Reviewer: Aaron Page
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well at least that can be said for Lil Wayne. Give him seizures on Tuesday; he’ll announce a 40 date tour on Thursday. Say he’s fallen off; he’s sold out, he’s lost it, he’ll drop ‘I Am Not A Human Being II’
Kicking off the set, the intro and title track doesn’t just perfectly represent the album, but is also the definitive Lil Wayne experience. Jazz pianist ELEW, is credited as producer, but should be given a larger credit of collaborator. He creates a moody instrumental that builds and twists, with Wayne confidently striding in at every turn. This track hints at the next level. Lil Wayne takes himself seriously; he just doesn’t want you to know it. All the ignorant and debauched punch lines don’t hide the fact that he has an eye on the stadium rap of Kanye and Jay–Z.
Unfortunately the stadium starts and ends there. The production credits are littered with familiar faces; t-minus, detail, cool and dre. Who all cater trap sounding beats to suit Wayne’s erratic flow perfectly. The world and its friend know what Lil Wayne does best, and when he’s on he’s on.
When 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne are on a song together, a good song is guaranteed. From the minimalism of ‘R.A.F.’ to ‘Days and Days’ initially sounding like a Kanye leftover, turns into something else entirely. Sleeper hit ‘Trigger Finger’ shows a different side to Wayne. Previously hinted at on mixtapes, he switches up the style from an out of breath kid on his birthday, to a menacing, sharp and precise performance. Adding some weight, to the cartoonish violence that Lil Wayne and modern hip-hop is known for.
However sometimes Wayne tries so hard to be an alien, he forgets how to be human. At an hour songs about drugs, violence, money, sex and nothing more become a little tired. This isn’t usually a problem as his past albums have mixed the ignorant with the insightful. But having your face on a t-shirt makes it hard to be taken seriously. Being aware of what his fans want; what critics need, pretending to care about neither, whilst caring about both, he puts an awkward and lost performance on ‘God Bless America’ Stringing stream of consciousness phrases, with ham fisted philosophy. Coming off as if there were a gun to his head.
The biggest issue however is that although there are merely three bad songs, and one truly awful one (if you didn’t like ‘Rebirth’ avoid ‘Hello’) the set is comprised of songs you’ve heard many times. His insistence on not being human is less an indication of how strange he is, and more an indication that he struggles to have a real moment. This is his 10th studio album, so the truth is any demons he had, have been exorcised on a previous work. His life is now all about sex, money and drugs, and there’s nothing he can say to make it interesting.
To reappropriate an old adage, bored is the head that wears the crown. Lil Wayne has sold millions of records in an economy that doesn’t buy millions of records. He has won awards and simply has nothing else to achieve. The first track hints that there is another level for him to reach. He knows it, we can hear it, Lil Wayne just needs to be brave enough to take it.