A eulogy for Weezy’s career
The year was 2008, I was starting seventh grade and I decided that I liked rap music. Eminem’s “Just Lose It” was my first taste of the genre, inspiring me to jump on LimeWire and illegally download as much late 90s, early 2000s rap as I could, riddling my moms’ laptop with viruses in the process. As I sifted through the plethora of Nelly, Notorious BIG, Ludacris and countless other names, I came across the nasally voice of the self-proclaimed “best rapper alive,” Lil Wayne.
Nobody was as confident, boisterous or as flashy as Lil Wayne. His liberal use of the “F” word, in-your-face sense of style and infatuation with codeine and marijuana were a look into a world I knew absolutely nothing about. His lifestyle was extravagant and intoxicating, especially to an impressionable 13-year-old. There was something about his swagger that captivated me. I found myself texting using “z’s” and “k’s” instead of “s’s” and “c’s,” my Myspace bio was a line from his song “3Peat,” and the signature on my texts was usually a lyric from one of Tha Carters. As a benchwarmer on the B-team for seventh grade basketball, I don’t remember much of the season (14 points in 14 games, all free throws) but I do remember the bus rides where I got to sit with my headphones bumping Tha Carter III on repeat.
Swagger, long dreadlocks and the ability to throw money around with reckless abandon have long been traits exemplified by rappers, and Wayne checked all of those boxes, sometimes multiple times. However, he distinguished himself through his intricate wordplay, hilarious one-liners, abundance of nicknames (Lil Tunechi, Weezy, Weezy F. Baby, etc.) and unconventional, nasally delivery. At the time, you could pick his voice out anywhere and wouldn’t dream confusing him with another rapper.
His influence is everywhere in the current rap landscape. Lil Yachty, Future, Young Thug and Desiigner are all switching up their voices to separate themselves from the pack. He was also one of the first rappers to dip his toes into the mixtape pool. Churning out 26 free tapes that made it impossible for other rappers to compete with.
Though he is undoubtedly the king of mixtapes, the glory of Lil Wayne’s career lies within Tha Carter trilogy. If Nas’ Illmatic, considered by many to be the best rap album of all time, is the goal for what albums should sound like, Lil Wayne would have three Illmatics.
Tha Carter I sold 878,000 copies in the United States and had songs like “Go DJ” and “This is The Carter” which laid the groundwork and level of expectation for the future. The Carter II, the quintessential Lil Wayne album, sold 2 million plus copies worldwide. You’d be hard-pressed to find an album with more criminally aggressive and explicit bars laid out over flawless production.
However, neither of the first two albums were quite as impressive as Tha Carter III. Wayne sold one million copies in the first week of sales and received 4 Grammy Awards. Tha Carter III was inescapable. Even if you didn’t intentionally listen to this album you heard “Lollipop” being played on repeat at your local skate land.
With 16 total albums, four going platinum and eight going gold, 26 mixtapes and hundreds, if not thousands of songs, Wayne will go down as the best to ever do it. For many, looking back on middle school is a cringy trip down memory lane, full of braces, acne and other awkwardness. For me, I can look past the poor fashion decisions and awful Myspace pictures and remember putting headphones on and hearing that signature laugh from Wayne. However, this time, the “F” is for forever.