Music

Lil Wayne 'didn't want to disappear' while behind bars, debuts new album

Gerrick D. Kennedy
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Though he's been behind bars for the past seven months, Lil Wayne still manages to put his fans first.

Before the rapper began serving a one-year jail sentence in March at Rikers Island — he pleaded guilty to a 2007 weapons charge — he adopted Twitter and launched a special website to keep in touch with his supporters. It's maintained by his "little brother" Lil Twist, and on it he publishes letters he pens from prison.

His biggest offering, however, came in the form of a new album. Released digitally on Sept. 27 (his 28th birthday) and physically Tuesday, "I Am Not a Human Being" is comprised of work he recorded right before heading to jail.

Cortez Bryant, Wayne's manager, said the rapper wanted his presence felt despite his yearlong sentence.

"For about a month and a half he was in the studio just recording, knowing that he didn't want to disappear," Bryant said. "He wanted his fans to have something while he was in there. He said to me, 'I want people to still feel like I'm here.'"

Earlier this year, it was announced the album would be released as an EP, but Bryant says the rapper churned out too many songs, including collaborations with Drake and Nicki Minaj.

"He gave me a batch of songs I could pick from. But I had too many songs. I couldn't pick six or seven for an EP, so we did a full-length," Bryant said. "I know when he gets out the (pre-prison) music will probably go to waste. He's going to have other stuff to talk about. It was hard."

The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, with 110,000 downloads in its first week, while "Right Above It," the Drake-assisted lead single, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Digital Songs chart. The album follows the less-than-stellar response to Lil Wayne's last album, the rock-infused "Rebirth," released earlier this year (and the lowest reviewed record of the year, according to Metacritic).

Cash Money Chief Executive Bryan "Baby" Williams denies rumors that the new album is comprised of outtakes from "Rebirth" (though it doesn't help that Wayne uses the first four bars from previous hit "Bedrock" as the foundation of the album cut "Popular").

"He put his all into 'Rebirth.' That album was something new for us. He (sold) like 700,000 records," Williams said. "I think it was successful."

Williams added that he thinks fans will appreciate that the rapper doesn't use Auto-Tune — just "raw rap" — on the new album.

"The Auto-Tune got played. He went straight raw, and just goes hard — letting his lyrics speak for themselves. It's a traditional Cash Money sound," he said.

Wayne recently sent his last letter to fans for a while, as he landed in solitary confinement for a month as punishment for possessing "music contraband" — headphones and a charger for an MP3 player. With time off for good behavior, he is scheduled to be released on Nov. 4 and will begin to work on the anticipated "Carter IV" album.

For a limited time, "I Am Not a Human Being" will be packaged with copies of "Def Jam Rapstar," a karaoke-styled video game which features rap hits, including Wayne's "A Milli." The special bundle will be available until Oct. 19 at Best Buy stores.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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