Have you ever seen something so profoundly beautiful as a “moth butterfly thing”? Kanye West has, and he was so struck by its symbolic integrity that he had DONDA, his creative content company, incorporate it into the cover art for Lil Wayne’s 10th studio album, I Am Not a Human Being II. According to Wayne, Kanye “chose the moth butterfly thing because it has so many different stages of life, and it goes through so many forms and changes, and no one can figure it out, and it’s always beautiful.” Obviously, we’re meant to interpret this in terms of his career — the metamorphosis from Hot Boy to mixtape phenom to established solo artist to “rock star” and, finally, to his current artistic incarnation: an Auto-Tuned, Pac Sun-styled combination of the above. And yes, just like the beautiful moth butterfly thing, we will never understand just who Wayne is, artistically and personally. Just as we’ll never understand the complex choreography of monarch migration, we can never hope to comprehend the forces of money and/or nature that took us from “I Feel Like Dyin’” to something that actually made us feel like dying.
Of course, the beauty of these feathery insects stems from their brevity (the average butterfly lifespan is a mere two weeks). We recently saw this aspect of Wayne’s moth butterfly-ness manifest itself, when he was rushed to the ICU after experiencing a series of violent seizures purportedly caused by over-consumption of sizzurp, his nectar of choice. During those tense few days, the media made it seem possible that I Am Not a Human Being II would be the rapper’s last album. Thankfully, Lil Wayne has pulled through, and we’ve been spared from the terrifying prospect of posthumously immortalizing this as his last artistic statement. But while the tension and confusion have passed, we are unfortunately left with a pretty disappointing piece of work. As my fellow writer C Monster eloquently puts it: “OH, cool. New Lil Wayne still sounds like a robot yelling at you for an hour.”
What is he yelling at you about, you might ask? His penis, basically. Wayne doesn’t just make dick jokes: he sets a Guinness World Record for the most phallic metaphors in any rap album, ever. Over the course of the album’s 15 songs (18 in the deluxe edition), Wayne compares his member to the next black president, Megatron, a serpent, a recliner, a chair, morphine, a kangaroo, steroids, a rocket, a NASCAR, a shovel, breakfast in bed, a piña colada (penis colada), an AK/47, horse, a pony, and a unicorn (there are undoubtedly others that I’ve overlooked; can you spot any hidden gems?). Granted, Wayne’s crazy free-association skills are one of the reasons we fell in love with him in the first place; his uncanny ability to jump from Orville Redenbacher to the Bible to Bad Boys in the span of a single song is one of rap’s national treasures. But on I Am Not a Human Being II, it’s just one lame-dad punchline after the other, peppered with Trukfit product placements and tired rhyme schemes: “She kiss my ankle when I twisted my ankle/ She even did anal when she don’t do anal,” he croons at one point during the painful “Romance,” his voice buried in Auto-Tune. It’s amusing, yes, but in a cringing, Soulja Boy kind of way (speaking of Soulja, he inexplicably appears as a guest rapper and producer on this album — twice; his slapdash snap beat for “Wowzers” sounds like something a middle schooler could cook up in the computer lab).
When he’s not trying out for the headlining slot at a comedy club for 15-year-old boys, Wayne’s either going through the hollow, cliched motions of gangsta posturing (“Gunwalk, “Trigger Finger”), trying his luck at the rock star thing (again) and failing miserably (again) (the Jamie Lidell-sampling “Back To You,” “Hello,” “Hot Revolver”), or animatedly drawling his way through decidedly safe pop jams (“Curtains,” “Bitches Love Me”). Sometimes a marked, stoned giddiness shines through the monotony of tracks like “No Worries” and “Trippy,” and you can practically hear Wayne cracking up to himself in the booth; it’s a nice taste of classic Da Drought Wayne, and provides just enough energy to keep things from being a complete travesty. And still, such moments are all too often overshadowed by the stupid self-seriousness of songs like “God Bless Amerika,” in which the rapper muses on the big questions, trying hard to keep a straight face: “I saw a butterfly in hell today/ Will I die or go to jail today?”
I can just see Weezy now, standing on the Cliffs of Dover, skateboard in hand. Slow motion pan to the flames. A butterfly moth thing flits away into the inferno and a single tear rolls down his cheek, tracing the same path as his infamous tattoos. A somber piano riff, an ollie off the precipice, and finally, a plummet into the the world of Limp Bizkit guitars, dick jokes, and “breakfast after a nut.” It feels a lot like trolling.