“Lil Wayne: Death or Rebirth?” (Quadnews.net)

Lil Wayne

Love him or hate him, Lil Wayne has permeated almost every aspect of hip-hop and pop music. It seems that you can’t turn on the radio anymore without hearing one verse by the strange and distinguishable rap star. Trademarked by his raspy voice, unusual rhymes, and long dreadlocks, Lil Wayne has been the talk of the hip-hop/rap industry for some time now. However, that was not enough. Last year, the eccentric rapper announced the beginning of his recording of a rock album.

Making the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, Wayne’s album became anticipated in both skepticism and excitement by fans and critics alike. However, the word anticipation became the dominant emotion as Wayne pressed back the original April 7th, 2009 release date multiple times to a final decision of Feb. 2nd 2010. Through widespread leak, I managed to grab myself a copy just under three weeks ago. Having no idea what to expect, I listened to the whole album (a whopping 21 songs) once before I could really take in what I had just heard.

The album is impossible to critique as a whole. With such a large number of songs, ranging from his traditional rapping style to a whole new type of “singing” (and I use that word lightly), I really needed to pick it apart song by song. The newest sound was definitely Wayne’s attempt at what he perceives to be “rock” singing. He manages to take his already raspy talking voice and attempt to stretch it into some kind of dying cat-sounding, angry bellowing. While this is only on a few tracks (notably “The Price is Wrong,” “Paradice,” and “Get a Life”), it is worth pointing out as a few tracks on the album that definitely did not need to make the master pressing.

The two singles released last year, “Hot Revolver” and “Prom Queen,” display another common style of vocal recording Lil Wayne has become increasingly known for: abusing the auto-tuner. Don’t get me wrong, the guitar and drum parts on these songs make them a catchy tune, but Lil Wayne’s contribution to that sound is questionably minimal.

Despite these negative pointers, the album does have its upside. Wayne has various guest artists appear including Kevin Rudolph, Gudda Gudda, Nicki Manaj, Fall Out Boy, Travis Barker, and Eminem. The track “Drop the World,” featuring Eminem, is definitely one of the most emotionally charged and well put together tracks on the album. Wayne and Eminem’s lyrics and vocal tone express the hardship they have both overcome over the course of their life to this point.

In my opinion however, the talk of this album should be the guest vocalist and new Young Money protégé, Shanell. An alternative rapper under Lil Wayne’s wing, Shanell displays vocal talent and a breath of fresh air beyond her genre classification. Singing a beautiful chorus and verses in one of the darker tracks, “Running,” Shanell is an artist I hope to hear much more of in the future.

Other tracks on the album definitely worth listening to are the simple, yet catchy riffs on “Ready For the World,” “Most Wanted Rockstar,” and the throwback rap styles of “I’m Not Human” and “On Fire.”

Overall the disc could have been better as a 15-16 track release, packing some of the previous mentioned tunes and leaving out the rest. It is certainly something new and questionable, likely to stir up a bit of talk this spring. While this album is likely to stir up both hatred, approval, and a new section of possible fans, Lil Wayne continues to do the one thing he does best: whatever he wants.

Published Version: The Quad News (Online copy no longer available)

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