Lil Wayne: The Bane of Hip-Hop
Very few musicians can take two completely different genres, such as rap and rock, and produce something remarkable. In fact, the only artists that come to mind are Gorillaz, Linkin Park and Jay-Z. Recently, however, after collaborating with artists such as Kevin Rudolf and obsessing over becoming a “rock star,” many began to speculate if Lil’ Wayne would join the ranks of the names mentioned above. However, after releasing his first debut rock album, “Rebirth,” it is clear that the speculation was nothing more than just that.
There is no question that Lil’ Wayne is talented. In fact, he may very well be the best emcee alive. However, “Rebirth” is proof that even Lil’ Wayne can make mistakes. He just needed to be taken out of his element.
While the idea of “Rebirth” is an intriguing one, the execution of it isn’t. On a whole, the tracks sound misplaced and forced. The listener is very conscious of the fact that they are listening to a rapper on a rock song. In the past, those who have had success combing both genres have almost created a pseudo-genre through their album, submerging the listener into the music so they are not aware of the contrast in music. Lil’ Wayne, on the other hand, fails to achieve this. Unfortunately, the conspicuous contrast in genres overshadows the genius on this album.
A prime example is “Runnin”. In this horribly choppy track, Lil’ Wayne decides to incorporate a little bit of alternative rock — seemingly a mistake in and of itself. Surprisingly, Lil’ Wayne almost pulls it off. The track starts off with a guitar hook straight from a would-be Nickelback album and remarkably, Lil’ Wayne’s versatile voice and rhythm matches the hook spot on. The problems come in when the track gets to the chorus. The clever Nickelback hook almost completely comes to a halt before singer Shanel begins to belt out a chorus which almost forces the listener to question if he/she is on the right track. Whatever genius Lil’ Wayne showed in the first verse is by far forgotten by the time Shanel gets to her vocal hook after the chorus. It is amazing how distinctly different the melody and rhythm of the first verse and the chorus are.
However, the low point of the album is by far the last track on the album, the “Price is Wrong.” This is one of the few moments Lil’ Wayne attempts actual vocals without the help of auto-tune. Unfortunately it does not work well for him. The track comes off as juvenile, like a high school garage band. It starts out with guitars blazing in a rambunctious hook, with Lil’ Wayne screaming onto the track. Up till now, Lil’ Wayne has auto-tuned his vocal performances to some extent, and with good reason. Wayne may be an all-star rapper, but he is no rock star, nor does he sing like it. After about half a minute of Wayne’s atrocious vocal performance the track just becomes noise.
That being said, there are some definite high points in the album. For the most part there are moments of genius on each track, short of a few songs. One of those moments is the eighth track on the album, “Drop the World” featuring Eminem. Wayne harnesses something he doesn’t throughout the rest of the album: cohesion. The track starts off with a seemingly hip-hop beat. Wayne, in his element, is mesmerizing in the beginning of the track, and as the track begins to introduce the guitar riff and the pounding drums, Wayne’s rhymes become more and more passionate. By the time the track transitions into a full rock ballad, the listener is too busy immersed in the track to notice the change. The cherry on the top? Eminem’s amazing performance makes this song easily the high point in Rebirth.
Kudos to Lil’ Wayne for pushing the envelope. It is not often you see musicians step out of their element to try to create something completely different. The idea behind the album was an innovative one. However, the reason it is not often you see musicians step out of their element is because they are more likely to fail — as did Lil’ Wayne. There is no doubt Wayne is incredibly talented, but “Rebirth” shows that even the seemingly untouchable Lil’ Wayne is not perfect.