Garth Brooks had to learn the hard way that he made a pretty lousy lite-rock singer, and for that matter, his visual to go along with it was even more absurd. Likewise, it didn’t take a crystal ball to figure out that Chris Cornell’s collaboration with Timbaland was going to be, at best, a mismatched pairing and, at worst, a complete disaster. It turned out much closer to the latter, unsurprisingly. When Mos Def threatened to show up every rap-rocker with his own band, the idea seemed promising. And then he released The New Danger, which succeeded in not sounding like Limp Bizkit, but essentially failed on every other level. One would think that with so much precedent of failed genre experiments, most of which inevitably lead to critical backlash and commercial disaster, Lil Wayne could have at least taken a few notes before deciding to leap into making his “rock” record, Rebirth.
Following countless well-received mixtapes and the simultaneously huge selling and critically adored Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne took upon a more challenging project by writing and recording a rock album. But anyone who has stumbled upon any YouTube videos of Weezy playing guitar should have known from the get-go that this was going to be a project that wasn’t merely outside of his comfort level, but one that arguably wasn’t even within his abilities as a performer. And then he launched the first single, “Prom Queen,” with its juiced-up power chords and juvenile lyrics, becoming increasingly obnoxious as he sneered the song’s title like a petulant pre-teen. From that point it was pretty clear; anyone who wished to keep a positive image of Lil Wayne as an artist should stay away from Rebirth at all costs.
As bad as “Prom Queen” is, however, the rest of Rebirth manages to pull the baffling trick of sounding even worse. There’s a shred of promise within first track “American Star” as guitar riffs blaze over a meaty Hammond, but after roughly six seconds, Lil Wayne belches an Auto-tuned “Whoa!” and commences kicking up a nauseating shitstorm of uninspired nu-metal made laughably worse by Wayne’s almost cartoonishly moronic lyrics. After a sputter of dated sounding dance beats, “Ground Zero” turns into an anthem for the 1998 X-Games, as Wayne’s howls of “Don’t look now but the ground is gone” over a lukewarm Korn rehash sound expressly written to sell 24 packs of Mountain Dew Code Red. The Beastie Boys references in “Da Da Da” were probably inevitable, but still unfortunate. “Get A Life” incorporates ska for reasons I’m not quite sure of, and closing track “The Price Is Wrong” reaches a new apex of idiocy with its opening lines, “She stole my heart, and then she ran away/ so now I’m heartless, but fuck her anyway.”
Weezy may have a reputation for getting shitfaced on purple drank, but there’s not enough cough syrup in the continental United States to make Rebirth seem like a good idea. Not only did Lil Wayne decide to take up the long-rotting genre of nu-metal, he actually managed to take it to a new low by making a dumbed-down (if you can believe it) Cliff’s Notes version of an already needless genre. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if Wayne has ever bothered to listen to any actual rock music beyond the 30-second hook of the last two or three Linkin Park or Fall Out Boy singles. Rebirth is a staggering new low in musical embarrassment.
Brokencyde – Bc13
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
Papa Roach – Infested
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.