PREFACE: Lil Wayne’s newest record, Rebirth, was accidentally shipped to some 500 Amazon customers who had preordered it. I was lucky enough to track down one of the physical copies. It appears that this leak has caused Universal to delay the album and possibly rework the track listing.
When Lil Wayne first announced that he was going to release a hard-rock-influenced album, it seemed like a good idea. Ice-T’s Body Count was excellent, and N.W.A.’s final album, Efil4zaggin, touched on similar territory. This type of album has regrettably been left fallow by most of modern hip hop. Wayne, at the height of his “Lollipop” cultural cache seemed poised to reinvent genre. Unfortunately, Wayne was culling inspiration from an entirely different decade of rock-rap crossovers.
Instead of taking his cue from early gangsta rap, Wayne appears to have planned out Rebirth after listening to the collected works of Staind, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and the rest of KROQ’s favorite mid-’90s pseudo-punk posers.
Rebirth is one of the worst albums I have ever had the misfortune of encountering. In spite of the cavalcade of guest musicians, ranging from Travis Barker to Eminem, every one of the album’s execrable tracks sounds thin and overproduced, with needless distortion and enough auto-tune to drown a small woodland creature. The hooks are nearly absent, and Wayne’s shockingly stupid lyrics are often entirely offbeat to the rhythm. Approximately a third of the tracks devolve into little more than Wayne semi-coherently yelping about how awesome a rock star he thinks he is. It’s enough to make one pine for the cheap, shrill whirring of Mannie Fresh’s production on “Tha Block is Hot.”
Wayne’s saving grace has often been his propensity toward stream-of-consciousness narratives that lead to delirious punch lines about topics as varied as the movie “Gremlins” or cars without break lights. This strange wit is absent on Rebirth. In fact, this album is entirely humorless, if one discounts the unintentional gales of laughter that tracks like “Politics (Featuring Gudda Gudda)” are sure to inspire.
And not only are the jokes missing, but Wayne’s ability to invent concepts for his songs also seems to have evaporated. The album’s first single, “Prom Queen,” steals its central conceit from Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi,” flipping the genders and turning up the misogyny to 11.
The second single, “Hot Revolver,” which represents the album’s only track worthy of a playlist (and, as rumor has it, a track that might not make it to the final album), is a typical hip hop trope where Wayne gets stoned, sleeps with a groupie and tells her that he doesn’t want a relationship. It’s dumb, but innocuous, and even catchy until the final verse where Wayne returns from touring, sneaks into the woman’s window and finds a man’s shoe. He then plans to find her, beat her, tie her boyfriend up and throw him in the river. So not only does Wayne find himself sounding like Insane Clown Posse; his content is also befitting of the Psychopathic Records legacy.
This album is career-endingly bad and it is clear throughout that Wayne, whether by virtue of a bit too much weed and sizzurp or simple id-gone-wild on Planet Wheezy, has no clue that he’s not making a classic. Wayne has somehow outdone all the wiggers and produced what is likely the worst album of all time.
Hopefully, Wayne’s upcoming prison term will give him some time to detox and maybe even gain some perspective. The promised Tha Carter IV offers new hope, but Rebirth in its current form is, frankly, a musical miscarriage.