After listening to “Rebirth,” I could make the obvious joke that he’s lucky he’s not being sent away for aural crimes. The Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot counts “Rebirth” among the “worst career misstep(s) by a major artist in recent memory.”
I’m not willing to go that far, but I will say that there is not a shred of the innovation and fun that make Lil Wayne stand out on display here. If this is a rock record—and it seems to be called that because of the occasional guitar appearance—someone forgot to remind Lil Wayne that rock is built on rifts, not beats-- not that the beats here are especially compelling.
Instead, it seems like Lil Wayne took some ideas or artists he admires and tried to imitate them through his own cough-syrup-drenched, auto-tuned filter. “Get a Life” seems to derive its spiky base from Elvis Costello, but on his worst day, Costello is always better than this. “The Price is Wrong” crosses the Ramones with Metallica and U2, but Lil Wayne seems to have no idea what to do with his stitched-together creation. On “Drop the World” featuring Eminem, Lil Wayne rips off Linkin Park, although I don’t remember Chester Bennington ever singing “Bitch, I’m going pick the world up and I’m gonna drop it on your fucking head.”
As on “Drop the World,” the lyrics throughout “Rebirth” are boring, epithet-fueled rants that bear no relation to the music. Really, how often do we need to hear “Fuck you?” Apparently, a lot. Rock is about anger and rebellion, not just endless, mindless spewing.
It’s not all bad: “Knock Out” featuring Nicki Minaj (who’s also on Mariah Carey’s forthcoming “Absolute Angel”) has a certain insouciant, peppy charm, and “On Fire” samples “Fame” (or something amazingly similar) in such a wacky way that it’s endearing, plus the weird notion that he really seems to be setting someone on fire figuratively, not literally. What?
Coming after 2008’s “The Carter 3,” which topped many critics best-of year-end list, “Rebirth” seems like that much more of a failure than it really is. Every artist is entitled to a mistake or two and it would be a shame if the likely flop of “Rebirth” causes Lil Wayne to stop experimenting.