Rap and pop music have long exchanged amorous ogles, and recently, their sparkly offspring have staggered forth in the form of NutraSweet club anthems befitting Snooki’s bachelorette party. But since Lil Wayne was sent to Riker’s Island on gun charges in March, some needed cellular division has occurred.
Two of the summer’s most insistent hit records, Rick Ross’ “BMF” and Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard in the Paint” (both produced by Lex Luger), were heavy, violent, and unabashedly rap. Then Kanye West, perhaps pop music’s most dynamic artist, began leaking neo-purist rap tracks with cameos from respected veteran MCs Mos Def, Pusha T, and Raekwon. Whether a backlash or a correction, the trend proved that popular rap records could be created with less sugar than B.o.B or Nicki Minaj shovel into their singles.
So when Wayne uses his eighth release, I Am Not a Human Being, to spout off over the sawing techno synths of “What’s Wrong with Them,” or “Popular,” it’s like finding a nine-month-old cheesecake in the back of the fridge. These songs, gleaned from pre-jail studio sessions, adhere to the since-dispelled notion that commercial rap should be threaded with Lady Gaga’s DNA. Weezy can’t be faulted for being unfashionable, but such are the risks when one passes off last year’s factory seconds as this season’s new collection.
This ten-song set is something of a shakedown, ultimately, and one unlikely to rekindle the affections of listeners who were unimpressed by February’s rock-infused Rebirth.
I Am Not a Human Being‘s best moments defy easy carbon dating. The title track is a spacey, Rick Rubin-esque mélange of guitar stabs, power chords, and shifting drums produced by Infamous and Drew Correa. Wayne sounds ecstatic and the punchlines pour. “Y’all a bunch of squares like a motherfucking grid,” he giggles. His growing mastery of sexy slow jams produces the enticing “With You,” which features a moaning soul loop and hook from protégé Drake; on”I’m Single,” Wayne languidly dreams of escaping a combative relationship with a one-night fling. “I cut my phones off, both lines,” he purrs over detuned strings and sparse, drunken snares. “It’s ’bout to get nasty, pork rinds.”
Though this is a flawed and scattershot project, Wayne remains an artist who makes music like a pâtissier–his songs are frivolous, delicious, and meant to be relished for just a moment. Indulge in the unfiltered humor, the dense, stream-of-consciousness rambling, the gleeful personality, and simply file it away. As his endless catalogue illustrates, Wayne is nothing if not generous. There will always be more.