Lil Wayne may look super young, but the respected Grammy Award-winning American rapper who has shaken up the music industry with sizeable hits such as “A Milli” and “Lollipop,” has been putting out music professionally for over 20 years. Let’s not forget that Wayne’s first studio album as a group member of the Hot Boys with Juvenile, B.G., and Turk called Get It How You Live! came out in 1997. Then about two years later, he hit up audiences with his solo effort called Tha Block Is Hot, followed by albums like Free Weezy Album, Rebirth, Tha Carter IV, and I Am Not a Human Being II.Both of those releases were from a high school Lil Wayne who was already tied in directly with the New Orleans Cash Money camp that was started by the two brothers, the flamboyant Bryan “Birdman” Williams and his more low-key brother and partner Ronald “Slim” Williams. With the career of Lil Wayne or “Young Money” still meaning something today in the world of hip hop, how old is Lil Wayne, and what were some of the history-making highlights?
From Cash Zero to Cash Money
The rapper Lil Wayne was born as Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. on September 27, 1982, in New Orleans, Louisiana, which will make him only 38-years-old in 2020. Lil Wayne has been involved in the creation of music since he was a little kid growing up in one of the most economically deprived neighborhoods in the historically vibrant city of New Orleans – a place called Hollygrove.Just how little was Lil Wayne when he first got addicted to his creative rap habit? He was only 8 years of age. When he met Bryan and Slim Williams who are the founding fathers of Cash Money Records, they were interested enough to give the young lad a business card, and eventually, they took him seriously enough to allow him to start hanging around their record label as they began fostering his boundless ambition.Even though Lil Wayne didn’t start releasing commercially available music until the latter half of the 1990s, his first recording for Cash Money Records was True Stories in 1993 with future Hot Boys member rapper, B.G., under the name the b.g.z’. This may seem all good like the start of the lucrative burgeoning career that we know the hip-hop artist for today, but not quite yet.When Wayne wasn’t recording in the studio, he was selling crack for a little bit and nearly took his own life by shooting himself in the chest when his mother told him he couldn’t rap anymore. He told Rolling Stone:“It was my mom’s gun… It was like a chopper hit me. But the bullet went straight through, and I bounced back in two weeks.”Now with Lil Wayne becoming a part of the Hot Boys, he started to experience some success, adding confidence that this rap music dream of his was going to come to fruition. B.G., Juvenile, Turk, and Wayne were not only the four sides that made up the Hot Boys, but they were all up-and-coming artists whose growth had started to sprout beyond their regional market.The Hot Boys’ debut album, Get It How U Live! (1997), sold more than 400,000 copies, almost bringing home a Gold plaque, with their following project, Guerilla Warfare (1999), doing more than twice as much business as Get It How U Live! – selling over 1 million copies, making the Hot Boys a platinum-selling unit and Lil Wayne that much closer to stardom.
Tha Block Is Hot
With Hot Boys being the ideal launching pad for each member to become solo entities in their own right, Lil Wayne took the solo career leap with Tha Block Is Hot (1999), with the title track blowing up hot enough to help put Tha Block Is Hot on the top of the hip-hop charts. The Hots and members of the Hot Boys, as well as the Big Tymers (Brian Williams and Mannie Fresh) all got some shine on the album, keeping any rumors of a break-up from popping up.Tha Block Is Hot would go even further in terms of sales, becoming a bonafide double platinum project, putting Cash Money Records even higher up in the stratosphere as a house of hip hop hits. There was no slowing down for Lil Wayne, with his next pair of albums being Lights Out (2000) and 500 Degreez (2002), even though they didn’t hit the high mark in sales as his debut did.What was the big transition that led to the more simplified Lil Wayne from back then and the member of the ‘greatest of all time’ conversation club that he currently is in? Wayne took some time away from releasing traditional albums and focused on releasing underground mixtapes, such a Da Drought (2003), typically with recognizable beats from other artists and all new lyrics.
Tha Carter Series
Similar to how another unrelated rapper with the last name Carter, Shawn Carter is otherwise known as Jay-Z, had his own series of albums linked together with the title: “In My Lifetime,” Dwayne Carter did the same as Lil Wayne used his last name to start Tha Carter series of albums, currently up to Tha Carter V (2018). The title “The Carter” also had a double meaning; it was also what actor Wesley Snipe’s character Nino Brown called his crack house empire in the crime drama movie New Jack City from 1991. This play on ‘The Carter’ from the film was Lil Wayne’s way of saying that he was hustling a red-hot and addictive product in the form of music that listeners would be sure to get hooked on.Back In 2004 though, Lil Wayne released the very first installment, Tha Carter, a hugely popular album that helped transform the way hip hop enthusiasts and lyric lovers appreciated his music. Starting off with the very first single, “Go D.J.,” this new and improved Lil Wayne was conquering both the hip-hop and pop charts. This double-platinum project was predominantly produced by the architect of the Cash Money Records sound – the one and only Mannie Fresh.Thanks to the songwriter’s constant succession of mixtape releases, he was now trained and in the flow of recording and releasing music prolifically. Fans definitely would not have to wait several years to hear Tha Carter 2; it was ready and waiting for them in record stores the following year in 2005, debuting at the No. 2 spot on the Billboard 200 pop charts with more critical acclaim for Wayne. It also didn’t hurt that Tha Carter 2 had a cameo appearance on the Destiny’s Child smash hit “Soldier” before it was released. Tha Carter III in 2009 featured a whole handful of sizzling singles, including the No. 1 hits “A Milli” and “Lollipop,” and there was even a connection with Jay-Z appeared on the track “Mr. Carter,” with Dwayne Carter and Shawn Carter together. T-Pain was featured on “Got Money,” and for an even bigger display of star power, Babyface, Robin Thicke, Busta Rhymes, and Juelz Santana showed up on songs for Tha Carter III. Three was definitely a lucky number on this album. Not only was it the third edition of The Carter series, but it also wound up selling over 3 million copies. He ended up winning Grammy Awards for best rap album, best rap song, and later best rap performance. However, 2009 wasn’t all good for Lil Wayne as he pled guilty to criminal possession of a weapon after a 2007 incident in New York and was sent to Rikers Island Prison. This section of Lil Wayne’s career is an essential time in his redevelopment, and it can be argued that it recharged his batteries moving forward, keeping him moving with enough energy to outpace the next generation of younger rappers and to hold his own with those older than him, especially now that he has a son with Lauren London and has established his own record label, Young Money Entertainment. He has compiled a lot of albums, hit songs, mixtapes, and collaborations with artists like Drake, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Eminem.