Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. (stage name Lil Wayne) is just a rapper, although in recent years he has made every effort to transcend these boundaries, keen to become a legend. Where Rebirth fits into this plan is a mystery, as it finds Carter heading straight into ‘rock’ territory, living out a wet dream that has been festering ever since the video for “Lollipop” dropped: an already ridiculous song, one self-indulgent shot sees the rapper sprawled on top of a limo, noodling away on a guitar he clearly has no control over. It was just the beginning.
Opener “American Star (ft. Shanell)” grooves along to a well-thought out chord progression, but is a surprisingly superficial track: “Born and raised in the U.S.A/Where my president is B-L-A-C-K.” In moving from the rap world, Wayne also appears to have lost much of his relevance: “Listening to my own voice in my black Rolls Royce/ Get the girls of my choice to take off their shorts and blouses”.
This album is so bad that you might question whether it’s some tongue in cheek joke: “Let’s see if we can get this shit album to shift 2 million copies”. Not quite — take a look at the complex personality of Lil Wayne, and you will see that everything he does is wholly serious. Dre’s claims that this album will be a classic in the mould of Aquemini are baseless.
“Drop The World” opens in a pleasant haze before dropping any sense of measure: “So I pick the world up/ And I’m a drop it on your fucking head.” Eminem’s contribution is a brief distraction — one minute of true talent, but Mather’s overblown rage could easily be directed at Wayne for getting him into this situation.
“One Way Trip” is a clear attempt to capitalize on Wayne’s earlier collaboration with Kevin Rudolf. Whilst “Let It Rock” was a guilty pleasure, the song itself does more harm than good, exposing yet more weaknesses. Wayne also brings two female vocalists on board, Shannell and Nicki Minaj. Both are signed to Young Money and do a passable job, Minaj featuring on tween rock anthem “Knockout” and Shannell adding vocals to a further three tracks.
“On Fire”‘s opening salvo of 80’s is a rare moment of brilliance, and the song did groundwork in convincing us that Rebirth would be better than initially suspected. Unfortunately, for every great moment there are three cack-handed ones; closer “The Price Is Wrong” completely derails this album, a three minute pitch as for why Rebirth should never have seen the light of day.
Rebirth is a major disappointment. Lil Wayne is certainly a talented rapper, but to call him a rock musician is ludicrous. And herein lies the problem: How much did Lil Wayne actually contribute to the production of this album? Recent documentary The Carter showed (amongst other things) that his experimentation with the guitar is just that; most musicians might save such exploration for their personal recordings, rather than unleashing a half-baked concept on the world. This sounds like a musician running fast out of ideas. The Carter IV better deliver.