I Am Not a Human Being, originally announced as an EP but expanded to ten tracks and released as a full-length, is designed as an anticipation builder for Lil Wayne’s Nov. 4th release from prison. The songs are odds-and-ends from Wayne’s prolific recording and supposedly some of the tracks have been poached from Tha Carter IV, to be replaced with original, post-prison material. So it’s a surprise that I Am Not a Human Being holds together as well as it does. Wayne has fallen far from his mixtape pinnacle, but I Am Not a Human Being finds him in a more comfortable place than on his commercial breakthrough, Tha Carter III. On that album, Wayne sounded caught in-between the crackling stream-of-consciousness rants that won him praise (and which he increasingly sounded unable to replicate) and being a pop-star. Here however, Wayne settles into pop-star mode and, if the results aren’t as exciting, they’re still enjoyable.
I Am Not a Human Being is made up of a handful of bangers and a lot of songs that could easily be R&B numbers. For the most part, Wayne stays with his now familiar, slower flow. His lines are discrete: set up, then punchline, again and again. In other hands, this could grow stale pretty quickly, but Wayne’s voice is one of the best instruments in pop music and he uses it well. And even if he doesn’t say anything memorable, he doesn’t say much that’s cloying either, which is a small victory in his post-Carter III, syrup and weed fueled victory lap. The title track is the one truly bad song here, on which Wayne goes back to telling us how weird he is instead of just being his truly weird self over a grating ‘99 Problems’ inspired beat. Otherwise, Wayne keeps it fun by infusing every song with his personality. On album opener ‘Gonerrhea’ we get Wayne the gangster (and a lazy verse from protege Drake) over a single repeating synth note and big drums. On ‘With You,’ a gently lilting R&B flip, ‘I’m Single,’ a woozy track a little reminiscent of Ciara’s ‘Promise,’ and ‘Popular,’ a warm, major key synth shimmer, we get Weezy the loverman. Even as Wayne aims for seduction, he stays foul-mouthed and sleazy but, unlike a lot of other rappers, Wayne’s horny delivery and relish for sex details suggest it isn’t just a pose. The other two album highlights feature the two new stars on Wayne’s Young Money roster, Nicki Minaj and Drake. While she doesn’t actually rap on ‘What’s Wrong with Them,’ Nicki rescues Weezy’s mediocre, tired sounding verses with a pretty chorus that makes the song. And on lead single ‘Right Above It,’ probably Wayne’s best moment of rapping on the album, Drake matches Wayne line for line over a burbling beat that builds to a triumphant chorus.
Still, I Am Not a Human Being was clearly assembled as a placeholder. The production is mostly of a piece with the club-rap sound that was dominant before Wayne went to prison. His raps, whilst paling in comparison to his older work, are competent and provide a good vehicle for his personality. Here’s hoping that I Am Not a Human Being is a transition piece that puts this version of Wayne to bed. He’s out of jail in less than a month and has been presumably been away from codeine cough syrup and auto-tune for nearly a year. This is a fun record, but Lil Wayne at his peak was a world-beater. It would feel great to welcome that version of Wayne home again.