Lil Wayne surprises fans with transition to rock

By by Justin Jacobs

Every so often, an event tears through the world of hip-hop with the force of a F5 tornado or… Every so often, an event tears through the world of hip-hop with the force of a F5 tornado or Fat Joe sitting down. Maybe it’s global warming, but recently there’ve been too many of these game-changing events to count ‘mdash; the stability of hip-hop as we know it is melting as artist after artist experiments with his tried and true sound. First Snoop Dogg abandoned rap for cheesy, irresistible late ’70s funky coke-disco with ‘Sexual Eruption.’ Then Kanye West left his lady of hip-hop and began making rabbit-paced love to an auto-tune machine, giving birth to 808s and Heartbreak last winter. But the most recent tremor in hip-hop has been by far the most staggering. Dr. Weezy F. Baby, or Lil Wayne to the squares, abandoned rap to make a rock ‘n’ roll record. What in the hell is he doing? Didn’t he just release the most successful rap album of the year? Didn’t he just release the most successful album of the year in any genre? The answer to the second two questions is yes, but the first one is a good bit harder to answer. The simplest way to do it, though, would be to do whatever the hell he wants. On Jan. 27, Lil Wayne debuted ‘Prom Queen,’ the first single off of his upcoming rock record Rebirth. The track sounds like the result of the guitarist from System of a Down, the drummer from Linkin Park, the rapper from, um, Lil Wayne and the auto-tune machine from every rap song in the last six months drinking lots of Redbull, smoking a joint then trying to be poetic. Sound confusing? Well, it is. To separate the song from its source is simply impossible, as it would mean both that approximately 99 percent of the people who’ve listened to it never would’ve, and it would negate the gigantic force Lil Wayne has had on the music world in the past year and a half. So we’re left at an impasse, as the most successful and talented (arguably most talented … I’m still waiting for Lupe Fiasco to get his due praise) rapper of the MySpace era just dropped a big bomb of what-the-hell-is-this on our collective laps. It’s like our probably reaction to a Coldplay rap record ‘mdash; the band is known for doing what they do well, but how could we transpose that sense of guaranteed quality to a completely new genre? Then again, maybe that’s a bad example. A Coldplay rap record would most assuredly be even weaker than a smack from Chris Brown. That said, the only way I see fit to review ‘Prom Queen,’ and thereby predict how the next record from the year’s biggest artist will be, is to do so thrice. First, we look at ‘Prom Queen’ as a rock song. Compared to most rock songs that most rock fans would consider good, ‘Prom Queen’ is pretty decent (Note: not indie. For our purposes, rock means mainstream Linkin Park-type business). Wayne’s guitar sound is sharp and cutting, if not overly complicated, and is certainly reminiscent of the minor key tinkering of System of a Down. The percussion packs the same punch as the best of the late-’90s rap-rock bands, sounding surprisingly in timbre as those Christian metal dudes P.O.D. I know, I think it’s weird too. In the chorus, Wayne’s non-auto-tuned shriek of ‘Prom Queen!!’ is a genuinely awesome bratty punk squeal, and the whole thing is really quite catchy. So we’ve got one thumb sort of up. Next, we look at ‘Prom Queen’ as a Lil Wayne song. This category is a lot tougher, as Wayne has got some seriously fantastic material. From his mixtapes to his guest appearances and studio albums, the guy has a quality average of near-stellar. Lyrically, Wayne certainly tackled a lot of tougher topics than in ‘Prom Queen,’ which is mostly about sitting behind a girl with sexy underwear in class. You know, to take a peak. Though that’s an admirable cause, we know he could’ve done better because he has so often. Thumb down. Last, we look at the song as a Lil-Wayne-doing-a-rock-song song, a category that’s trickier still. Genre crossovers do deserve some respect when done well, as ‘Prom Queen’ is. The man’s got to get credit for playing and writing his own guitar part, which isn’t half bad. And the shock value of the song (‘That’s Lil Wayne?!’) lasts for awhile ‘mdash; through about 15 plays. Ultimately, though, by 18 plays (when I’d finally finished this column), the shock wore off and I was left with a song that was just alright. Thumb sideways. There you have it ‘mdash; results inconclusive. Then again, maybe that’s what Wayne wants ‘mdash; a holdover record until he drops his next atom bomb on us. We can only hope. Weezy wants you to read more about him at