It’s hard to believe that the clean-faced teenager who told us he was broadcasting live from the block at the turn of the century is now the top artist in Hip-Hop. It’s also hard to believe that he has hitched pop culture to his bandwagon and has it cosigning everything he does. This decade of evolution has played host to Wayne’s metamorphosis from a down south rapper to full-fledged rock star. Yet, he was missing one thing that every rock God needs: a rock album.
Raised eyebrows and snickers flourished when the New Orleans native told the world that he was going to pick up a guitar and get his Jimi Hendrix on. Folks were still reeling from the emo non-rap masterpiece known as 808’s and Heartbreak and members of the Hip-Hop nation were starting to feel disenfranchised by artists who were ready to take that step out of the musical box. Whether you see this change as a purely artistic detour or a way to get in a few more folks’ pockets while alienating your original fan base, the album is here and it’s a sound attempt. It’s not phenomenal, but I’m sure many of you didn’t expect it would be.
Rebirth kicks off with a typical rock overture as the musicians air out the instruments and build a bit of suspense prior to getting into the first song. “American Star” is a mid-tempo, laid back introduction of sorts as Wayne explains his rock alter-ego which is quite similar to his Hip-Hop persona: he’s from New Orleans, he’s rich, and girls get naked around him. Only difference is the guitar. It’s a pretty smart entrance that’s not overly raucous and won’t turn off anyone to the album immediately. Unless of course you are disturbed by how lackluster it is.
Next is “Prom Queen.” It’s louder and definitely more interesting. From a construction standpoint, this is a decent song. It builds nicely and the narrative is something we all understand, wanting something and not being able to have it. This song also gives a first taste of Shanell, Wayne’s lone backup singer minus the feature with Kevin Rudolph. I’m not sure if Shanell’s presence is so enjoyable because she’s a great singer or because she balances out Wayne’s odd delivery on some of these songs, but she’s a welcome addition nonetheless.
Some of the lyrics are up for interpretation. I’m going to take a wild guess and say “Ground Zero” is about being intoxicated. “I’m so high the ground is gone…” Yes, I think it’s pretty safe to say this song starts off about getting high. It then morphs into a rant about war, religion, and the lack of love America has for its residents. I think. There’s also something about 9/11 and Katrina. I think. The drums are tribal, the guitar riff is harsh and straightforward and Wayne’s singing toggles from calm to chaos.
“Da Da Da” has a nice intro then it turns into more of a club than rock song with smooth, atmospheric synths and lots of non-word lyrics. Wayne does rap on this song. He sounds comfortable but his lyrics are just about as nonsensical as the rest of it. This isn’t one of the better songs on the album.
Weezy takes a shot at a power ballad next with “Paradice.” Its 80’s hair band inspired and again, not bad. When Wayne calms the pipes he sounds like he’s giving his best James Hetfield impersonation and his singing is palatable, but when his pixeled growl is on full blast with the auto tune assist he sounds drunk.
Believe it or not, Wayne even tries out ska with “Get a Life” and inserts a few of those elements into his song with Nicki Minaj, “Knockout.” The former should have been left on the cutting room floor. “Knockout” minus all of that Barbie talk is pretty enjoyable. The track is too fast for Minaj to inject all of her delivery quirks, so her verse is straight up with no chaser. She only has one real topic of discussion when she rhymes but at least she didn’t run out of lyrics like she did on No Ceilings.
“Drop the World” made the cut and since you have already heard it I’ll just say it’s by far the best cut on the album. We get to hear Shanell again on “Runnin” and she carries the song which has a decent message about finding your destination and not burning yourself out trying to get there. “On Fire” samples the track from the movie Scarface, “She’s on Fire.” If you feel a certain way about the movie you might enjoy this from a nostalgic perspective. The album concludes with “The Price is Wrong” which meanders into the punk realm. He must say okay 100 times and there’s an odd English accent that fades in and out. Strange.
To rap this all up, Rebirth is for a certain type of rock fan. Hip-Hop fans who don’t buy into eclecticism won’t bother anyway. Musically speaking, Wayne and company put some work into this album, but it’s really not his forte. At times he sounds confident, but then at other points his delivery is contrived and he’s searching for his own shtick in this arena. This is a far cry from the precision of Body Count. I’m not mad at this album. However, I really hope he doesn’t do this again.
2.75 out of 5
Lil Wayne feat. Nicki Minaj- “Knockout”
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