Lil Wayne could have made a much worse album than Tha Carter IV. Certainly, he seemed primed for a disaster. 2010’s widely derided Rebirth was a sophomoric pop-punk experiment. Its follow-up, the I Am Not A Human Being EP, marked a retreat to his modus operandi as a Dirty South rhyme animal, but it sounded rote and joyless, and he seemed distracted by a pending prison stint for weapons possession (which he completed early this year). After those relative failures – both went gold on Lil Wayne’s brand name and his unquenchable base of fans – Tha Carter IV seems less likely to draw the same excitement and interest as 2008’s Tha Carter III. And while teaser singles such as “John,” “6 Foot 7 Foot,” “How to Love” and “She Will” were decent, none of them equaled the classic minimalist attack of Volume III’s “A Milli” or the inexplicably popular pillow-hump ballad “Lollipop.”
“I swear to God I ain’t nervous,” pronounces Lil Wayne on “Curtains,” his voice wavering under an Auto-Tune effect. Then he adds, “I spent my birthday in jail/ I was making bad decisions.” For a brief, tantalizing second, it seems like he’s making himself vulnerable. But it’s just a glimpse, and he quickly buries the impulse: “My niggas got them birds/ You ain’t even got bird seeds/ Your bitch ride me like a go kart/ I play that pussy like Mozart.”
Still, those moments of clarity are the most interesting aspect of I Am Not a Human Being II, an album on which Lil Wayne doggedly sticks to his path as a young, rich and tasteless rhyme animal. Nothing he says here is as shockingly offensive as 2011’s Tha Carter IV and “I’m Good,” when he retorted “Nigga I’m straight/ My girl a faggot.” But it’s not for lack of trying. “These niggas nag like bitches/ Actin’ like little fags like Richard,” he growls on “Trigger Finger.” He talks about his dick a lot, because, as he claims on “Back to You,” “this dick won’t suck itself/ You know it needs some help.” His lyrical spray ranges from thrillingly provocative (the title track, “Trippy” and “Gunwalk”) to clumsily boorish and ineffective (“No Worries” and “Wowzerz”). Sometimes it sounds like IANAHB II is an hour-plus freestyle about bitches, pussy and his dick.
If hip-hop is jazz, then Curren$y can be described as a traditionalist. His debut album, Pilot Talk, is pure braggadocio, with rhymes about fancy cars and free-flowing liquor and free-loving women. The music, loving produced and arranged by Ski Beatz, sounds like an update of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, all the way down to the New York session musicians recruited to crank out mellow grooves. It’s as if Curren$y reinterpreted the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rappers’ Delight” for the new millennium.