Like Michael Jordan walking away from the NBA for a shot at pro baseball, hip-hop MVP Lil Wayne decided last year to pick up a guitar and pursue his own field of dreams: recording a rock album. Jordan returned to the basketball court after one ill-fated season in the farm leagues; we can only hope for the same for Wayne.
A nimble, almost balletic rapper on countless mixtapes, singles, and Billboard-topping collaborations, the 27-year-old comes across both muddled and belligerent on the much-delayed, extensively leaked Rebirth. Viscous nü-metal dirges like ''American Star'' and first single ''Prom Queen'' are Auto-Tuned and endlessly distorted, as if they've been dredged up from some gremlin-y swamp and then strained through a wet waffle cone. When he tires of mining the laryngitis rawk of Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, et al., Wayne turns his efforts to blink-182-style pop-punk bounce (''Get a Life,'' ''Knockout'') and Prince-ly funk fervor (''I'll Die for You''), neither of which suits him much better. Only the corrosive, keenly felt Eminem pair-up "Drop the World" seems to stir his strengths.
What also falters here is Weezy's loose-limbed spontaneity and signature absurdist wit. Instead, the man with a thousand delirious synonyms for sex just blurts out bombs like "I'ma f--- you like a bull, I swear." (Though the cheese-orama '80s synth sample in ''On Fire'' is loopily inspired.) On Feb. 9, Wayne is slated to begin a yearlong prison sentence for weapons charges. From that, maybe a truer rebirth than this stillborn misfire will rise. D+