March 26, 2013

Doc Zeus is from Cleveland.

The mythology goes like this: there once was a rapper named Dwayne who was bold enough to claim that he was the “best rapper alive.” For a time, people believed him. Beginning with the release of Tha Carter, extending through an exhaustive collection of critically acclaimed mixtapes and guest appearances, and finally culminating in the platinum-in-a-week triumph of Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne was the most important rapper in all of music. Either through will power or the mystical powers of codeine-promethazine, Lil Wayne had become the King. He was praised for his limitless creativity and tireless work ethic, for his free-associative rhymes and his inventive use of simile and metaphor, for his experimentation with rock and auto-tune and his exhaustive, unrelenting weirdness. Lil Wayne was the Alien God of Rap and we were all living on his planet.

But like the Book of Rap says, “All rappers fall off.” At the height of his popularity, a gun charge and a bid in prison slowed his momentum while years of reckless drug abuse and a hedonistic lifestyle slowly began caught up to him. Rumors of chronic health problems led to occasional, unconfirmed reports that the man was on his death bed or worse. Meanwhile, the music itself began to slip. His forays into rock music fell with a resounding thud, while his last album, Tha Carter IV, was generally considered a major disappointment. To add insult to alleged medically induced coma, the man’s increasingly erratic behavior made him a jeggings wearing punchline. These are indeed dark times in the House Of Weezy as he prepares to release his latest record, I Am Not A Human Being II.

It can’t be stressed how genuinely, perplexingly terrible I Am Not A Human Being II, the second release in Wayne’s off-brand odds & ends series, actually is. It is a record best described as the sound of a choking frog being smashed against the nu-metal grind of Wes Borland’s guitar while Tucker Max reads you excerpts from I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. It’s a semen-stained mess of an album that manages to graft body parts from Rebirth, (an album that could be potentially considered the worst commercially released rock record like…ever) and the sex pun stupidity fest of Tha Carter IV onto a Frankenstein monster of bad taste and worse ideas. This is a record in which a interpolation of the Folger’s coffee jingle can be considered one of the album’s better ideas. Nothing Lil Wayne tries is too dumb or indulgent.

Depending on your stance on Wayne, over-indulgence has always been his Achilles Heel. Wayne has always been completely unafraid to subject his audience to his fumbling attempts at playing a guitar in concert or end an album with a rambling nine minute political rant. For a fan, this can be part of his charm – usually described by favorable critics as being “unhinged” or whatever – but more often, it feels like an unnecessary ego trip of an artist obsessed with the “idea” of being a creative genius than do anything truly creative or you know…genius. Consider the way he substitutes volume for quality control in the sheer amount of material he releases. Lil Wayne stumbled upon the idea of achieving “genius” through ubiquity and work ethic — yet except for his early material, his albums always felt a little sloppy or even, at times, lazy. His records always seem to try to go in multiple directions at once, as if Wayne could not be bothered to stick with a single idea and run with it. Even his moments of “unhinged innovation” always felt like the most obvious ideas possible: like throwing auto-tune over his trademark goblin yelp in an era when everybody was doing that. Throwing shit against the wall does not make you Jackson Pollack.

If anything, I Am Not A Human Being II is the logical conclusion of his bad habits as the album falls victim to Wayne’s worst indulgences. Learning nothing from the Rebirth fiasco, Wayne returns to his amateurish brand of wannabe pop punk on a quarter of the record as if to stubbornly prove to audiences his forays into rock music were not a royal waste of your time. Tracks like “Hot Revolver” and “Hello” feature some of the worst songwriting and guitar work this side of a Diggler and Rothchild collaboration. Meanwhile, Wayne’s rhymes have never felt lazier than they do here.

Sex has always been one of the Wayne’s primary subjects but it seems these days he’s become so obsessed with the scatological that his lyrics have been reduced to a series of dumb puns. Comedy is in all in the timing but a dumb joke is still a a dumb joke and he never seems to miss the chance to compare his sexual prowess to the grossest and most literal thing possible. On “Wowzers”, Lil Wayne compares his penis to an AK-47, a bullet, and a stock car before compares performing cunnilingus to going vegetarian. At one point, he actually uses the phrase “penis colada” with a remarkable sincerity. It’s all painfully unfunny as he seems content substituting wit for infinite dick jokes. By the end of the album, you wish somebody had established the equivalent of Razzie award for bad music (or is that just the Grammy’s? I never can tell) just to shame him for such a heroically awful performance.

The utter failure of I Am Not A Human Being II should come to no surprise to anybody that has been really paying attention to Lil Wayne’s career over the years. Even the most cynical of Wayne’s historic run must admit that there were genuine moments of brilliance along the way (Tha Carter II is as close as perfection as mid-2000s mainstream rap gets) but his flaws were just as often on display.

The frustrated consternation of his fans claiming that Wayne has simply fallen off after years of living the rock star lifestyle seems mildly perplexing. The flaws that litter I Am A Human Being II have always been display throughout his career. After all, this is a man who even in his prime was dropping gallingly asinine couplets of ill-advised stupidity with remarkable frequency. This is the same rapper who punned his way through condiment metaphors, thought it was a good idea to sign Gudda Gudda and actually wrote the phrase “Dear Mr. Toilet, I’m the shit.” Things have not changed that much for Lil Tunechi.

I guess I’m really trying to ask: “Did the Best Rapper Alive really fall off or was he even that good to begin with?