Lil Wayne: The Artist, The Convict
Lil Wayne has always understood one essential lesson of the entertainment business: there's no such thing as bad publicity. As he faces possible jail time for weapons possession, it seems Weezy has built a persona around unpredictability. The best of his rhymes take on a stream-of-consciousness flow bounded only by its own bizarre logic. On "Dipset," Wayne drawls, "I've got a great idea, we should have sex/ Bitch I'm like Dante Hall, I just throw up the X." Perhaps Joyce or Salinger would have sounded like this if they smoked more weed and drank cough syrup. Greatest Rapper Alive? You could make the case. In terms of both quality and quantity, Wayne dominates his industry. You want chart-topping singles? Lil Wayne gave us just that with "Lollipop." You want underground cred? A series of free mixtapes, including the recent No Ceilings, feature some of Wayne's best verses. You want show-stealing rhymes on other albums? Weezy's been featured on cuts by Jay-Z, Kanye, and Mike Jones.
You want Auto-Tuned vocals over 90s alt-metal influenced guitars? Um. . .
Well, regardless of whether or not you wanted it, Lil Wayne delivered Rebirth, something he's been threatening for a while now. Ever since the release of "Prom Queen," this experiment have been both exciting and terrifying. Much of Rebirth is filled with the type of music one would never expect from Wayne. Auto-Tuning is used liberally, likely to hide the fact that Wayne can't really sing, and the guitars (which are mixed low in the speakers, likely to hide the fact that Wayne can't really play guitar) grind over the top of nu-metal drums. Bands like Korn and Linkin Park should hold their breath, as this sound could be coming back into style. Most of the tracks lack anything resembling an actual identity. It's as if standard club anthems (that is, Auto-Tuned club anthems, as if there is a different sort these days) were noodled over on electric guitar.
Yet in spite being a trainwreck of a project, Weezy remains at the center, seemingly untouched by the noise all around him. After all, as Greatest Rapper Alive, much of his success has been built around the creation of a larger-than-life persona. And in that regard, Rebirth is a triumph, a fantastic middle-finger to convention that exists purely because Lil Wayne possessed some sort of delusion that he is not only Greatest Rapper Alive but also a rock star. As he said in an interview on the BBC recently, it's determination that allows him to have the kind of success he's experienced.
Despite dental surgery postponing his trip to prison by a short amount of time, we can still expect to hear plenty from Wheezy in the coming year. According to an article on MTV, Lil Wayne filmed a mind-blowing NINE music videos over this last weekend, with material from both Rebirth and the highly-anticipated follow-up to Tha Carter III, 2010's Tha Carter IV. Even though Wayne will be behind bars, his music will live on, which is good news for rap fans. And seeing as Wayne doesn't write down any of his verses, this could be a pretty remarkable gestation period for some great creative material. Perhaps his next move will be something revolutionary, perhaps a pairing of rap/R&B with a story line featuring twists around every turn? Let's hope.