Album review: Lil Wayne – Rebirth (Island)

The Carter's much-delayed reincarnation proves rocking isn't as easy as he thinks

It wasn’t just NME who proclaimed [a]Lil Wayne[/a] to be the best rapper alive in 2008. Time magazine, Rolling Stone and [a]Kanye West[/a] were all schnozzing superlatives up his backside, and it seemed the new crown prince of hip-hop could do no wrong. But sitting atop his career peak, Wayne started to get vertigo.

The recent The Carter documentary shows him at his most out-of-control, knocking back litres of cough syrup for the codeine kick. When he emerged from his stupor, he announced that he was giving up rap to make a guitar album. Which brings us to ‘Rebirth’, a shlock-rock record so absurd it makes [a]Alien Ant Farm[/a] seem like a legitimate musical venture.

Before we lay our grillz into Weezy, it’s worth mentioning that this album’s only highlight, ‘Drop The World’, is a seething slice of electronica that solves the age-old hip-hop conundrum: how do you deal with ‘real issues’ when you’ve got enough money to buy your old neighbourhood a hundred times over? Wayne’s answer: you don’t bother. Give up on social commentary and hip-hop fanfaronade altogether and write a song about being so pissed off you have to get in a spaceship, pick the world up and drop it on some poor girl’s “fucking head”.

Unfortunately, ‘Drop The World’ serves only as a bombastic what-could-have-been. As you tuck into the rest of Wayne’s interpretation of ‘rock’ it becomes clear that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. On opener ‘American Star’ he trades humour and insight for spelling, announcing he was “Born and raised in the USA, where the president is B-L-A-C-K,” as if this historical landmark somehow meant more by pronouncing each letter. By the tellingly-titled ‘Da Da Da’ he’s all but given up with lyrics completely.

The reasoning behind Wayne’s switch from something he was very good at to something he S-U-C-K-S at is, dully, making money. As the music industry’s cashpot moves from record sales to touring, so hip-hop stars without impressive live shows will start to lose out. That’s why every song on the [a]Jay-Z[/a] album has a lighters-in-the-air singalong chorus and it’s also why Wayne thought he’d be better off with an album he could turn into a colossal rock concert.

Wayne’s touring plans have gone somewhat awry, however, since he was served with a year-long jail sentence for criminal possession of a loaded weapon. By the time he gets out, hopefully (the release date’s flopped back and forth between February and June, having already been put back approximately 576 times) ‘Tha Carter IV’ will be due for release and this whole detour can be forgotten.

So has ‘Rebirth’ all been a waste of time? Not entirely, if Weezy’s taught us anything it’s this: kids, stay off the Tixylix.

Sam Wolfson

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Click here to get your copy of Lil Wayne’s ‘Rebirth’ from the Rough Trade shop.

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