Lil’ Wayne - Rebirth
Right off the bat, I’m gonna go ahead and sacrifice some of my bountiful street cred and admit that this is not the first time I’ve listened to this record (hell, it’s not even the second time). My fascination with this album is akin to Weezer’s much-maligned Raditude (an album I also exhausted around the same timeframe, to everyone’s chagrin), as Raditude was an album about partying written by someone who has ostensibly never been to a party. In the same sense, Rebirth is a rock album written by someone who has a less than tenuous grasp on rock music. I think I just find high-profile artists operating on delusion of that magnitude fascinating.
Recently, I compared Odd Future to Young Money in terms of the collective aspect in the modern musical landscape, and I think that the reason Young Money can’t exist in the same spectrum as Odd Future is the same reason why Rebirth is so unsuccessful. Wayne is an insider longing to be an outsider; his existence seems to be oriented toward convincing people he’s really fucking weird (I imagine him consulting with his entourage about what thing he can do next to make people talk about how crazy he’s going, a la Tracy Jordan), but because he exists so far inside of the mainstream, he has no connection with the fringe in the same way that Odd Future or someone of that ilk does. Some of his ideas about what’s out there are just made up, some of it just rips off Miley Cyrus, and some of it is surprisingly spot-on (“The Price is Wrong” even dials down the super-polished production in favor of a sound that almost comes straight out of Inner Ear Studios, which actually kind of works for the album’s “punk” track). I can’t even sit here and tell you that the album is unlistenable (though parts of it are). Wayne has an unmistakeable ear for clean production and catchy tunes, but as much as that works in his favor, it’s also detrimental to the “dangerous” sound he attempts to craft on Rebirth. He’s appropriately melodramatic on the ballads, puts on his best snarl for the “harder” tracks, and where stuff like “Knockout” and “Drop the World”s Eminem guest verse are supremely wonky, Wayne smartly runs the gamut of popular rock music, stretching from Fall Out Boy-esque pop-punk licks to new wave synths to uber-bombastic arena rock anthems. The point still remains though that he made this album too far inside. I would love to see what a group like Odd Future would do with this tableau, someone with a clearer view on the outside of musical culture.