I’ve been trying to find the contrarian response to the general wave of negativity aimed at Lil Wayne’s Rebirth, but no luck. It’s not bad, and if this was the debut album by a new artist, we’d find it a little retro in its rock but not unredeemably so. But it’s a Lil Wayne album, and it’s as if he took his talent and everything that makes him musically compelling and tossed them out the window. His exuberance and rhyming-because-I-can vibe doesn’t fit the constraints of rock lyrics, and the underlying whimsy in his delivery is replaced by a pro forma angst.
There’s also a slight whiff of bad faith on Rebirth. His version of rock is much like the depictions of rock on television dramas, as if he didn’t really take rock seriously enough to understand it as anything more than a series of gestures. His affection for it is understandable; his live band is really powerful, and “Prom Queen” was more impressive live than it is on Rebirth. But deciding to make a “rock” album ultimately feels as dilletante-ish as rock bands doing their “country” or “standards” albums, rarely satisfying their fans or the new genre’s fans in the process.
Normally, the consolation where Lil Wayne’s concerned is that he’d have a new mixtape ready in another month or so, so if you don’t like the music you’ve got, you could get more. But with jail time in his likely future, we all may have to live with Rebirth longer than we’d like to. Or, more likely, we’ll live with No Ceilings and wait for The Carter 4.