Friday, January 29, 2010

Lil Wayne's Rebirth: Conceptually misguided like a motherfucker...

Rating: 1.5/5

It would be so much easier to write a review of Lil Wayne’s forever-delayed “rock album,” Rebirth, if it was possible to frame it as some sort of tangential, finished-in-a-couple-weeks side project. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible.

Like Kanye West’s brilliant 808’s & Heartbreak, Rebirth is supposed to be an artistic coup for Wayne, where he sheds any external limitations placed upon his work stylistically, and potentially shifts the landscape of popular music in the process (i.e. Hip Hop). Initially set for release almost a year ago, Rebirth has been pushed back over and over again, and like Tha Carter III, this has only served to raise the stakes on the importance of the project in relation to Lil Wayne’s body of work. In other words, Weezy really cares about how you’re going to respond to this album.

Well…I seriously doubt most people will respond well to Rebirth. But unlike 808’s & Heartbreak, that’s not because it’s a drastic change from his established sound, and perhaps a bit ahead of its time. The problem is that Rebirth is a drastic change from Wayne’s established sound, probably not ahead of its time, and conceptually misguided like a motherfucker.

I can kinda, sorta, almost halfway understand Wayne’s decision to make an album like Rebirth. In the wake of his rapid ascent to the top of the world of Hip Hop and Pop music, Wayne has been subjected to the kind of widespread idolatry usually reserved for rock stars; and thus many in the media have dubbed him Hip Hop’s first, true rock star. And I don’t argue with this assertion; his style of dress, the incessant presence of drugs in his music and public persona, his multiple run-ins with the law, and his brash, unpredictable, “badass” personality all lend themselves to the kind of outlaw status people like Axl Rose and David Lee Roth once enjoyed. Additionally (and allegedly), Wayne likes rock, so perhaps adding some live drumming, and maybe emphasizing some raw, crunching, rhythmic guitar work on the follow-up to The Carter III wouldn’t have been a bad idea. Incorporating elements of rock into your sound is one thing; making a ROCK ALBUM is quite another.

The best songs on Rebirth do exactly what I’ve just described; the Eminem-assisted “Drop The World,” is a monster, and the trippy, hard-edged “Ground Zero” perfectly captures what an ideal Lil Wayne-helmed rock album would sound like, by integrating heavy guitars and live percussion into a firmly hip hop-based form. Even the criminally-overlooked first single “On Fire” basically does it right with a great sample, searing electric guitars and catchy, clever lyrics; basically, it’s a beefed-up version of “Lollipop.” Everything else on Rebirth oscillates from the misguided and strange to the misguided and annoyingly bland and pop-oriented. “Get A Life” sounds like a failed attempt at channeling Fishbone, “The Price is Wrong” sounds like an underdeveloped and lyrically-inept attempt at Nirvana-styled, pop-oriented hardcore punk, and “Paradice” and “Runnin’” even tread power ballad territory. Lyrically, the album largely offers absolutely nothing even worth mentioning, likely because Wayne is completely out of his element throughout, like a great white attempting to walk, or a tiger trying to fly. Needless to say, there are many cringe-worthy moments throughout Rebirth.

Maybe Wayne should have considered working with producers that have experience working with both hip hop artists and rock bands, like Rick Rubin for example. Or maybe he should have just shelved the whole project, since he clearly has no idea what he’s doing. Or perhaps, years from now, Rebirth will be seen as a misunderstood classic, like The Stone’s Exile on Main Street, or The Stooges’ entire body of work (yeah I know…probably not).

In the meantime, let’s just hope the No Ceilings mixtape is enough to tide us over till Tha Carter IV drops.

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