"We are not the same, I am a Martian," Lil Wayne rapped on 2008's fantastic Tha Carter III.
On I Am Not a Human Being II, he's come down to Earth. Way down. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes it easy to forget exactly how unhinged, weird, and brilliant he's capable of being.
Here's the guy who was plucked out of obscurity to become a rapper at age 9, signing with Cash Money at 12, and joining a little group called Hot Boys (which included Juvenile). You can see the 17-year-old Lil Wayne bouncing around in Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up," his voice already froggy, bringing the phrase "drop it like it's hot" to national consciousness.
No one would've thought he'd go on to become the "Best Rapper Alive," as he knighted himself and willed it to be true. 2006–2009 was Renaissance Weezy; changing the game with Dedication 2 and Da Drought 3, pushing and defining mixtape culture. He was all over the place, strange, and utterly unique. Tha Carter III was packed with monster tracks like "A Milli" that pleased both the masses and critics — songs that showed off his clever, dense wordplay.
Take this line from "Mr. Carter": "Man, I got summer hating on me 'cause I'm hotter than the sun / Got spring hating on me 'cause I ain't never sprung / Winter hating on me 'cause I'm colder than y'all / And I would never, I would never, I would never fall."
Or he could take a turn for the hilarious and absurd, like on the "Lollipop (Remix)": "Safe sex is great sex, better use a latex / 'Cause you don't want that late text, that 'I think I'm late' text."
Lil Wayne was hard to make sense of, but thrilling to listen to and watch. Syrup and sex never sounded so genius.
He was always rapping about women, anatomy, drugs, and guns, but on Tha Carter III and mixtapes like Da Drought 3 and Dedication 2 it felt like he was practically sailing away — untouchable, inventive, and high as hell. Now, on I Am Not a Human Being II, Wayne sounds almost normal. He's lucid, clearly aware of the space he's inhabiting but not always interested in being there.
On "Romance," Weezy drawls along, no subtlety or allusion: "She kiss my ankle when I twisted my ankle / She even did anal when she don't do anal." There's a glimmer of playful Lil Wayne when he does a turn on the Folgers jingle ("they say the best part of waking up is breakfast after a nut") but it pales next to Wayne's metaphors of yore, or even his more straight romantic turn on Tha Carter IV's "How to Love."
While there may not be much diversity by way of lyricism, there's plenty in the production. There are solid bangers, a go at the trap music trend du jour, and songs lifted from the Rebirth era.
T-Minus' production on "Rich As Fuck" makes the track a clear standout — minimal, thumping, and a perfect backdrop for guest 2 Chainz to lend some of his swagger on the hook "Look at you / Now look at us." Wayne gets in a few biting zingers too: "Never talk to the cops / I don't speak pig latin." Some are cheesier than others: "And I'm spraying that on these rusty niggas like WD-40."
As always, Wayne shows proper love for his guests, and lets them shine — maybe even carrying some of the weight. "Bitches Love Me," is already a top 10 Hot 100 hit, many thanks to Future's hook. "Lay It Down," a bonus track with Cory Gunz and Nicki Minaj, is another high point of the album, all fun-house mirror, loopy production, with Minaj going in like old-school Nicki.
Most of the time, Weezy feels really serious — it's a stark contrast from the goofy figure we're used to seeing, skateboarding and acting as mentor/papa bear to his Young Money crew. Juicy J and Crazy Mike are responsible for the two hardest tracks, "Trigger Finger" and "Gunwalk," which are dark and infectious, and the thumping beats set Weezy up well for spitting off tight verses, simple though they may be. "Beat the Shit" is Wayne's contribution to trap — which Gunplay absolutely owns. Wayne counters Gunplay's hammering verse with sing-songy playground taunting.
Lil Wayne continues his love affair with rock on "Hello" — if anyone questioned why the rapper would sign Limp Bizkit to Cash Money Records, it should make sense now. He loves this stuff. (Clearly.) Included as a bonus track on the deluxe album is "Hot Revolver," which was originally released in 2009 as a promo single for Rebirth. Dre (of production duo Cool & Dre) sings a catchy enough hook, but the song's inclusion seems tossed-in and out of place. But at least he's having fun.
After his seizure scare a week ago, it's hard to hear some of the tracks on I Am Not a Human Being II. It's easy to expect and want so much more; "so near death and given another chance!" We want him to feel as radical and alive as he was in 2008, but he's mostly getting by. His health issues were probably indicative of that. IANAHBII will certainly have plenty of people nodding along, bumping in the club, and humming "I ain't go no worries" to themselves like a personal mantra, but it's also just a little bittersweet.