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Album review: Lil Wayne's 'I Am Not a Human Being II'

March 25, 2013|By Mikael Wood
  • The cover of Lil Wayne's new album, "I Am Not a Human Being II."
The cover of Lil Wayne's new album, "I Am Not a Human Being II." (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal…)

The title of Lil Wayne’s new album rings familiar, and not just because it’s the sequel to a 2010 disc. On “I Am Not a Human Being II,” the famously out-there rapper boasts, as he has countless times over the last decade, that he’s different from the rest of us -- weirder, funnier, richer, sexier.

“She fell in love with the Martian,” he says of an admirer in “Wowzerz,” one of many Lil Wayne songs in which he refers to himself as an alien. “I said, ‘You’re too down to Earth.’ ”

Yet this month, Lil Wayne revealed just how human he is when a series of seizures put him in L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for days.

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Speculation about his health -- and what exactly triggered the seizures -- raged across social media while he was hospitalized, with rumors that he was near death circulating alongside reports that he’d overdosed on the street concoction known as sizzurp: prescription cough syrup mixed with fruit soda. However, Bryan “Birdman” Williams, one of Lil Wayne’s closest associates, brushed off the drug chatter, telling a New York radio DJ that the rapper’s medical woes had been caused by “how hard he works.”

Lil Wayne left Cedars-Sinai on March 18 and quickly released a video in which he insisted he was “more than good” after the hospital stay. But it was too late: The otherworldly giant had been cut down to regular-person size.

Though it was recorded well before his health scare, “I Am Not a Human Being II,” in stores Tuesday, feels like an effort to restore some invincibility to Lil Wayne, whose last studio record, “Tha Carter IV,” was the bestselling rap album of 2011.

“Look me in my face, I ain’t got no worries,” he insists in “No Worries.” In the title track, he even addresses his drug use, admitting “Medicine, I treat it like peppermints,” without a trace of shame or apology in his voice.

Often, this reclaimed swagger takes the form of grim warnings, Lil Wayne threatening foes with physical violence (“Trigger Finger”) and women with what sounds like the least pleasurable sex of all time (“Bitches Love Me”).

“See me walking with a limp, that’s my gun walk,” he raps in “Gunwalk,” “I don’t do no arguing, I let the gun talk.”

The Lil Wayne of several years ago — the “Dedication” mixtapes and the 2008 commercial smash “Tha Carter III” — would never have let his gun talk for him. Where he once exercised hip-hop’s freakiest gift of gab, dominating the field by doing what no one else could, Lil Wayne on this album tries to project power by streamlining his eccentricities. The result is that he just sounds more like everybody else.

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There are, of course, exceptions. In “Wowzerz” and “Days and Days,” he brings some of the unhinged verbal intensity of yore, and “God Bless Amerika” expands his thematic scope with a haunting meditation on “this old godless America.” He’s good too in “Back to You,” a woozy love song that keeps vacillating between desperate and reserved.

And as always, Lil Wayne inspires striking performances from his guests, including Drake, Future and 2 Chainz. It’s a thrill to hear Nicki Minaj in “Lay It Down,” from the album’s deluxe edition, tap into the acidic hostility of her pre-"American Idol” days.

But mostly, “I Am Not a Human Being II” shows us Lil Wayne responding weakly to the unsettling prospect of weakness. Beneath the bluster, he might know it too. After assuring his fans that he’s fine in his recent video statement, Lil Wayne reminds them that the album is available “if you want,” he says. Then he adds, with a shrug, “If not, whatever.”

Lil Wayne

“I Am Not a Human Being II”

(Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Motown)

Two stars

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Follow Mikael Wood on Twitter: @mikaelwood

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