Album Review: Lil Wayne – Rebirth

[Young Money / Cash Money / Universal Motown; 2010]

Reviewing Lil Wayne’s Rebirth is a little like reviewing AIG – there are some things that shouldn’t be allowed to get too big to fail. In a Rolling Stone cover story from early 2009, it was reported that among Wayne’s entourage was somebody whose only job is to roll blunts for the rap superstar. Yes, that’s right. Lil Wayne has a full-time personal blunt roller. And I’d have to imagine that when somebody gets into that zone of wealth and power, he’s not going to surround himself with the kind of people that would be able to say “No, Wayne, making a ‘rock’ album that sounds like discarded Limp Bizkit outtakes from 2001 and has three songs featuring Shanell might not be a good idea.” As a result, Weezy’s handlers have somehow allowed him to create an album so bad it threatens to obliterate the good vibes the city of New Orleans has gotten from the Saints’ Super Bowl berth.

It’s tempting to call Rebirth Wayne’s Self Portrait, but the more I listen to it the more I’m convinced that’s not entirely accurate. Bob Dylan made a legendarily bad album on purpose because he was tired of being viewed as the voice of his generation. I don’t even think Lil Wayne thinks on that level. I haven’t seen anything that indicates Weezy is playing a joke on fans, which forces me to believe that he legitimately thinks the Durstian “Ground Zero” and the Kid Rock-biting “American Star” are going to be viewed as some kind of genius reinvention.

I really wish I could put more energy into picking apart lines like “I know a girl named Crystal, last name Ball/I look into her eyes and I see it all,” but that really wouldn’t accomplish anything. You know an album is too easy of a target when the highlight is a guest appearance from circa-2010 Eminem, who to his credit delivers a verse on “Drop the World” that’s better than anything on Relapse. It’s almost fitting that the most memorable song on the album is a collaboration between these two, cementing Rebirth as Lil Wayne’s Encore, his unquestioned shark-jumping moment. These songs aren’t even “so bad they’re funny”–they’re just plodding and hookless and unlikable on any level.

Wayne is one of the few modern figures in pop music who has palpable rock star charisma, which makes this rock move at least somewhat plausible. The only problem is his indefensible taste in rock music. We should have seen this coming when he appeared on a track with Fall Out Boy in 2008. But to be honest, even an album of Fall Out Boy pastiches would have been preferable to this. From the sound of it, Weezy views 1999 as rock’s peak.