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Lil’ Wayne – Drop it Like it’s Hot
The rap industry is renowned for its fickle nature. Considering how young of a subculture it is, hip hop has produced few artists that have managed to sustain success for a long period of time. While there have been some artists like Jay-Z, LL Cool J, and Snoop Dogg that have consistently retained top selling albums while maintaining their credibility, the unfortunate truth is that many hip hop artists find that their careers are shortened by irrelevance and in some cases tragedy. Although this may seem like a tough burden, the fickle nature of hip hop is often credited for the innovative nature of the music. As each year brings new trends, it’s truly an honor to be considered a respected veteran in the game that is hip hop.
It may seem strange to give the label of rap veteran to a man that is only in his early 20s, but New Orleans MC Lil’ Wayne truly deserves this moniker. The man has a considerable resume that dates back to his childhood days where he was working hard to put New Orleans on the national hip hop map. Strangely enough, Lil’ Wayne’s stature continues to grow with every new release. Often derided as a novelty in the early parts of his career, Lil’ Wayne now has the distinction of having a respected back catalogue of albums and being considered a shining light in hip hop’s future. With his impressive array of flows and armed to the teeth with devastating punch lines and metaphors, Lil’ Wayne represents the past, present and future of rap. The question remains – how did such a unique situation even occur?
Although Hurricane Katrina unfortunately brought the city of New Orleans to the front page of newspapers for tragic reasons, the Big Easy has always been known as a prideful place. Well known for its festive Mardi Gras ceremony and for being the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans has also been the home of some of the toughest streets in the country. It was in the poverty stricken and crime filled Hollygrove area of the 17th ward in New Orleans that Lil’ Wayne was born in. Dwayne Michael Carter was born on September 27, 1982 where he was immediately greeted by the harsh realities of life. His biological father left the family while Carter was an infant and his step father, Reginald “Rabbit” Carter would leave the family by the time Lil wayne was 16.
A precocious child, Lil’ Wayne had to carefully resist the temptations of drugs and crimes that surrounded him at such a young age. Although New Orleans may be a tough place to live in, it is also a cultural hotspot. During his early years, Lil’ Wayne was able to watch as the New Orleans hip hop scene developed and slowly grow. At the time, hip hop was considered an East Coast and West Coast thing and Southern hip hop artists had little chance to gain national attention. Still, local recording label, Cash Money Records was giving the people of New Orleans real hip hop created by natives of the city. Formed in 1992, Cash Money Records were producing artists like Pimp Daddy and U.N.L.V. who quickly grabbed young Lil’ Wayne’s ears.
With a newly found love for hip hop, Lil’ Wayne started to make his move. He would frequently appear at neighborhood block parties where he would meet Cash Money Records artist Lil Slim. Also from the same neighborhood, Lil Slim was impressed by Lil Wayne’s abilities and would later introduce him to Cash Money Records owners, Brian “Baby” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams. While the budding music moguls were impressed by Lil Wayne’s skills, they initially passed on signing him. To be fair, Lil Wayne was 11 years old at the time and historically, young rappers have had short careers.
Undeterred by this early rejection, Lil Wayne would show the pluck that would catapult him into musical stardom. Peppering Baby’s answering machine with freestyles and making almost daily visits to the Cash Money Records offices, Lil Wayne gave Cash Money Records little choice but to sign him. Impressed by the grand ambitions of Lil Wayne, Cash Money Records would sign Lil Wayne while he was still only 11 years old. The growing record label would pair Lil Wayne with a then 13 year old artist known Lil Doggie, who would later become known as B.G. This prepubescent duo formed the group, The B.G.’z that would release the 1995 album, “True Story.” With his passion focused solely on music, Lil’ Wayne would take the step of dropping out of school at the tender age of 13.
Although there have been successful adolescent hip hop acts like Lil Bow Wow and Kriss Kross, Lil Wayne was able to distinguish himself with his subject matter. Eschewing the youthful subject matter of these acts, Lil Wayne took on the more hard hitting, gangsta street style of most hip hop acts. In 1997, Lil Wayne would form the group “Hot Boys” with Cash Money Records most prominent artists – B.G., Juvenile, and Turk. With Cash Money Records house producer Mannie Fresh supplying the beats, the Hot Boys would take the label to new heights. While Cash Money Records was a local success, they were virtually ignored by the rest of rap world. However, the success of New Orleans rap label, No Limit Records meant that the eyes of the hip hop world couldn’t ignore the Southern hip hop style any longer.
This newly formed group released their debut album, “Get It How You Live” later that year. The album was a massive success and brought Cash Money Records some national exposure. The record label would sign a distribution deal with Universal Records that ensured that their young roster of artists would get the proper national exposure. In 1998, the Hot Boys would release their sophomore album, “Guerilla Warfare” that would make Cash Money Records one of the most popular record labels of that year. With their brash style and their inventive use of slang, including popularizing the term bling, the stage was set for Lil Wayne to drop a solo album. At 17 years old, Lil Wayne released his debut album, “Tha Block is Hot,” which went on to reach number three on the Billboard charts.
Everything was going great for Lil Wayne and the rest of Cash Money Records. The artists had firmly established New Orleans as a creative hot bed for hip hop and found a frequent home among the top of the music charts. Lil Wayne’s sophomore album, “Lights Out” and his third album “500 Degreez” were released in 2000 and 2003 respectively. However, the high times did not last long as the label was slowly disintegrating. As previously mentioned, the rap industry can be harsh and it’s common for massive successes to crumble within a few years. The rest of the Hot Boys quickly became dissatisfied with the business practices of “Baby” and “Slim,” which led to their departure from Cash Money Records. Additionally, many hip hop critics found that the crude sound of the records on Cash Money and the stunted lyrical ability of their artists meant that Cash Money Records and Lil Wayne were yesterday’s news.
Perhaps out of loyalty to “Baby,” who Lil Wayne to this day refers to as a father figure, Lil Wayne remained with the struggling company. Considered a hip hop has been at 21, Lil Wayne worked diligently to craft his next record. In 2004, he emerged with his forth album, “Tha Carter.” A massive success that showcased the skills that Lil Wayne possessed, “Tha Carter” reestablished Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records. Additionally, “Tha Carter” showcased Lil Wayne’s lyrical prowess and disproved the theory that Southern hip hop couldn’t produce any notable lyricist.
Riding on a new professional high, Rapper Lil Wayne quickly worked on his follow up album, “Tha Carter II.” While “Tha Carter” had been widely praised as the best album of Lil Wayne’s career, everybody agreed that “Tha Carter II” was an even bigger step in the right direction. Working without Mannie Fresh for the first time in his career, “Tha Carter II” propelled Lil Wayne into the discussion of the best contemporary rapper. Showcasing a nimble flow, his considerable charisma, and a brash arrogance, Lil Wayne had done the unlikely and impressed hip hop critics throughout the country. On his duet with r&b singer, Robin Thicke, Lil Wayne even courted the mainstream by performing on such shows as “The Tonight Show.”
Since the release of “Tha Carter II” in 2005, Lil Wayne has been raising the bar with each passing release. On a personal note, Lil Wayne had begun dating Miami rapper Trina. Speculation was running rampant about the two showcasing the increased starpower of Lil Wayne. Although Lil Wayne is continuing to work on the third installment of “Tha Carter” series, he has kept busy by releasing mixtapes and collaboration albums.
One mixtape that increased Lil Wayne’s reputation and visibility was his collaboration with DJ Drama. Considered a kingmaker in the Southern hip hop scene, DJ Drama is one of the most sought after DJs in the country. He is so big that he and his business partners were recently arrested by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) for allegedly bootlegging, despite the fact that record labels court DJ Drama to use their artists on his mixtapes. The Lil Wayne and DJ Drama mixtape, “Dedication 2” showcased the increasing lyrical skill of Lil Wayne. However, one song in particular, “Georgia …. Bush,” which blamed President George Bush for his government’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina was particularly notable. Hip hop fans were salivating, as Lil Wayne has shown his ability to lyrically dabble in heavier material.
As Lil Wayne’s status in the music industry continues to grow, he is finding that more people are attempting to take shots at him. His former cohorts in the Hot Boys have been critical of Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records. However, these artists have failed to reach the same heights critically and commercially as Lil Wayne has in recent times. Others have attempted to criticize Lil Wayne for a promotional picture that shows him kissing “Baby.” However, the two played down the controversy by explaining it was like a father-son kiss. Considering the two released a joint album titled, “Like Father, Like Son,” it’s easy to see the logic in their explanation.
While some people may hate on Lil Wayne’s massive appeal, there are much more who can’t get enough of what Lil Wayne does. His joint collaboration album with Juelz Santana fuelled such interest that the two have decided to release it as a studio album, rather than as a street mixtape. Lil Wayne is also currently working on “Tha Carter III,” which is among the most anticipated releases of the year. After all, who doesn’t want to hear what hip hop’s past, present, and future has to say?