“YO, CAN YOU TURN THAT SHIT OFF PLEASE?”
I was 13.
I had woken up from a nap on the couch in my living room because my inconsiderate sister was blasting a song from my family’s computer of some guy yelling “IMMA NI**A WIT MONEY, IMMA NI**A WIT MONEY, IMMA NI**A WIT MONEY AND I DON’T LOVE DAT B**CH” on repeat for what felt like 2 hours. After that night, I couldn’t get it out of my head for like 2 weeks.
Now, me being caucasian, the youngest of 4 with three sisters and raised in the suburbs, the first glimpse of hip hop that I can remember is from when I was about 7 years old. Eminem’s ‘The Real Slim Shady’ video was on MTV in the local deli, and my friend’s older brother had began to sing “I’m Slim Shady, yes I’m The Real Shady, all you other Slim Shady’s are just imitating…” for the rest of our time together at the beach. Those “hip hop was better in the ’90s” fans would probably laugh at me, but I was raised around pop radio like Z100 and they fed me N’SYNC & shit. I’m not mad at it. N’SYNC gave us classic material, but you get my point.
After growing out of the boy band phase to Eminem, blink-182, Linkin Park and Kanye, my sister accidentally introduced me to my new favorite. Of course, in that moment of pure hatred for consciousness, I had no idea that he would become my all-time favorite human being to ever exist, or that he was even the same guy on that one Destiny’s Child song. I had no idea who I was back then to be honest. I just knew I wanted to go back to sleep but “work on the kitchen table… where the bags at?” in that annoying. ass. voice. had already taken over my mind. I probably thought I was so cool rapping that in middle school the next day even though of course I had no idea the context of what he was talking about.
*fast forward to 2016*
New project with 2 Chainz and Wayne dropping this Friday pic.twitter.com/IZwN3mnkIS
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) March 2, 2016
There was news that a 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne joint project was in the works. Anybody who is a fan of the song Duffle Bag Boy should have had ample anticipation for this project, but it truthfully baffled me to see people overlook the man who influenced this culture as much as Wayne has.
2 Chainz opens up ColleGrove with a song called Dedication. Every Weezy fan could have guessed it was a Lil Wayne tribute song before listening, due to his famous Dedication mixtape series. 2 Chainz did not only speak on how Wayne influenced hip hop, but how he personally helped Chainz become the rap star that he is today. The song starts with a sample of a recorded conversation between Lil Wayne and Tity Boi (the former alias of 2 Chainz while he was apart of the rap duo Playaz Circle). After Wayne says that Cris (Ludacris) should drop him his Disturbing Tha Peace label and come over to Young Money, 2 Chainz starts rapping “if it wasn’t for Wayne, it wouldn’t be… a lot of dudes in the game, including me”. Although 2 Chainz never ended up signing with YM, that could not be a more real way to start off the album. And for anybody who has any idea of me at all, you already know that this must have resonated with me on a personal level.
If it wasn’t for Wayne, I would not be one of the dudes in the game. I’m not a rapper (technically), but it wasn’t until I became a fan of Lil Wayne that I really understood my love and passion for hip hop culture, the art of lyricism/wordplay and the music business in general. His influence not only on me, but to an entire culture and generation for MULTIPLE reasons is the true reason I always call him the greatest to ever do it.
I could sit here and talk about how many times I’ve heard him rap punchlines wondering how somebody could possibly be clever enough to piece them together. I could also talk about the countless number of blunts I’ve smoked to his No Ceilings mixtape in high school arguing with basically my entire grade about whose beat he destroyed the most. Or the anticipation I felt leading up to the release of Tha Carter III, which to this day has only been personally matched by Kanye West with The Life of Pablo. But, there’s much bigger fish to fry in the career of Lil Wayne.
Lil Wayne is a pop-rock-rap star. During his run from 2007 to 2011 (Da Drought 3 thru Tha Carter IV), it was borderline unarguable that Lil Wayne was the hottest hip hop artist on the planet. Yes, I can admit that A LOT of it had to do with his self-proclaimed “Best Rapper Alive” campaign that he branded himself with. BUT, the proof of this run is very evident that those words were also indeed fact.
Wayne damn near did everything in that time period. He was sentenced to Riker’s Island prison for 8 months. He dropped an album that won him 4 Grammy awards and followed that up with a certified gold rock album. He gave us Da Drought 3, Dedication 3 AND No Ceilings. A lot of people forget about the We Are Young Money compilation album and I Am Not A Human Being. (I mean c’mon… EveryGirl? Pass The Dutch?? Roger That??? Right Above It????) He was able to maintain his radio relevance with either own his singles or being featured on damn near every record that got spun. He controlled mainstream rap and underground rap simultaneously. If you weren’t bumping his radio records, you FOR SURE had his throwaway leaks (most likely I Feel Like Dying & Something You Forgot) on repeat. Lord knows how many viruses my laptop had gotten from all those Limewire downloads.
He was one of the first to fully take advantage of the Internet’s capabilities and adapt from the traditional ways of the music industry. I would go as far to even put part of the blame on Lil Wayne for why music distribution is in such a terrible place right now. A “mainstream recording artist” releasing free mixtapes for download/stream? Uploading leaks to YouTube? Oh, and still putting out multi-platinum albums? Before the “SoundCloud era” hit and streaming became the wave (no pun intended), he was the frontman of every brick-and-mortar distribution outlet where music could possibly be heard and consumed.
Now, let me get into his sonic influences. I’ll start with the obvious one…
He grew up literally idolizing this man. He idolized him so much to the point of taking one of his favorite Lil Wayne songs, Eat You Alive, and basically molding his vocal delivery after it. That whiney, melodic and confusing sound where you have no idea what the fuck he’s talking about but for some reason works… that all came from a sound that Weezy tha God created. Even the unfiltered sexual content and outrageously pieced together similes/metaphors that have made Young Thug popular is an evolved style of material we’ve heard from Lil Wayne for years. Truthfully, I’ll admit I fully became a Young Thug fan after I saw an interview where he was asked his biggest influences and he replied “uhhh Wayne…. Wayne… and uhhh Wayne”. I guess that’s where it all made sense to me, and of course I resonated with the fact that he understands Lil Wayne’s influence as much as me and wants to keep it alive through his own music.
At this very moment in time, Future is the hottest artist in the clubs. Don’t even begin to tell me you don’t lose your shit every single time you hear March Madness in any imaginable setting. Future has made a career off making seemingly effortless hits with the help of an amazing production team. The explicit, codeine-influenced, autotune sound that has made Future the most beloved trap artist in the club was started by none other than Mr. Carter. Before Lil Wayne released his world-renowned, Grammy award winning hit record Lollipop, autotune use was only popular by T-Pain within the urban R&B market. Wayne used a combination of his already-exotic voice with this computerized vocal effect to develop a unique sound never heard before from a gangster hip hop artist.
You can hear evolved versions of Lil Wayne’s various music styles all over by today’s biggest stars.
Think about this…
Take a look at the hip hop and music culture as we know and understand it today. Now, remove Lil Wayne’s presence, music career and influence from the equation and try to image what would be left…
Not very much.
All of the hottest rappers in the game today look at Lil Wayne as a respected OG. What’s funny is, he’s only 33 years old. Like, he’s younger than Danny Brown type shit. Kanye was 33 when he released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. So despite still being considered middle aged in the rap community, he still has that OG presence because he’s been doing this professionally for so long. And to A LOT of his old fan base, he has “fallen off”. Even if you don’t feel Tunechi like you used to, you better believe that his influence lives on through your current favorite rappers.
Recently, Kendrick Lamar told XXL that Lil Wayne is the greatest. He said that it was not just because of the music, but because of the culture he created behind the music. Chance The Rapper has also publicly stated that Lil Wayne is his favorite rapper AND the greatest rapper alive to this day. Even Bryson Tiller has spoke on how Lil Wayne has always been one of his favorites and musical inspirations. Including Young Thug, it seems to me that all the young artists that I respect in my age group all share a mutual respect for Lil Wayne, so clearly it’s seen beyond my personal perspective.
When it comes to the business of hip hop, not many people have done it quite like Lil Wayne and Young Money Entertainment. Before 2009 AKA the beginning of the 6 God takeover, Young Money was only really known as Lil Wayne’s rap posse. He had names like Curren$y and Omarion signed to YM, but after they broke away from the label, all that was left were the names you would most likely skip over on Lil Wayne’s mixtapes. No offense to these guys, but Gudda Gudda, Jae Millz, Lil Twist and Lil Chuckie never really got anything poppin’ for themselves. They had their moments of greatness where you could acknowledge the potential that Lil Wayne saw in them, but on a macro-scale in the music industry, they haven’t reached the heights that Lil Wayne *hopefully* saw in them.
That was until November 18th, 2008 when Lil Wayne flew out this Canadian-born, half black/half jewish child actor by the name of Aubrey Graham. After weeks to months of Houston’s own Jas Prince slipping Lil Wayne these songs by this guy Drake, which Wayne claimed to call “whack” at first, he finally heard a remix of his own song called Man Of The Year. As the record states, he got him on the phone immediately after listening and flew him out to Houston.
There is no Drake without Lil Wayne. The 6 God as we know and love him today would not be this beloved music figure without the assistance of Wayne. Between placing Drake on his own singles, putting him in positions with basically EVERY music friend he had AND giving him over one million dollars just to sign to Young Money, Drake’s rise to mass stardom came quicker than 911 in white neighborhoods… and no, they ain’t got no shame ’bout it.
On ‘Upgrade’ off Da Drought 3, Lil Wayne raps “…and I just signed a chick named Nicki Minaj…”
That came out in 2007.
For me, it all started with the infamous lyric “maybe it’s time to put this pussy on your sideburns” and it was like Nicki Minaj instantly became the biggest female in rap after that. Between running the radio with Ludacris on My Chick Bad then stealing the show from Jay Z and Kanye on Monster, she solidified herself as THE female voice in hip hop. Aside from her being on a few of the We Are Young Money album records, she didn’t really lean on Lil Wayne musically to gain her success as much as Drake did. Wayne just used every relationship he had, along with his Midas-like influence, to position her in the right places to become the superstar she is today. And she is a forever icon. I mean seriously, “which bitch you know made a million off a mixtape???”
“You tatted your face and changed the culture…” is how 2 Chainz opens up the second verse on his song Dedication. Lil Wayne has been scrutinized for the abundance of tattoos that can be found all over his body. His most famous raindrop face tattoos have been a talk of attention for him because those tattoos are rumored to symbolize lives you have taken as a gang member. It’s no secret that Wayne reps the Bloods, but his gang stories and street life hasn’t been openly discussed into the details I would be intrigued to hear about.
Since Wayne has inked his whole body, it seemed to become a common trend in hip hop and music culture. Rappers like Wiz Khalifa, Soulja Boy, Lil B, YG and the old Young Money signee Tyga have tattoos basically all over their bodies as well. Even singers like Chris Brown and Justin Bieber have dabbled into the extensive tattoo culture.
Lil Wayne has never been scared to push limits, say how he feels or do what he pleases. He has never been scared to be himself, and managed to achieve immaculate success and influence an abundance of lives through being himself 100% of the time. To this day, Drake even says the best advice Wayne has ever given him was to always be himself and not try to be like anybody else out there.
A lot of people say that Lil Wayne has been on a musical decline ever since he discovered his passion for skateboarding. The best part about that is he does not care at all what anybody thinks. One of my favorite Lil Wayne quotes is when he says that he will do what he wants and loves until he dies, and if he cannot do that, then he might as well be dead.
Lil Wayne’s importance of individual happiness and living life how you want for yourself has been a major influence on my personal mentality and this EVRYDY lifestyle I want to share with the world. Ever since that night on the couch when I was 13, I would be on hip hop blogs after school EVRYDY listening to every new Lil Wayne song and feature, downloading every possible leak from Limewire and searching YouTube in hopes I could hear this man say the next “most clever punchline ever” so I could put it in my AIM profile… and share his greatness with my peers of course. His music has given me so much joy and happiness over the years. The memories that he has assisted me create with his art are times that I wouldn’t change for anything. Still to this day when I rediscover an old Lil Wayne classic, like I’m Raw or Pill Poppin Animal, I get the same feeling from the first time I listened; being that young, naïve kid looking for someone and something to believe in. I will always believe in Lil Wayne and credit his influence to all of my future success in this mess we call the music industry.
Plain and simple, if it wasn’t for Lil Wayne, I would not be the man I am today. The culture we love to enjoy and criticize would be NOTHING as we currently know it… and to quote appropriately Weezy F, “if you don’t like it, fuck you, no Vaseline.”