Music Reviews

Lil Wayne Rebirth

(Cash Money) Rating - 2/10
In a weird way, Lil Wayne’s rock album is the best thing to happen to music criticism in a long time. Perusing the scores of the albums represented on Metacritic, one would think that most of the records released in the last ten years have been decidedly above average. Even the most putrid slime has its defenders. Given this, the near uniformity of opinion with regard to Rebirth is cause for celebration. Wayne has created the new Pet Sounds of bad music. It is the album by which all other bad albums should be judged, one-uping all of P.O.D.’s discography only because the latter group’s music is so predictably lousy. Wayne’s creation, in contrast, is terrible in such new, innovative, and revolutionary ways that it almost becomes essential listening.

Now that may seem like senseless bashing, so below I describe in detail why this album – which includes exactly one good song, Drop the World, during which Weezy mercifully drops the Auto-Tune and picks up Eminem for a guest verse – deserves every bit of derision it receives. Let’s break these songs down.

I. The Music

In discussions of the riffs and instrumentation, the only real debate among critics is whether they most closely resemble bad Nickelback, bad Staind, or bad System of a Down. It’s as if Wayne one morning decided to make rock music without having actually heard any before.

One of the most egregious offenders is the opening track, American Star, the first bars of which are like listening to some dorm room hack mash his way through Van Halen’s Eruption (though – after viewing all those You Tube videos of Weezy playing the six-string live – I don’t believe for a second that that’s actually Lil Wayne working the fret board on this song). This transitions clumsily into the kind of mid-tempo funk that the Red Hot Chili Peppers grew tired of in the eighties.

The derivativeness quickly overwhelms. Paradice (yes, that’s how he spells it) borrows 3 Doors Down’s guitar arpeggios; Knockout inexplicably rips off Kelly Clarkson (who ripped off Avril Lavigne); and – on Get a Life – we can almost feel No Doubt stabbing us in the eyes with mascara applicators. Add the omnipresent, completely flat power chords and the occasional hip-hop beats, and we get something akin to a Martian's conception of arena metal, which may actually have been the point in the first place.

II. The Lyrics

The fact that Weezy’s new sound seems to borrow from so many girl bands makes the blatant sexism of the lyrics even more ridiculous. Of course, we’re talking about Lil’ “Get money, fuck bitches” Wayne, here, but the humorlessness and blandness of it are what ultimately kill Rebirth. On Fire takes a single metaphor (“She’s on fire!”) and riffs on that conceit more or less throughout, taking none of his characteristically colorful flights and tangents. Instead, he unearths gems like, “Let me rub this dick against that matchbox,” which is painful on every conceivable level. And if you like that, you’ll love One Way Trip (sample: “Wake up this morning with my dick to the ceiling. Fell asleep with another chick from my building. Kick her ass out, eat breakfast like a motherfucker. I’m with another bitch by supper.”)

On other tracks, he sounds like a sissy. Prom Queen is the most indefensible example of this, mostly because it’s more or less exactly the same story as Toby Keith’s How Do You Like Me Now. It all comes down to this: Young Wayne gets rejected by the popular girl in school, whose most interesting characteristics seem to be her “fancy underwear” and the fact that all the other guys want her, too. Deep stuff. Paradice is a pedestrian exposé on the price of fame, whose second verse repeats the first almost verbatim. Just when we think the disc is almost over, The Price is Wrong takes us back to Wayne’s high school, where yet another girl ditches him for “a n**** named Michael.” Dear God, is this what he thinks rock n’ roll is about? It’s as if he learned about heavy metal’s machismo and structure from textbooks on the seventies and decided the only thing that formula was missing was electronic pitch correction.

III. Deaf of Auto-Tune

Jay-Z’s gleeful eulogy was all too premature. Wayne’s computerized voice may have sounded pretty cool on Lollipop, but it gets very old very quickly on Rebirth. Part of the problem may be that, as Sasha Frere-Jones once posited, you can only feel so bad for a robot (especially one that still whines about getting dumped by its high school crush). The other part of it is that Lil Wayne seems to rely on the software to create melodies for him, letting his voice bounce off the walls like a pinball and hoping the lights start flashing. The "Auto-Tune the News" kids have come up with sharper hooks.

This record is clearly an outlier in Wayne’s career, so much so that people may even neglect it when considering its creator’s legacy in hindsight. Sure, it’s remarkable how an artist can go so quickly from making one of the last decade’s best records to making one of the new year’s worst, but this cannot destroy the artist. Even with all this trash and his persistent legal troubles, the man could still experience a true rebirth after all - rising, once again, “hotter than the sun.”