In early 2010, Lil Wayne was on top of the world. Still riding high off the massive success of 2008’s Tha Carter III, The Martian was bigger than Earth itself. You couldn't even sing alone in your car without Wayne magically appearing in your passenger seat and spitting a hot 16.
At that time, Wayne could have gone in any creative direction his heart desired. He could have dropped Tha Carter IV right away; he could have made a Christmas album with Michael Buble and finally dominated the white mom demographic; he could have run for governor of Louisiana, won by a historic landslide, and made weed legal in his first hour in office.
Instead, he decided to do the ballsiest thing possible—he dropped a fucking rock album.
In retrospect, Rebirth represented the boldest move an A-list rap artist has ever made. The biggest rapper on earth used his golden moment to... drop a rock album?!? That’d be like if Kevin Hart did a show at Madison Square Garden where he told zero jokes and simply read poems about nature.
The risk was admirable, but it didn't pay off.
Despite debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, the album was loathed by rap fans, rock fans, I mean, largely everyone but Lil Wayne. Rebirth caused even his most devoted stans to cringe, and critics pummeled the album with so much ferocity you’d have thought Weezy personally slept with all their wives and girlfriends.
Yes, it was a bad album... But what if it wasn’t?
What if there was an alternate universe in which Lil Wayne’s rock album was an instant classic; an album so overwhelmingly popular it changed the culture as we know it.
You don't need to imagine it, of course, because I've already spent an unreasonable amount of my free time imagining it for us all.
In graphic detail, let’s do this…
The release of Rebirth catapults an already famous Lil Wayne into an even higher stratosphere of superstardom, making him eligible for sainthood.
After going triple Diamond (an RIAA certification for 10,000,000 units sold) in only two days, critics praise Rebirth as if Jesus himself had returned for its release.
Rolling Stone gives the album a seven out of five, writing “Lil Wayne just revolutionized the art of music itself”; Anthony Fantano, in a brief video review, scores the album a 55 out of 10 while screaming “FUCK YES!” and burning a pile of his flannel shirts; Yoh, while writing a 1-Listen review for DJBooth, simply throws his laptop out the window.
Emboldened by his success making a rock album, Wayne hosts an internationally televised press conference where he officially announces his retirement from rapping. Standing by his side are Birdman, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and then-president Barack Obama, all weeping uncontrollably on each other’s shoulders.
Wayne goes on to release a string of rock albums, each just as financially successful and critically acclaimed as Rebirth. Each Auto-Tuned screamo screech and guitar riff further solidifies his status as the new Freddie Mercury—who returns from the grave to open for Wayne at Coachella.
Consequently, the legacies of every “classic” rock band crumble as Wayne replaces The Beatles as the gold standard for rock music. Eventually, The Beatles cancel themselves. Paul McCartney releases a statement formally apologizing for not being as amazing as Lil Wayne and leads a worldwide movement encouraging everyone to burn their Beatles records and wipe their music from streaming services.
Wayne doesn’t remain a solo rock artist forever, instead graciously lends his talents to other bands. When My Chemical Romance breaks up, Wayne reunites them by replacing their lead singer Gerard Way. Lil Wayne’s high-pitched, raspy bullfrog voice signing “Welcome To The Black Parade” is as amazing as you think it is. Way later tries to pursue a rap career, but the less said about that the better.
Rappers influenced by Lil Wayne get swept up in the rock bubble, too. Young Thug becomes a hardcore heavy metal singer; Chance The Rapper is John Mayer but with overalls; Childish Gambino’s first album is just a two-hour, uninterrupted banjo solo.
Oh, and due to Wayne’s rap resignation, SoundCloud rap never comes to be. Lil Xan and Lil Pump are currently waiting tables at your local Olive Garden, while Lil Yachty is finally following his true calling—running for president.
Over the past decade, Wayne has flirted with the idea of making Rebirth 2. If he ever does, we seriously better pray it sucks.