It's not everyday that you get to introduce someone to one of your favorite things. It's almost as if that introduction allows you to see it for the first time again, to appreciate the nuances that made you love it so much in the first place. So when Laura told us she'd never heard of Lil Wayne...it was like Christmas in March.
Lil Wayne aka Mr Carter aka Dwayne Michael Carter JR aka Weezy F Baby aka BEST RAPPER ALIVE is the type of cultural golden child that transcends genres and personal preference. One of the hardest working rappers in the game, Wayne's been flooding the airwaves with his raspy flow since 1999. Born in Hollygrove, Louisiana, Wayne was a prodigal child -- a straight-A student and a budding rapper at the tender age of 8 -- and dropped out of school at 14 to pursue his passion. An introduction to Birdman early on (as in single digit age early on) helped him to advance his career, and their relationship quickly turned into a father-son dynamic. To this day Weezy refers to Birdman as his pops, even releasing the collaborative 2006 album Like Father, Like Son
featuring the hit single Stuntin' Like My Daddy
. Birdman got Weezy signed to Cash Money Records at the age of 9, making him their youngest member ever. His early work with the group called Hot Boys, with Juvenile, BG and Young Turk, was pretty standard for the time -- hardcore//gangsta hiphop with singles like Back That Azz Up
(Juvenile's single featuring Wayne) and We On Fire
. Just as a side note, this was also around the time that Wayne accidentally shot himself in the chest with a handgun his curious preteen self happened to stumble upon. He reportedly missed his heart by only a centimeter. But anyway. Weezy spent only two years with the Hot Boys before taking off solo. His debut went platinum with over a million copies sold in the US, and it was in 2004 that the Wayne we know and love today emerged. The release of Tha Carter
solidified him as a "solo mega-force
" and the public instantly fell in love with his spastic flow, insanely wide range of content ("from the blingtastic to the bizarrely psychedelic
") asymmetrical rhymes and raspy Auto-tuned croak.
[caption id="attachment_7543" align="aligncenter" width="448" caption="Weezy & Birdman: the father son kiss that sparked endless controversy"]
Wayne rapping at 8 years old
[caption id="attachment_7544" align="aligncenter" width="330" caption="Cover of Tha Carter III: Wayne as a baby plus current day ink"]
Weezy in 1998
[caption id="attachment_7545" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Weezy & Birdman"]
Wayne and his "dad" Birdman on Cribs
begat Tha Carter II
which begat Tha Carter III
and then, you guessed it, out came Tha Carter IV
. The third installment marked the pinnacle of Wayne's success, selling over a million in the first week. The album was released in June and by mid July it was confirmed two times platinum. It won him the Grammy for Best Rap Album and shot him into extreme super stardom -- he even performed at the Country Music Awards that year, the first rapper ever to do so. Throughout all this, he's released 10 studio albums, countless mixtapes and collabs, been nominated for 15 Grammys (won 4), gone to prison for 8 months, released an album while IN prison, had four kids and been nominated for over 150 awards. At this point it's safe to say he's earned the self appointed title of Best Rapper Alive. He's also been crowned the reigning King of Hip Hop and when asked to comment on his he explains
, "It's very exciting. I love pressure, so I guess if that brings forth pressure, then I'm up for it. But, you know, titles are titles, and names are names. As long as people remember me forever, that will be enough for me." As long as they remember me forever. He's worked hard enough to be this cocky.
[caption id="attachment_7550" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Front row staple at Miami Heat games"]
Feel Like Dying
How to Love (the product of his foray into rock)
Wayne's prolific body of work confirms that he beyond a shadow of a doubt is incredibly hard working, and also entirely bizarre, weird in the best possible way. As he tells us on the track Phone Home
, "We are not the same I am a martian." This little 5'6, head to toe tatted up, fireball of energy frequently seems like he just can't be from planet earth. His love affair with sizzurp (prescription cough medicine containing codeine, a popular way to get blitzed out of your mind down south) may have something to do with his strange proclivities, but he's cleaned up his act since that 8 month prison stint (marijuana possession and a gun charge) and now we get to see that he's really just weird to the core. His smile is worth $150,000 because his teeth are entirely diamond and gold encrusted. He's recently had an image overhaul -- switching from the uniform of a hiphop star to something akin to an urban skate punk. He released a rock album in 2010 titled Rebirth on which he attempted to sing and play guitar. Critics panned the album, but Wayne is determined to keep this whole thing going. Even if it means wearing jeggings, which he does often now. Nirvana and Beetlejuice top his list of influences -- and 6 Foot 7 Foot
from Tha Carter IV
samples Banana Boat Song
by Harry Belafonte. Daaaaay O! He's written love songs for sizzurp, his once drug of choice. If you ever see photos or videos of him with a red cup prior to his 2010 jail time...it's a pretty safe guess to say that's what's in it.
In this clip from the 2009 documentary Tha Carter, Wayne mentions that he's "kind of put the cup down" implying that he's stepped back a bit from the sizzurp. The interviewer then goes on to say what a "beautiful thing" it is that he's cutting back. Weezy immediately stomps on that statement and replies, "Whatever the hell was in my cup the only reaction I did was got more popular, more successful, done a lot more things than I ever done...and became #1 in the country with everything I've ever dropped. I probably should pick that cup back up." The whole "my cup" statement (which begins "I don't care if it's heroin in my cup, it's MY cup") became somewhat of a national phenomenon, with even a Facebook page
dedicated to it.
[caption id="attachment_7554" align="aligncenter" width="472" caption="Old School Wayne"]
[caption id="attachment_7548" align="aligncenter" width="469" caption="Skater transformation"]
[caption id="attachment_7556" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Young Money Cash Money Billionaires"]
[caption id="attachment_7557" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="YMCMB: Early Nicki"]
[caption id="attachment_7558" align="aligncenter" width="800" caption="This is not a grill, I repeat, this is not a grill"]
6 Foot 7 Foot
[caption id="attachment_7563" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Cover of I Am Not a Human Being"]
Lil Wayne pioneered the weirdness that is so popular now in rap. He was one of the first to really let his freak flag fly, unafraid of the response he might get from the public. His incredible lyrical talent combined with his charming, quick witted and silly personality allowed him to create a public image of the extraterrestrial sort. His wild quirkiness kept the public panting for more, and his work is instantly identifiable as it exists in a scape of more of the same. Others have followed suit -- Gucci Mane, Wacka Flacka and most recently Tyler the Creator (who we LOVE
) -- and as a result the rap//hiphop of today has become endlessly more interesting than it was in say 1999 when Weezy started his solo career. Weirdos just really make everything better, don't they?
//images via tumblr