It’s rock Jim but not as we know it. This week saw the release controversial rapper Lil Wayne’s new album, Rebirth. So what’s a hip hop artist’s new release got to do with anything in this fine rock Mecca?

Rebirth sees Mr Wayne Jnr. take his auto-tuned voice in a completely new direction, with a rap/rock effort. I won’t pretend the release will be adored by rock lovers, quite the opposite in fact.

But are rock and rap really as far apart as it seems? Rock music prides itself with expression through a heavy bass and jaw-dropping guitar solos, on a similar note rap expresses itself through clever turn of phrase and catchy hooks.

Rapper Lil Wayne seems to run into controversy at every turn in his career (Vicious, Richards or Osbourne anyone?) and his latest release is no exception. Hip-hop critics have slated his new ‘rock’ direction and some fans left bewildered.

It may be shocking for some, but the album features some brilliantly catchy tunes and even some fantastic guitar riffs to boot. Paradice and Prom Queen both reek of rock potential and do a decent job, even if the omnipresent auto tuned vocals can be jarring at times.

The album is a big step forward to linking two of the most juxtaposed genres of music any fan could think of. However it isn’t the first steps from the hip-hop and R’n’B world, numerous artists having covered or sampled their big haired cousins over the years.

Toto’s Africa, Foreigner’s Cold As Ice and I Want to Know What Love Is are among some of the recent efforts. Wayne himself even samples Amy Holland’s She’s On Fire (maybe a push for rock!) and gives it his own as they say ‘flava’.

Most telling of Wayne’s rock influences is single Hot Revolver, taking lyrics directly from Green Day’s Basket Case, the track was leaked and subsequently dropped from the album but is still well worth a listen.

The roundabout question to Rebirth (and this article), is what’s the deal? It could be that a rap artists ego has grown to new scales, or there could be an innocent excuse. Wayne has carried the recent hip-hop charge in the charts and seems bored with the same old beats.

Is this actually one man’s honest attempt at trying his hand in one of the best genres in the world? Springsteen or Alice Cooper he is not but who are rock fans to not to try something new? I for one will greet this possible cross roads with open arms. Well as soon as Wayne gets out of jail anyway…

Rock review

5/10 A Lil step to redemption

Rap Review

8/10 An honest attempt for one of the hottest artists of the moment.

Andy Spoors