I Am Not A Human Being
(Universal Motown; 2010)
By Chris Molnar | 27 October 2010
This is neither the kaleidoscopic world-eater of Tha Carter III (2008) nor the sirrup’d grunge-baby of Rebirth (2010). Instead, I Am Not A Human Being is a little bit of both—but mostly it’s one unhealthy hook after another, a solid quickie that elevates Lil Wayne’s mixtape ethos into the album-ready spotlight. None of this is unexpected; of course a grab-bag would burst into existence pre-Carter IV (2011?), jail serving mostly as a dare by which and an obstacle course through which Wayne strives to pump out official bullshit instead of semi-legal genius. Surprisingly, though, the situation kind of works, especially in the case of the No Ceilings’ (2009) rehash “I’m Single,” which blossoms into a riveting, alien slow jam. This is what a real off-cycle (non-Carter) Weezy album ought to be: effortless, addictive, royal, a well-tuned collection of basement tapes and B-sides as “official” baubles.
“I’m Single,” to me, is more than an example of how mixtape Wayne and album Wayne can collide perfectly in these dark days of prisoner Wayne. As a single piece of music I’d straight up throw it a 90-something percent, with the rest of Human Being’s tracks hovering somewhere in the 60s and 70s. That eerie beat, those confidently opportunistic lyrics (think of it as a “Love The One You’re With” for the ‘10s) define so much of Lil Wayne’s appeal beyond the surface wordplay and the massive public persona. Pretenders like Lil B have the weirdness on lock; they’ve started developing a mixtape mythology. But, Rebirth notwithstanding, Lil Wayne has a self-consciousness that allows his brusqueness and contradictions and surreal delivery to accumulate unironic sincerity. By which I mean: “I don’t want your gonorrhea” is delivered in such an authoritative yet offhanded snicker that the brain-dead sentiment becomes meaningful on a level apart from “good” lyrics or beats. Lil Wayne does not want your disease, normal human race.
Still, it would be nice if he gave a shit about not giving a shit. Wayne’s ebullience is too curdled to be all that interesting on its own–-not to mention that he can do so much better. StreetRunner’s production on “With You” is an especially nice surprise after his bland work on “Playing With Fire”; it’s a mellow, sweetly patient soul loop that blessedly constrains Drake to the hook. But elsewhere you get the dimestore “99 Problems” of the title track, or the interchangeable electronic shuffle of “Hold Up” and “What’s Wrong With Them.” The latter song follows “With You” in keeping an exhausting Young Money act (Nicki Minaj) limited to the chorus, but the tastefulness of the guest spot is meaningless when the song itself is so boring. Jay Sean’s dim facelessness on “That Ain’t Me” is easily the album’s nadir, unintentionally hilarious in his defiant chant of “you can try to lock me up” on a boring song by an incarcerated rapper who once declared he’d “rather be pushing flowers than in the pen sharing showers.”
Otherwise, Boy-1da’s minor key skitter on “Bill Gates,” combined with the agreeably loony focus of its getting rich metaphors—“Eat them bullets / Don’t forget to tip your waiter,” for one—is a highlight, as is Cool & Dre’s big, synthy “Popular” (though they have a long way to go to repent for their half of Rebirth). Ultimately, though, Human Being is a pile of cheap, melting chocolates from a restaurant that usually serves buffet or four-course meals. At least it’s not the health code-violating shitpile that his last album was, and given the circumstances it’s a pretty great cash-in reminder that Wayne’s is still a viable, though precariously held, voice. Nobody may do it like Lil Wayne, but fuck, Flockaveli just came out. Maybe new idioms will arise to make his barely sustainable talent less of a force than it’s been. And maybe that’s not a bad thing for everybody.