Supposedly one of the first songs that Lil’ Wayne heard upon his release from prison last November was Rick Ross’s “I’m Not a Star,” the opening track on last year’s Teflon Don album. So taken with the track was Weezy that he decided to record his own version of it, which materialized recently as “If I Die Today,” the second single off his much-anticipated Tha Carter IV. Always one to cite his sources, Wayne also brings Ross along for a second take on one of his trademark tracks.
The song’s production, courtesy of Polow da Don, is virtually identical to the original J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League track, with the same martial drums and impending-doom synths, sounding (as with a rather high percentage of Rozay tracks) like an alternate soundtrack to the climactic scene in Scarface. Polow does switch it up a bit to suit Weezy’s extraterrestrial persona, however, adding in some theremin-esque synths and a ’50s sci-fi spoken-word intro (“Ships form an alien source are approaching from the sky…”), possibly interpreting the original Ross song title a bit more literally.
As always, Wayne rises to the occasion of the song’s panoramic beat, memorably (and topically) bragging “I get pussy, ass and mouth / Call that bitch triple-threat / When I was in jail, she let me call her collect.” Ross does fine on his second go-round, though his need to consistently remind people of the song’s source material by repeating the original “I’m not a star” lyrical hook quickly begins to grate. Still, he makes up for it with perhaps the best high-art reference of the young hip-hop year: “The bigger the bullet the more that bitch gon’ bang / Red on the wall, Basquiat when I paint.”