.

V. Conclusion and grade.

I Am Not A Human Being II is awful; as is this review, which is fitting, albeit unintentional. The question is how awful; do we grade a Lil’ Wayne album based on how bad of a Lil’ Wayne album it is, or how bad of a music album it is?

As a Lil’ Wayne album, it sounds pretty average to me. Like, it’s a little worse than Tha Carter IV (which was already terrible, mind you), but that means that on the Lil’ Wayne curve, it’s somewhere around a C-. And yet, when you compare I Am Not A Human Being II to the vast spectrum of music both innovative and unimportant, it pales in comparison, indeed is actively terrible. And yet, since I have given concession to several tracks that deserved a better fate, we can’t give IANAHB2 the lowest grade possible, can we? I mean, not in good conscience, as there is a level of artistic merit there, however minimal it may be. So perhaps we give it a D+, like I did to Tha Carter IV, and call it a day?

Except then I think of the way Lil’ Wayne ruined that perfectly good instrumental by wheezing “I’m in the crib buck-naked, bitch”, and that incessant screaming over the “No Worries” hook, and all of his disgusting, grating lyrical content, and that migraine starts to swell up behind my ears again. I Am Not A Human Being II is appalling and deserves nothing. And also it broke my brain.

Grade: F

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