Last weekend, the news of Lil Wayne's health issues gave us at the Weekly quite a shock. As longtime fans of Weezy, we were happy to hear as the conflicting reports subside that it sounds like he's going to pull through. Being that we seemingly came so close to losing him, what better time than now to be thankful for his many gifts and review a sampling of his work that encapsulate what makes him such a beloved figure in hip-hop? This is the Wide World of Lil Wayne.
Lil Wayne made his on-record debut for Ca$h Money when his age was in the single digits. Over time he fine-tuned his charisma and refined his skill into one of the most promising young artists in the rap game. After contributing memorable hooks and outros to some of 1999's biggest singles, he ended the year with his first major solo song "Tha Block is Hot." His variety of flows and masterful use of intrigue solidified Wayne as a surefire force to be reckoned with.
Lil Wayne, "The Sky's the Limit" (2007)
Wayne's mixtape run of the mid-2000s at a time when commercial interest in the genre was an all-time low allowed him to make unfiltered artistic statements to the streets and develop a reputation as one of the best MCs hip-hop had going. With an excellent choice of beat selection and understanding of how to make any beat his own, Wayne took one of the era's monster rap hits, "Mr. Jones" by Mike Jones (who?) and created a beast all his own in "The Sky's the Limit." Touching on struggles in the community, his own inter-turmoil and still sliding in a moment or two of trademark Wayne humor (if you were curious on Wayne's position on the movie Gremlins, this is the song for you) Wayne showed that rap was his world and, for a time, other artists were just living in it.
Lil Wayne, "Alphabet Bitches" (2007)
One often under-appreciated aspect of Wayne is his passion and reverence for the hip-hop that had come before him. In 2007, he recorded a remake of early-era Cash Money rap group PxMxWx's "Alphabet Bitches," maintaining their Too $hort-esqe concept of naming all his ladies in alphabetical order, but infusing enough Wayne style to make his spin a worthy incarnation all its own. Not many artists will dip over a decade back in their label's catalog for a stirring regional tribute, but that's part of what makes Wayne such a gem.
Playaz Circle, "Duffle Bag Boy" featuring Lil Wayne (2007)
When the brouhaha caused by Lil Wayne topping Elvis' record last year for most charting singles reached critical mass, many of Weezy's detractors cited the fact that Elvis' songs were mostly solo releases whereas Wayne was often the featured act in a group effort. What such criticism fails to take into account is that, even if it wasn't technically Wayne's song, Wayne made it his song. The chorus he contributed to 2 Chainz (then "Tity Boi")'s old group Playaz Circle's "Duffle Bag Boy" was an absolutely unstoppable hit that capped of a year where Wayne appeared on over 70 (!) officially released songs. If Wayne looked at you, you had a buzz and if he gave you a hook, you had a hit. That's the magic of Lil Wayne.
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Lil Wayne, "A Milli" (2008)
Finally, there's "A Milli." After "Lollipop" was the pop smash that was set to make Wayne's decade in the spotlight climax with over a million copies sold his first week, Wayne used the world's attention to prove that, when given a chance, he could snap on a beat like few before or since. Rhyming over a minimalist beat that sounds sonically almost like an anti-single, Wayne demonstrates his gifts of flow, lyrics and presence into a rapping clinic that became one of the year's absolute biggest songs.