Review Summary: Rebirth is the kind of album only the painfully oblivious could make.
There’s a scene in the 2009 documentary The Carter
where the film’s main subject, Lil Wayne, fresh off a cough syrup-fueled, barely coherent recording session, tells the interviewer just how he wants to become king of the music world: “To be an ultimate artist, I believe you have to be like me, I try to do everything . . . when you be lookin’ for a Lil Wayne album, you gonna be lookin’ for the best rap, the best singin’, the best songs . . . full of music, I want you to look for that, not just what you look for now . . . I’m re-creating the face of music period . . . that’s how I want to be, I do everything good.” Throughout much of the documentary, Lil Wayne is incredibly hard to understand, but here the directive is painfully clear. It’s the kind of hubris that allows an album like Rebirth
to get made, the kind of egomania that causes studio heads to shut their mouths and let the pint-sized New Orleans rapper try to branch out like an overzealous marketer. The Carter
shows a man oblivious to the opinions of those around him and confident only in that he is the best there is, wherever, whenever, in whatever. Likewise, Rebirth
is the kind of album only the painfully oblivious could make.
His so-called “rock” album, it’s clear right off the bat that Lil Wayne is not only deluding himself from everyday reality but also from what constitutes rock ‘n roll, at least in this day and age. From the hilariously ‘80s, Guitar Hero
-esque solo intro of opener “American Star” to the obscenely grating breakup anthem “The Price Is Wrong,” everything here points to Rebirth
as a colossal ***up of the highest order, a misjudgment of talent and ideas that any label exec not blinded by Tha Carter III’s
huge sales should have vetoed within seconds. Listening to the entire twelve tracks, it’s nearly impossible to see just how Wayne okayed this; then again, this is the same man who declared that, if he was President, he would “make prostitution legal in about five more states [and] put cocaine back in Coca-Cola,” among many other revolutionary changes.
The rapping, the hilariously generic instruments and beats, the “singing;” everything here speaks to a man with only the vaguest idea of how rock ‘n roll really works. Going from an Auto-Tuned, maniacal version of Billy Corgan to his typically unintelligible Louisiana patois, Wayne runs the gamut from pimping drugs to pimping women to moaning over heartbreak to celebrating the rock star lifestyle with the same general speed and fury, shifting only a few degrees in tone over the course of the album and essentially making every vocal performance he puts down sound eerily the same. Needless to say, Wayne’s vocals are hardly suitable for singing; listening to him moan out “oh no this ain’t paradise” and squeal out his best pained Nickelback imitation on “Paradice” or try out nu-metal on “Ground Zero” is an exercise in grueling, herculean patience.
Even discounting Wayne himself, there’s precious little to like here, largely due to the producers’ insistence to make every track sound as bombastic and outsized as Creed on a stadium tour with absolutely zero attention to subtlety of any kind. Every guitar here screams out vulgar solos, the drums seem miked for an arena regardless of the song, and the unvarying verse-chorus-verse chorus would make Puddle of Mudd cringe in shame. Even the tracks that are mildly listenable succeed simply because Wayne stays away: Eminem’s ace guest spot on “Drop The World” saves a forgettable song, and “Knockout” is easily the most enjoyable song on the album thanks to Nicki Minaj and not Wayne singing the majority of the verses. Or maybe it’s just because the tune rips its riff right off blink-182’s “Dammit.” Hell, I’ll take what I can get.
Perhaps the most telling line in The Carter
comes near the three-quarter mark, when Lil Wayne, in response to a question about the explicit nature of some of his songs, remarks, “I don’t care about no one’s thoughts, no one’s thoughts matter to me, at all.” It’s the purest definition of Lil Wayne himself, an enigma who drowns himself in cough syrup but retains the ability to memorize all of his many songs without a single notebook and recreate them flawlessly. In a way, Rebirth
is a tragic album for a soon-to-be-tragic figure; now that Lil Wayne is facing numerous drug and weapon charges from the past two years, he will soon have to take responsibility for his increasingly reckless actions. Now if only the music industry could stand up and have him take responsibility for this abortion of a record, there might be some real justice in the world.