Lil Wayne's "Rebirth", black rock, and modern music

by Marcus Dowling

If he could,
Chuck Berry would slap DeWayne Carter in the face with his dingaling
for this one.

It "leaked." And it damn sure doesn't make me think of Lenny Kravitz.
Or Jimi Hendrix. Or Rick James. Maybe it made me think of Eddie
Murphy. But "Party All the Time" even laps the Eminem duet "Drop the
World." Black men invented rock music. But Lil Wayne successfully
attempted to take the entire concept back 75 years to its conception.

Facing a one year jail sentence for criminal weapons possession, Lil
Wayne certainly isn't looking for more bad press. But he's knee deep
in it now.
Rebirth, literally
a rock album release in every way for hip hop's most prolific
wordsmith, an expected first quarter of 2010 release, "shipped
inadvertently," and is not the pride and joy of the internet. And as
expected, it's bad. No worries, it's not bad in the sense that it's
offensive to the eardrum. It isn't. Whomever the session musicians
were that were hired to play with America's favorite codeine consumer
are more than capable. In fact, on tracks like "Prom Queen," they
salvage victory from the jaws of defeat, actually creating something a
bit more than tolerable, hence it being the only single Universal
Records reluctantly cosigned from the new direction of one of their
cash cow artists. It's bad in the sense that it was unwarranted,
unnecessary and a far better idea in theory plagued by slipshod
execution.


Even more ignominious about the release is that it features a lack of
something quite key to they success of a "rock album" by someone from
FAR outside the genre. Rock producers. "Prom Queen" has a hook, but
with lyrics like the eminently and sadly unforgettable "I love her
fancy underwear," Weezy doesn't even make an attempt to approach rock
music with even the slightest modicum of well honed, rock based
preparation. The track is produced by yes, DJ Infamous and Drew
Correa, who produced the amazing "Mr. Carter," but when it comes to,
well, rock songs, appear to know a significant amount, but not even
close to enough to be producers of note on a rock release from an
artist who dominates the public eye. Cool and Dre, who, yes, produced
one of my favorite hip hop jams of all time, "Hate It or Love It," for
The Game and Mary J. Blige, are on this album, too, which is quite
unfortunate. It's one thing for hip hop and rock to collaborate on an
artistic level. Rap/rock collaborations are exciting this year, as
Damon Dash's Blackroc album proved. But rappers and rap producers
without a true rock mindset doing rock collaborations? A poor idea in
theory, a poor idea in practice, and on this record, a poor idea in
execution. It's almost as if Weezy's hubris as being the only
"Martian" to reach the top of the charts went to his head and this
unfortunate, unfortunate–yes, did I say unfortunate?–concept came to
life.

And to think what does this do to the hardworking core of what exists
of the "black rock" movement. Weezy's not a rocker by ANY stretch, but
he does purport to play "rock music," and has a higher profile than
the entire Afro-Punk  and black rock movements, save Living Colour's Corey Glover,
combined.
Amazingly, I tend to
think the release would've been far better received even if the
content weren't so well put together had there been elements of the
movement that Weezy haphazardly stumbled into.
There's no nod to Saul Williams here for a
duet. Niggy Tardust and Weezy on a track together is a phenomenal
idea. How about a reworking of a TV On The Radio track in a manner
consistent with some of the remixes The XX has done this year for
other groups with a hot sixteen bars from the faux rocker in question?
You're telling me Weezy doesn't have the money to contact Danger Mouse
for this concept? I think you're a fool if you do.

There are African-American based rock bands in this world that due to
the domino theory nature of the music industry need a lot more from
this album to assist their valiant and critically acclaimed marches to
mainstream credibility. Doron Flake of The Smyrk, for instance, has a
once in a generation voice that if this were forty years ago would
leave women drooling and quivering in love. Jacksonville, Florida's
Whole Wheat Bread are cosigned and perpetually name dropped by Lil
Jon, but since he's too busy spending his financial largesse and
cosigning David Guetta, Diplo and DJ Class and not standing in a
studio with Will Frazier's ass kicking bass and Aaron Abraham's vocals
backing him on a track, they're still locally renowned and
internationally respected, but still flying entirely too below the
radar of financial and critical respectability.

Rebirth is a mixtape concept.
It's rough hewn and full of possibilities, but flawed. Almost fatally
flawed. It's a confection for the true Weezy enthusiast. Should this
have been a rare Japanese reprint with extremely limited US
distribution to 100 people who could tell you what Weezy eats for
dinner on the third Sunday of the month only when Baby is hanging out
on the tour bus? Yes. But as a major album with full distribution,
it's a misfire for his musical development of the highest degree. For
the future of blacks in rock music, it's a failure of the highest
degree. Lil Wayne has become wrapped up in his own universe and can't
see the forest in spite of the trees. Let's imagine that in an ideal
universe that Rick Rubin (available, and well within the price range,
and likely interested for the right price) produced this. He produced
Jay-Z, he produced Johnny Cash, what about Lil Wayne? It's not as far
fetched of a concept as it seems. Heck. Let's let him even sit with
the producers of note on this album.

Likely a different story.

I just hope the concept of black men with rock guitars isn't shelved
or good in the American mainstream. If we all remember, the concept is
the absolute lifeblood from which American music flows. Sure, we've
advanced far away from it, but there are people who still remember and
like to be reminded. Let's let Rebirth re-enter the abyss it was unearthed from.
Though my site often proves that true genius does require insanity,
sometimes insane ideas are just that. Insane.

Marcus Dowling is one of the premier music journalists in the DC Metropolitan area. His writing can be found here and at other premium sites around the internet as The Couch Sessions, DC megablog Brightest Young Things, and Atlanta's soon to be print Art Nouveau Magazine. He has interviewed everyone from established legends like Teena Marie, Darude, Rakim and Warren G, to rising names like DJ Blaqstarr, Nadastrom, Miz Metro and a plethora more of all levels of note in between.  His blog is True Genius Requires Insanity and he can be reached on Twitter at twitter.com/marcuskdowling

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