Lil Wayne is not back. Not yet. As of this writing, he's due to be released from the Eric M. Taylor Center at Rikers Island on November 4. But even when he switches from inmate #02616544L to Dwayne Carter, free man, will he return as the world beater who stunned us with mixtapes like Dedication 2 and albums like Tha Carter III or will he continue to explore (um) riskier sonic territory á la Rebirth? And, considering his penchant toward exuberant rhymes and a lifestyle blissfully unaware of the word "no," will we ever see the same Wayne that stomped straight into the camera rapping "I'd rather be pushin' flowers than to be in the pen sharin' showers," in the "A Milli" video? On July 22, 2007, just hours before he would be caught with the .40 caliber pistol that would eventually land him in jail, I saw Wayne end a triumphant NYC show at the famed, fancy Beacon Theater by blaring Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" through the speakers. That night he was funny and dangerous and unpredictable. So: Even when Wayne ends his eight months of forced containment, will that Wayne really be back?
There is one distinct upshot. The finest three songs on I Am Not a Human Being all feature the man who has quickly become Wayne's best-ever counterpart, Drake. The two rappers' contrasting qualities-- Wayne is coarse and random and hoarse while Drake is smooth and exact and clear-- bring out surprising sides of each other. On the sweet-soul track "With You", the Pretty Toney-style beat and Drake's croon draw out Wayne at his most human. Meanwhile, the superhero-synth track "Right Above It" would seemingly fit well on an idealized Tha Carter IV with Drake rhyming breathless as Wayne handles the Auto-Hook. The two have teased at a full collaborative album and, considering the tracks here-- along with worthy past collaborations like "Miss Me" and "I'm Goin' In"-- it has the potential to be one of those rare dream projects that lives up to its promise.
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