NEW YORK (Billboard) – While most of Lil Wayne's fans will have to wait until at least February for the rapper's often-promised and often-delayed album, about 500 Amazon customers who pre-ordered "Rebirth" are enjoying the record already, thanks to a shipping mishap.
According to sources and an e-mail to Billboard from an Amazon customer, the online merchant sent copies of the album to some customers who pre-ordered "Rebirth." The album began arriving in mailboxes on Monday, December 14, despite a change in the street date from December 21 to February 1.
The release-date change -- the sixth time "Rebirth" was pushed around the schedule -- was announced December 10. But, roughly one million units had already been manufactured and about one-third shipped to accounts by then, sources said.
Although Amazon received the word to return the, supposedly about 500 copies were sent to customers. An Amazon spokesman didn't respond to an e-mail request for a comment.
The album was initially supposed to be released April 7, pushed back to May 19 and then August 18. And when that date came and went, the release date was pushed to December 15 and finally December 21. The latest delay stems from a decision by Lil Wayne's Cash Money/Universal labels to allow new single "On Fire" more time to build.
Some sources indicated the album may be worked on some more, possibly with new tracks being added. If that's the case, then the Amazon customers who already received the album may have a collector's item on their hands.
Despite the latest postponement, retail anticipation for the album still runs high. Lil Wayne's last album " ," which came out in June 2008, was the last record to hit 1 million units in a debut week, at a time when most in the industry thought that feat was no longer possible due to the closure of record stores and the decline of the CD.
With more stores closures since "Tha Carter III" and the CD being a less resilient product than a year ago, it is unlikely that "Rebirth" will debut at a million, according to retailers. It is even less likely to do so now that the album has been delayed into the new year. For the last two years, the CD has lost 20% of its base in the new year in the U.S. market, and come January that is expected to happen again.
Possibly complicating matters more: Lil Wayne pleaded guilty in October to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and will be sentenced on February 9. A Lil Wayne representative didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.