We listened to Lil Wayne's old rock album so you didn't have to.
I am no authority on Lil Wayne. That's not a disclaimer, but an admonition of total truth. I have, however, seen Weezy live exactly one time, for about fifteen minutes. It was 2008, he was following Taking Back Sunday and opening for Bob Dylan at Virgin Mobile Fest in the otherwise excruciatingly boring city of Columbia, MD. As I approached the main stage for Dylan, I witnessed the tail end of Weezy's set. He was laying on the ground, shirtless, repeating something along the lines of "I want that pussy" over and over again. A woman behind me grabbed my shoulders and said, "How can you stand that filth?" and walked away.
Which is why when I was approached by Noisey Assistant Editor Drew Millard to review Rebirth, Lil Wayne's 2010 infamous dud of a "rock" album, my first thought was:
A) As someone who rarely delves into hip hop, I am completely unqualified to write anything even vaguely related to him, closely followed by…
B) Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to let him make a rock album… or, at least, promote it as such?
But it sounded fun; I expected to review a record of twelve songs that could be summed up as "This was written by a paranoid hedonist listening to Linkin Park's Meteroa doing elaborate drugs with even more elaborate street names that I couldn't even being to imagine." I was not too far off.
Maybe he would approach the record in the way many terrible mainstream rock records are made, from a place of desperation, of urgency; or maybe he'd think rock 'n' roll is actually all about bitches and drugs. You'd think he get a clue after releasing the 2009 promotional single "Hot Revolver" (it begins with a Green Day nod and actually manages to go downhill from there) someone would have stopped him.
So, as someone well versed in the music I assume Lil Wayne is trying to draw from, and not his actual discography, here's an outsiders track by track on 2010's Rebirth:
AMERICAN STAR (ft. Shanell)
Not really sure why this record starts the way it should end, or by what sounds like an Iron Maiden cover band sound checking—not organized, just dirty and sad. There's also this weird moment where he yells "BRIDGE!" before the actual bridge. Oh and he could take some screaming lessons from this guy.
PROM QUEEN (ft. Shanell)
I'm pretty sure the first official single from Rebirth, "Prom Queen," ripped its opening riff from System of a Down or Godsmack or something, the kind of digestible heavy shit that's usually partnered with a vaguely political video or is sponsored by the Mummy© film series the stuff your be-chain-walleted but still reasonably nonthreatening boyfriend in high school listened to.
The video for "Prom Queen" is actually just Avril Lavigne's "Sk8r Boi" because the girl who didn't like him in high school (you know, the girl with the fancy underwear) leads a terrible life while our boy Weezy becomes famous.
As the great Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy once said, all song intros should be less than 30 seconds, otherwise the audience gets bored, or worse, completely distracted. I guess Lil Wayne doesn't take lessons from anyone. Even more, this is quite possibly the most Limp Bizkit-esque track of the entire record, a bummer because if it had the catchy chorus of "Break Stuff," I'd leave satiated.
DA DA DA
This sounds like an acid trip in a Chuck E. Cheese after drinking heavily at an adjacent Applebee's (not speaking from experience). Also WHAT IS FUNKY MONKEY AND WHY SHOULD I GIVE IT TO YOU, LIL WAYNE?
Is this the love ballad of the record? It's not completely unbearable, perhaps because it's not treated like a weird exploration into unfamiliar territory (plus, R&B backbeat.) His vocal performance, is, well, lacking, a weird gasping as if on the verge of tears (aren't you supposed to be happy, Weezy? Isn't your love a paradiCe?)
It's hard at the top, though, you know? I don't blame you bb.
GET A LIFE
Someone must have told Weezy his recorded material was missing an irritating breed of bravado because I want to live in a world where a chorus of "Fuck You/ Get A Life" is regularly quoted.
This is not a rock song. It has a nice synth loop. This is a hiatus from this record. I don't hate it because at this point, parody is unavoidable. And parody is fun.
DROP THE WORLD (ft. Eminem)
Of the four singles on the record, "Drop the World" is the least "rock," as if halfway through writing this damn album, Weezy forgot what his goal was. This song feels like a personality disorder, some crazy motherfucker wrote it anticipating an anthem, instead got a chorus of "Imma pick the world up and drop it on your fuckin' head" (which, to me, sounds something like bad teenage poetry and the inspiration behind a Projekt Revolution tour design.
RUNNIN' (ft. Shanell)
Shanell institutes this Cassadee Pope-style massive vocal melancholy (speaking to her days in Hey Monday, not the Voice); something tells me this song would be 100% better if Lil Wayne wasn't actually on it. Props to the arranger.
ONE WAY TRIP (ft. Kevin Rudolf)
WHY IS THIS RECORD SO LONG
KNOCKOUT (ft. Nicki Minaj)
If this wasn't on the soundtrack to middle school homecomings everywhere in 2010, I'm sort of disappointed. What I imagine was supposed to be a rock anthem ended up being a weird pop-punk jam, each bridge identical to the last: Blink-182 style ascending melodies; a series of power chords steady enough to allow Minaj to successfully rap over it. Now I live in a dream universe where I want Nicki Minaj to collaborate with Paramore's Hayley Williams because it would be totally awesome.
THE PRICE IS WRONG
"The Price is Wrong" sounds like it was written by someone whose entire wardrobe is made up of those ridiculous rock t-shirts they sell at Target. Like, someone bought his or her first Clash shirt without actually knowing what the Clash sound like. And no, this does not sound like the Clash. At one point Lil Wayne even mentions that his girl "kisses anyone with a hall pass," so I'm thinking Weezy might suffer from a weird high school obsession.
I'm going to place a lot of blame of this record on Lil Wayne's use of AutoTune, because I believe if someone were to actually sing on a lot of these, they wouldn't be so mediocre. I like to believe Lil Wayne knows what he wants, but not how to get there. This record hinges on parody, but there's this tragic sense that everything is intentional, for what reason is unknown. Maybe if each quote-unquote rock track was the stuff of mashups, in an "oh this is a happy accident" sort of way, it would be successful. Lil Wayne's "Rebirth" was not a happy accident. Lil Wayne's "Rebirth" was a mistake. But "Knockout" is still sort of awesome.
Maria Sherman is upset that she took this assignment. She's on Twitter - @mariasherm