“Crossover” single “Prom Queen” off Lil' Wayne's upcoming and delayed “rock” album, Rebirth, signifies to many a music writer—including whoever is writing the upcoming April 16 Rolling Stone cover about Wayne—Wayne's genre transcendence. In other words, the mild retard of his rhymes placed over a guitar track and negligible drumming along with, oh yeah, guitar holding and head banging for a bit in the video means the beloved rap scion has turned rocker.
What these commentators did have right is Wayne's transition to rock star. Gone are the days when Wayne shyly skulked through his deft verses, appearing fearful of the crowd. And just in time.
The crowd of 15,000 at his April 8 Albuquerque Journal Pavilion show found a new Wayne, in true rock-star form, although nothing had changed about his music. There were, indeed, stage hijinks—at least one firework, a stripper pole complete with stripper, a device that allowed Wayne to sink into the stage and a flamethrower—but the performances were what stood out.
In addition to his new bold and confident presence, Lil' Wayne picked up the reins of superstardom with clearly wrought duets and group medleys, featuring the likes of T-Pain, Keri Hilson, Shanell, Mac Maine and the Young Money crew. These weren't a bunch of rappers onstage; these were choreographed and rehearsed acts bent on making the blustery seats on this lukewarm night at the Pavilion more than worth the price.
Highlights included performances by Mac Maine's “brothers,” a term which got less and less believable as the entire Young Money crew assembled onstage; Lil' Wayne's claim that he'd have sex with Miley Cirus in three years; and getting passed something that was not drugs but, instead, a vanilla Primetime. Excellent.
As for the rock genre nonsense, Wayne was flanked by musicians: a guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboardist, although one would be hard-pressed to notice just by listening. The musicians were merely props—cool rock-starish props.
Listening to his new singles, “Prom Queen” (bad) and “Hot Revolver” (eh, it'll grow on me), I would never have known they represented a seismic shift in Wayne's style. They very well could have been on Carter III—one of the many slower songs—with the hint of a guitar. Or is that a bass alternating an even strum between two pitches? Whatever he's going for, it's best to appreciate Wayne for the overall musician he is and not dissect him through genre snobbery. In the words of Lil' Wayne in the upcoming Rolling Stone piece: “If I have a rap album I'm dropping, then I want it to be the best rap album. But I want to be the best. Period.”
Spin had it right last year, when it named Wayne Rock Star of the Year, long before there was any trifling talk of genre change. Such categorization is gratuitous and lazy. It's for friends of hyphens and those who like attaching the word “post” to things never truly established.
To make claims about Wayne transcending musical genres is to ignore that Wayne's rapping never truly fell into one. His appropriation of rock fanfare is simply his acceptance of superstardom—the kind where the most famous can do whatever they want and can look cool doing it. So forget even what Wayne says—he's doing what any other rapper/businessman would do: He's creating hype that will eventually get him more money. Good for you Wayne.
And for the gratuitous, there was some proof that this musical transcendence talk is valid: See this young emo-looking guy with the skeleton hoody, whom I found at the drink stand ($9.50 for Bud Light—who knows what they were extorting for something actually imbibable). He was enjoying the show just as much as everyone else.