"Rebirth" sounds like the first album that didn't come easily for Lil Wayne: He started working on it two years ago — an eternity for a guy who tosses off tracks in his hotel room between shows. If you have an Internet connection, you know that it's his rock & roll record — not such a crazy idea for this leather-clad Martian with serious rock-star appeal. The problem is that Wayne has very questionable taste in rock. He splutters and wails over tracks stuffed with aggro stomp and bland riffage; it sounds like he's been holing up with a bunch of Spymob and Incubus records. Wayne growls like an Auto-Tuned Kid Rock on the swaggering "American Star." But the hyperclever Wayne we know is missing in action on the anguished chest-thumper "Runnin'." He stretches his croak past the breaking point on "I'll Die for You," like some 21st-century version of Trans-era Neil Young: a vocally challenged genius stuck in limbo.
Wayne is back in hip-hop mode on We Are Young Money, although he's mostly limited to the choruses on this showcase for his new label. It's inconsistent, veering from Drake (always solid, but distracted here) to very average MCs like Gudda Gudda. One bright spot is sassy newcomer Nicki Minaj, who makes a pork-free lifestyle sound badass on "Roger That": "Asalaam alaikum, no oink for me/And I never let a D-boy boink for free." Aside from that, the wait for Tha Carter IV goes on.
(Posted: Feb 4, 2010)