By Chuck Arnold and Jessica Wedemeyer
Updated October 25, 2010 12:00 PM

Lil Wayne

I Am Not a Human Being |


“Life is a bitch, but I appreciate it.” So goes an alien-sounding Lil Wayne on I Am Not a Human Being. Certainly, the rapper is intent on remaining a vital player in hip-hop even while serving a prison stint that is expected to be over next month. To that end, Weezy has enlisted his own Young Money label roster-including Drake and Nicki Minaj-to help round out whatever he couldn’t do from Rikers Island. Drake appears on three cuts, creamily crooning on the doo-woppy slow jam “With You,” while Lil Twist turns up on another highlight, “Popular,” which harks back to ’80s Prince with its “Little Red Corvette”-esque synths. Despite some filler-such as the title track, which sounds like an outtake from this year’s much-maligned “rock” album Rebirth-it’s pretty impressive coming from behind bars.

Toby Keith

Bullets in the Gun |


On his 15th studio album, it goes without saying that Toby Keith has got this country thing down. There are redneck anthems (“Trailerhood”), truck-driving tunes (“Drive It on Home”) and boot-kicking breakup songs (“Ain’t Breakin’ Nothin’ “). Best are the pistol-packing title track and the fresh-heartbreak ballad “In a Couple of Days.” Sometimes, though, Keith feels like he’s just in cruise control, and he loses points for the crude closer “Get Out of My Car,” on which he propositions, “Get outta your clothes/Or get out of my car.” Yuck.

Faith Evans

Something About Faith |


Since her 1995 debut, Faith Evans has been in the considerable shadow of Mary J. Blige, the undisputed Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. But on her first set since 2005, Evans shows she’s still an R&B diva to be reckoned with. Smartly acting her age, she sings about grown-up issues and hooks up with old-school rappers like Snoop Dogg, Redman and Raekwon. Highlights include the gospel-infused “Troubled World” and the Keyshia Cole-assisted “Can’t Stay Away,” where Evans borrows a bit from “Hypnotize” by her late husband, the Notorious B.I.G.