Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Album Review: 'IANAHB 2' (Grade: C+)

It's becoming harder to believe that at one point in the not too distant past, arguments against Lil' Wayne as the best rapper alive were minuscule at best. From the mid to late 2000's we basked in the Wayne era -- where the early Carter, Dedication, and Drought series became Wayne's proficient templates for potent punch lines, clever metaphors, and for the most part, a crass and unmannerly command of the English language. Wayne's tenth studio album I Am Not a Human Being 2 serves as the only potential rebuttal to his gradually monotonous material over the last several years, although the temporary signs of encouragement are too often eclipsed by his generic lyrical content and sporadically irregular approach, making the album more of a regrettable tease than a miraculous sign.

Some moments of IANAHB2 are at least endurable. "IANAHB" could be the best intro of any Wayne album, more so because of the two-minute aggressively uplifting piano riff than his opening line, "I'm in the crib butt naked b*tch". The remaining no-hook rant does in fact include some of Wayne's lost gritty braggadocio, but habitually framed around his sexually explicit references. "Days and Days" is accentuated by 2 Chainz and a soulful Cold Blood sample, using trap energy with snares and hi-hats for one of the more genuine rap songs on the album. "Gunwalk" and "Trippy" bring veteran Juicy J's production into play; the former with slapping 808's as Wayne rebukes gun laws, the latter an ode to, "Weed, pills, and that drank". Strikingly odd and unnecessary is the Soulja Boy feature on "Trigger Finger", which is strange enough as a sample from the Assasin's Creed video game, but still delivers a dark, chilling tone with Wayne's continuous hook, "My trigger finger itchin'".

Consistency is what this album thoroughly lacks. "B*tches Love Me" has since reached platinum after flooding radio and club playlists. Sister records "Rich as Fuck" and "No Worries" enjoyed early commercial success for their catchy hook schemes, but the sum total of IANAHB's parts don't cohesively add up. Auto-tune Wayne fools around on "Curtains" by essentially telling us he's not nervous. He re-surfaces on "Beat the Sh*t" which aside from promising production is merely a frantic nursery rhyme. An attempted love ballad perplexes the ear with "Back to You", a soothing Jamie Lidell sample corrupted by Wayne's insatiable need to mimic a rock artist, which subsequently works to his detriment with "Hello". Another failed ballad attempt surfaces with "Romance" as Wayne sings his abysmal form of a love song, along with "Wowzers", a song purely dedicated to sexually explicit innuendos. Alas, "God Bless Amerika"could possess the strongest theme about the, "sweet land of kill 'em all and let 'em die", but Wayne undermines his opportunity to connect by delivering, in his words, "the same sh*t, different air freshener". That is, effortless metaphors that could be mistaken for parables on a bumper sticker.

Grading Wayne's recent work from a rapping standpoint is reaching a level of degradation. The recurring content of guns, drugs, and sex is becoming overbearing, regardless of his inherent ability to turn a phrase. IANAHB2 concretely exemplifies Wayne's full demise as the best rapper alive. It's strengths  are noted in the production and listenability, but it's daunting weaknesses lie in the generic content and unchallenging themes, which should form the core criteria of a great rap album. The brief moments of promise too often revert to repetitiously themed rhetoric. Taking away anything substantial from Wayne's tenth album would be the equivalent of asking for a full salmon dinner at a fast food joint. Nothing quite that intricate on IANAHB2's menu, but a few items could potentially instigate further cravings.

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