• Lil' Wayne, I Am Not a Human Being - Maybe I'm just missing something about Weezy F. Baby. Probably not, though. Mostly, I'm just not impressed. Okay, you made like a million songs. That's great. But unlike Das Racist, who display a wide palette of sonic dexterity, there's hardly any variation throughout the entire course of Human Being, and there isn't much clever about lines like "You n****s is squares like a motherf*ckin' grid." Slow, plodding beats and cornball attempts at being some kind of southern-bounce R. Kelly characterize the majority of the album.
• Buju Banton, Before the Dawn - The latest news about Buju Banton isn't his latest disc... it's his trial on drug-trafficking charges. Apparently a Florida-area police informer has recordings of the reggae/dancehall star participating in a scheme to smuggle coke. Having come a long way from his "Boom Bye Bye" days, however, Buju's more-recent work has had a much more spiritual bent to it, and Before the Dawn is no exception. Tracks like "In the Air," "Do Good" and "Battered & Bruised" are positive anthems of struggle and upliftment. There are a few questionable detours, most notably into early-'90s-rock territory with "No Smoking At All." All in all, I don't know if it's what the press release refers to as "the prophetic new album," but it's definitely got its moments.
A few other quick-hits:
• Big Remo & 9th Wonder, Entrapment - Big Remo holds it down, but the most notable thing about this LP is that 9th Wonder occasionally wanders out of the sped-up-soul-sample box he's been trapped in for seemingly ever.
• Brian Wilson, Reimagines George Gershwin - The legendarily quirky Beach Boy doesn't so much reimagine Gershwin, as replace classical instruments with pop ones. There are a few interesting numbers, particularly "Summertime" and a Pet Sounds recasting of "I Got Rhythm" as a beach anthem, but overall, it's just alright.
• Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone - Now this one is the real deal. Staples got together with (of all people) fellow Chi-town native Jeff Tweedy, from Wilco, who wrote a few songs and helped Mavis put together a slammin' old-school R&B record. This set would fit right in with the rest of the Staples' discography, and probably sounds even better live.
• Zac Brown Band, You Get What You Give - This album is a lot more country than I was led to believe the Zac Brown Band sounded. That said, the most shocking part is probably the fact that the song featuring Jimmy Buffett doesn't completely and absolutely suck. Well, that and "Whiskey's Gone," where Brown tells a bartender to "lick his sack." Not a joke.