There are effectively two Lil Waynes: the wunderkind world-beater of Dedication 3 and the walking tragedy of celebrity seclusion who does his messy business all over I Am Not a Human Being. Those who have waited the seemingly interminable five years between Dedications 3 and 4 will have to deal with both the triumph of Wayne’s return to the former mold, and the tragedy of his apparent inability to draw fresh blood from that better part of his artistic nature.
Though Dedication 4 charges out of the gates with three tracks of intimidating force (“So Dedicated,” “Same Damn Tune” and “Cashed Out”), by midway through the 15-song release, the wheels have begun to fall off in a big way.
The mixtape as a whole relies far too heavily on remixes, with Meek Mill’s “Amen,” 2 Chainz’s “No Lie” and Lil Mouse’s “Get Smoked” forming some of the least appealing grist for Wayne’s expropriation mill. “Get Smoked” produces a particularly ripe fetor, as Wayne cedes the mic halfway through the track to 13-year-old rapper Lil Mouse who talks about life inside of clubs as if the only information he has about such locations has come directly from hip-hop lyrics, which may very well be the case.
“Mercy,” a reworking of the Kanye West track of the same name, features a bittersweet reminder that Nicki Minaj can turn in electrifying verses when not trafficking in radio pop, but it stands out as an exception on an album that seems primarily dedicated to effecting a thorough survey of Lil Wayne’s lyrical cul-de-sac.
Though Weezy’s signature wit runs riot throughout Dedication 4 (a sample, picked more or less at random: “Her cl*t look like a jellybean, I’m on that promethazine / Blow your ass to smithereens, kush strong like Mr. Clean”), it takes roughly three tracks to establish that outside of sexual adventurism and threats to his fellows, he has precious little to talk about.
Many hip-hop artists have forged careers based on a limited thematic provenance (think Rick Ross), but by the end of Dedication 4, it seems as if Weezy’s recent assertion that he’d rather be skating than rapping may very well be true.
Closing track “A Dedication” features The mixtape’s only deviation from Wayne’s incessant lionization of his own sex life, and on that track he doesn’t even do any actual rapping. Over a cyclical brass sample, Wayne mumbles an encomium for his hometown of New Orleans, offering such bloodless pieces of positive thinking as, “I built a skate park down there to get them kids off the streets. You’re welcome.”
Wayne rambles along these lines for a couple more minutes before closing the mixtape with a sample of himself stepping onto a skateboard and kick-pushing off to what we can only assume are greener pastures.