The New Classics

January 1, 2010

Album Review: Lil Wayne > Rebirth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg @ 8:00 am

Artist: Lil Wayne
Label: Young Money / Cash Money / Universal
Genre: Pop Rap / Rap Rock
Featured Artists: Eminem, Shanell, Kevin Rudolf, Travis Barker
Featured Producers: Cool & Dre

Analysis: Regrettably, it’s here. The record that rap’s most prolific, popular and, arguably, creative superstar has been threatening to release for the last thirteen months and no less than six release date pushbacks has been leaked to the world thanks to a shipping snafu by Amazon. So fans and critics alike are now getting a two month jump-start on an album that was first supposed to see the light of day nine months ago. Most likely inspired by the success of Kanye West’s left-field album (although on an entirely different spectrum) 808s and Heartbreak, this one is different. This is not Tha Carter III. This isn’t Dedication 2. Shit, this isn’t even Tha Block is Hot. This is Lil Wayne’s “rock” launch. This is Rebirth. Regrettably, it’s here.

Over the past year, it became clear that Rebirth was not really going to be a true rock album, at least not in the sense that it was originally described to the public. Basically, Wayne began learning how to play guitar, and got it in his gassed-up mind that it was a good idea to write a whole album based on this new skill. The first problem was, it doesn’t seem like he had anyone around to tell him how truly misguided this idea was, especially considering he can’t play the instrument very well to begin with. Very rarely is rap and rock an enjoyable combination, even with accomplished musicians. Weezy had zero chance of turning his original proposition into anything even remotely good.

However, what the sporadic song leaks throughout the year revealed was that Rebirth had (and still has) more of a pop-oriented slant. The first single, ‘Prom Queen’, seems more like what Wayne’s idea of rock music is than an actual rock song. Live instruments, a little bit of screaming, and lyrics about adolescent troubles. It’s easy to imagine that Lil Wayne has never listened to real rock and roll music before, because so many songs from this album seem inspired by the hollow, radio-pandering ringtone pop-rock of the last two years or so. Maybe this is based on his own misguided interpretation of what rock is, or maybe it’s because he comes from the hip hop world, where radio-pandering and hollowness are the standard. I’m not entirely sure why he decided, at 27 years old, that singing about getting turned down by a prom queen in high school (which I’d bet a fair amount of cash money never actually occurred) was a good idea, but he did. Isn’t this the same guy who spent his entire career bragging the fact that he’d been entrenched in thuggery and drug culture and since he was nine years old? One would think that going to the prom wasn’t his biggest concern.

Let me take this moment to clarify something. I am a Lil Wayne fan, for the most part. I love the guy’s eccentricity and weirdness, his work ethic, and about 70% of his tremendous musical output. But one of the most ironic aspects of this project comes from a quote that I recall from an interview he did a few years ago, where he said that white people can’t sing* (unless you’re Robin Thicke, of course). He trashed Steven Tyler of Aerosmith (aka “that nigga with the big lips”), and flat out said “fuck them”. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he meant white singers and not white people in general, but the irony is there: according to Wayne, white folks – the same folks who sing in 95% of American rock groups – can’t sing but he feels obligated to make an entire album centered on his own atrocious vocal chops. Obviously to cover for this, auto-tune was evoked very liberally on Rebirth. Regrettably.

As expected, the tracks where Wayne mimics his idea of rock (the Good Charlotte-imitating ‘Get a Life’, the Avril Lavigne-esque ‘Knockout’, the faux-punk rock blitz of ‘The Price is Wrong’) turn out to be the worst. There is no getting around this. Do not let some potential against-the-grain ironist convince you that these are moments of sublime genius, because they are not. They are simply bad music.

Also as expected, the tracks more favored in hip hop turn out to be the best. ‘One Way Trip’ could be a forgotten mixtape song without Kevin Rudolf’s hook, but with it, it becomes a melodic ballad that I believe would have been a better-suited lead single. ‘On Fire’, almost has no live rock elements at all, and with it’s Scarface theme sampling (people still do that?), it could almost be a leftover from Tha Carter III. If you are noticing a theme, that’s because there is one. The largest issue, among so so many, with Rebirth is that the best songs here would be the worst songs on any other Lil Wayne release. Such is the curse of setting such a high benchmark for your work.

The one redeeming factor on this album is the Eminem-featured ‘Drop the World’. Though not as Earth-shattering as it could have been, this is the direction that Wayne should be on; taking advantage of his mega popularity to link up with other mega superstars, and creating the type of rap music that he is actually good at. Unfortunately, ‘Drop the World’ is not enough to make up for the many blemishes found throughout the rest of Rebirth.

So when a real official release date eventually comes and goes, the label can blame Amazon for the (what I am assuming will be) poor sales, but they don’t deserve it. Oh sure, someone there fucked up big time. But in a way, I bet that Universal is breathing some relief that they have a scapegoat for the projected astronomic belly flop that this thing was destined for from the beginning. It’s almost like Wayne excitably exclaimed that he was going to create a rock album before he actually realized what that meant. Rebirth feels like a project that should have been abandoned a month into the process, only to keep digging itself deeper than it should have. But regrettably, it is here. Now when Lil Wayne is released from prison in the way-too-far away year of 2011, let’s all just forget that this shit ever happened.

Rating: 3.0
Highlights: ‘Drop the World’ ft. Eminem
Music Videos:

‘Prom Queen’

*UPDATE: It seems that VIBE must have checked this review and removed their 2007 interview with Wayne from their own site, because it is no longer available. Anyone at that bullshit mag want to explain themselves?

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