Over a soulful beat that is reminiscent of Little Wayne’s mixtape output in the late 2000s, Weezy sounds polished while delivering three verses to the women in his life. It feels like a Drake verse, if not a longer chorus, prevents the song from escaping mediocrity.
Fittingly, Drake and Little Wayne reunite for their first collaboration (as a duo) since 2015, on a song whose title exemplifies exactly what Little Wayne’s been going through over the last few years, à la his back-and-forth battle with Young Money’s parent company, Cash Money. Drake starts off with a laid-back, catchy verse that touches on everything from Kaepernick, Jay-Z, and Meek Mill.
Months before he would begin his prison sentence, Wayne released the last album while he was at his peak. “Gonorrhea” wasn’t one of the album’s highlights, but it featured the double-time flow that Wayne was recognized for, along with a respectable verse from up-and-comer, Dizzy.
Just as you excitedly waited for Wayne to lay the smack down, the sound of his auto-tune drawl makes you want to turn it off immediately. In early 2011, Little Wayne entered prison as the best rapper alive; when he came out, his protégé (Drake) had undoubtedly usurped him as the alpha-dog in hip-hop.
Although Drake’s sole contribution was the hook, it was good enough to carry the song in between exceptional Wayne verses. Two years prior, Wayne had said “We on’ be alright if we put Drake on every hook”.
At the time “Used To” dropped in early 2015, it’d been over three years since Little Wayne had appeared on a Drake project. The last time, on Take Care’s “HFR” and “The Motto”, Drake was still trying to solidify his place atop hip-hop.
It was sobering to witness Drake wipes the floor with his mentor; on the other hand, it must’ve been rewarding for Little Wayne ; watching like a proud big brother, as his protégé took the rest of the rap game to school. Three months after proving he wasn’t washed with “Believe Me”, Little Wayne dropped what was assumed to be They Carter V’s second single.
Amidst his career Apex, Wayne’s protégé anchored the song just as he’d taught him. Rumored to have already secured a record deal with Young Money, Drake released So Far Gone in early 2009; none other than the label-head, Little Wayne, appeared on four tracks.
Little Wayne brings his full arsenal, anchoring the track with his own two-minute verse. On the heels of his magnum opus, They Carter III, Little Wayne was amidst a historic heat-check; teaming up with up-and-comer, Drake, was a statement.
While Best I Ever Had” cemented Drake’s crossover potential, his follow-up single, “Successful” solidified his ability as a rapper. The production is perfect, Trey Songs’ hook glistens, and Drake contributes what was at the time, the two- best verses of his career.
Backed by triumphant production, Drake leads the track off with what was at the time, arguably the best guest spot of his career, before Wayne does cartwheels over the beat. Weeks after getting out of jail, he was forced to anchor what is perhaps Drake’s best verse of his career, not to mention tasked with handling hook-duty.
The beat is catchier than anything on the radio today, Drake’s opening verses are addictive, and Little Wayne’s laid-back flow is the perfect curtain-call to the biggest hit they’ve been a part of. Their shared exuberance makes it impossible not to picture them smiling during their verses, two rappers basking in newfound territory; Drake, amidst his rapid ascent toward hip-hop’s throne; Wayne, perched at the top, happy to let his protégé in on the ride.
1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 -- Wayne's They Carter III sold over a million copies during its opening week. I ain’t tripping’ on nothing, I’m Pippin’ on something.” Wayne takes the time to lament on an old relationship, all while calmly celebrating his new freedom.
The track originally appeared on the mixtape No Ceilings, but quickly earned its spot on I Am Not A Human Being. The slower warped beat was an updated, unusual take for the rapper, but telling of Wayne’s growth by 2010.
With the help of the ever-smooth Bobby Valentino, Wayne delivers a slow jam for the ladies, all while emasculating all the cops who have ever done him wrong. Complete with a cultural reference to Rodney King, Wayne lays back on this one, making it one of his smoothest songs, and another testament to his witty metaphor skills.
After the catastrophic 2005 Hurricane Katrina swept the south, the rapper took aim at President George W. Bush, who was criticized for slow response to the natural disaster, and as Wayne puts, “let em kill all of our troops.” Long before the lawsuits, the accusations, and the deteriorating label, Bird man and Wayne ruled the south.
After Lil Wayne proved himself as the best out, he started working on an emcee worthy enough to pass the torch. By “Believe Me,” Drake was fairly established, but the Weezy affiliation still seemed connected to his name, and parts of his flow still seemed a little borrowed from his predecessor.
The first thirty seconds of “I’m Me” are basically a killer compilation of all the best Cash Money affiliates’ adults and assertions, from the Bird man bird call to the “it’s Cash Money Records man, a lawless gang.” Then what ensues is the closest a rap song can get to a power ballad -- a song with Wayne showing off as hard as he can go on a laid-back flow. He put it best when he said, “This is They Carter III, the New Testament.” The song spans a full five minutes, with Wayne not backing down once, trading in a faster flow for tact and lyrics, and flexing his iconic use of double entendres more than once.
The cut came from the first-ever Cash Money Records joint album, marking a time when the label was at its peak, before the lawsuits and online back-and-forths. Catching up on a beat that’s a bit more melodic than Weezy’s usual portfolio picks, “Hustler Music” is the rapper's own version of a more classic New York sound.
The combination makes for a Weezy track that delivers life advice and lessons in a way that’s a little softer than some others. In a showcase of a slightly more sentimental side, Wayne delivers one of the most relatable songs of his catalog -- a somber, cutting, and simple ode to lost friends and family, and fading friendships and relationships.
On any streaming platform, the comments below “I Miss My Dawgs” are flooded with messages to lost connections and relatives, a testament to the way the track hit with listeners. For a generation of fans, this debut solo single was the first track they heard from the scrappy 17-year-old Atlanta rapper.
No longer just a hype man for the older guys on the label, a much-younger Lil Wayne proved his prowess with this classic track. Wayne’s voice is as raspy as ever, and the video shows him baby-faced, still surrounded by the big kids on the label.
Over the iconic “Swag Surf” beat, Wayne begins with a flow similar to the original, but adds the exclamation points we expect from him at this point: clever wordplay (“watch me shooting to the bank, I’m a money pistol”), nearly four different flows on one track, and a consistency that lasts for the entirety of the five-minute song. At the height of the Auto-Tune movement arose the ultimate Auto-Tune masterpiece: “Lollipop,” an iconic Lil Wayne track based around an incredibly unsubtle innuendo.
The song and video immediately became a major mainstay on the spin cycle at TRL -- at a time when that meant a lot -- with cameos from R. Kelly and a very young Toga. Adding to its early 2000s glory, the track also became the #1 selling ringtone of 2008, bumping out of millions of flip-phone speakers across the nation.
Switching effortlessly between at least two different flows, Wayne saunters over the DJ Khaled beat, adding “fucking” to the list of words the F in Weezy F Baby stands for. The 2011 track was on the tail-end of his nearly half-decade long reign as hip-hop king, and the rapper went out with as much power and tactful lyricism as he came in with.
“Young money militia, and I am the commissioner, you don’t want to start Weezy causes the F is for finisher.” Wayne absolutely destroys the militaristic beat, pulling back on speed at points, only to emphasize absolute speed and dominance in his bars moments later. At one point, he spits “Ain't nobody fucking' with me, man /He-man, ski mask, spending' next week's cash, he fast, and I don't even need a G pass,” a play on words so casually brilliant only “the best rapper alive” could pull it off.
“Let The Beat Build” is a concept track at its core, a swaggering soulful rap ballad that takes one of the most recognizable samples of all time and pairs it with the then best rapper alive.” Its brilliance is -- as almost always -- in the way that Wayne can match, and then add, to a beat. Then, with only about a minute left, he dances off of it, quickly and cunningly dropping some of his most explosive bars, almost as if to prove it’s not just the Deeply and Kanye West produced beat that’s leading this track.
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The rise of streaming and its massive effect on record sales has pretty much done away with the art of the mixtape. Just a decade ago we witnessed a rap mixtape renaissance.
Drake's iconic “So Far Gone” led a 2009 that also saw monumental tapes from the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Kid Audi, Gucci Mane, Wale Toga and others. Their free releases ranks among the finest work of their respective careers.
We also kept things limited to the modern mixtape era, which essentially began in 2002 with the rise of G-Unit/50 Cent. Released for free on his mixtape “Back from the Dead,” Chief Keep’s “I Don’t Like” became a mainstream force when websites like Complex fell in love with it.
The song was so inescapable, Kanye West (and others) put together remixes, helping bring Chief Keep’s anthem further into the spotlight. Before signing a major label deal, Alabama rapper Werewolf came out the gate with a radio-ready anthem.
“Pop the Trunk” finds Werewolf showing a bit of restraint, as he tailors his rapid-fire flow to a haunting beat from South Carolina producer WIPER. The track became a mainstay on southern hip-hop stations and caught the ear of Eminem who signed Werewolf to Shady Records.
The sound is absolutely cinematic as Sweatshirt makes his case as the standout member of the Odd Future crew. As a bonus on the standout “Couch,” Earl brings Tyler, the Creator along for the atmospheric ride.
To this day, “Back Seat,” which features him spitting crude rhymes over the “I Shot Ya” beat, is Mayo’s signature track. You could say Logic’s latest projects haven’t featured the same hunger he showcased on earlier work.
Thankfully, it’s easy to go back to something like his “Young Sinatra” series. Lyrically, Logic gets high marks on “Dead Presidents III” from the “Undeniable” installment of the series.
The song finds him spitting fast rhymes over a piano drive beat with Na's’ legendary “The World Is Yours” line echoing on the hook. Gibbs’ flow is all over the place on this one, conquering a cinematic beat that builds to an epic hook.
Apparently, they don’t get the double meaning of its gangster reference and the rapid fire of his flow. MK was releasing standout tracks like “Black Tuxedos” and “Mind of a Stoner” for free.
But it was “Breaking News” that first showcased his mic skills on a mainstream level. The speedy track remains one of the most repeat worthy things MK has ever delivered.
“Never Want to Go Back” captures a sad moment in time for Max B. The rapper recorded “Never Want to Go Back” for one of his definitive mixtapes “Public Domain 6" just before being sentenced to 75 years in prison.
Knowing that, the song reaches a level of keeping it real that’s often unheard of these days. Currency has released a lot of projects, which makes going through all of them a daunting task.
What makes “Scottie Pippin,” from 2011’s “Covert Coup,” stand out is the fact guest Freddie Gibbs and Currency trade mind-boggling verses with a level of lyrical content usually reserved for breakthrough albums. Action Bronson’s debut mixtape “Bon Appétit….Bitch” would earn the heavyweight rapper comparisons to Ghost face Kill ah.
But Bronson’s content may have been even more bonkers than that of Ghost, revolving his first signature song, “Shiraz,” around food references and name-checking Niagara Falls, NBA Jam and Sasquatch. It only took a quick listen to Joey Badass’ debut mixtape “1999” for many to christen him rap’s next great lyricist.
Raw tracks like “Survival Tactics” were reminiscent of rap’s early 90s glory days. “Drugs You Should Try It” is tamer than the songs Travis Scott would become known for, which makes sense considering it’s an anthem about being high.
Borrowing the sonic palate Kanye West established on “808s & Heartbreak,” Scott raps about love and drugs as if one can’t be experienced without the other. It wasn’t until his seventh mixtape that 2 Chain began infiltrating mainstream circles.
But it did introduce fans to a compelling new personality on trunk-rattling anthems like the sensational “Riot,” produced by DJ Spin and featuring the kind of flow that would steal the show on Kanye West’s “Mercy” posse cut a year later. He centers the best track from his breakthrough 2013 “Innanetape” on an “All That” sketch.
The result is a breezy summer anthem that stands as one of Mensa’s finest achievements. But when it came time to battle 50 Cent, he knew how to hold his own by unleashing a seemingly endless number of bars aimed at the G-Unit capo.
The sequel to Game's loaded 200 bar G-Unit verse arrived at “You Know What It Is Volume 3” and featured lines like “You sell records, but a G you not…” The Game may have had help from Giddy in becoming a star. But it is every bit a star making vehicle for Playboy Cart.
Featuring like-minded trap rap soon-to-be star Lil Uzi Vert, the song catapulted Playboy to the forefront of the lo-fi trap-rap movement. Danny Brown’s “XXX” is a wild rollercoaster ride that will have you feeling a ton of emotions.
But it’s the final song, “30,” that puts the exclamation point on things. For all his drug use, stress and partying by the age of 30, Danny Brown is a wild man who should be dead but doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.
Mixtape: “Fahrenheit 1/15 Part II: Revenge of the Nerds” (2006) Whether Lupe Fiasco has released a classic album is up for debate (I’d say no).
On “Switch (The Science Project)”, from “Fahrenheit 1/15 Part II: Revenge of the Nerds,” Lupe goes into double-time mode over the beat to Mike Jones’ “Still Tipping’.” His confidence and abilities are at an all-time high. The second installment of Kendrick Lamar’s “Heart” series is the foreshadowing of what was to come.
On his final mixtape “Overly Dedicated,” Lamar was still developing into the emcee that would eventually sit on top of the rap game. 2,” with his flow speeding up throughout until it reaches the jaw-dropping pace that would eventually consume his best songs.
In reality, it’s simply just one hell of a catchy song about a guy hustling his way to the top. It’s an early showcase of Miller as an artist, crafting catchy songs that could make everyone sing.
Yes, Audi’s breakthrough mixtape “A Kid Named Audi” features the big hit “Day ‘n’ Nice.” But perhaps no song from that debut mixtape, recorded when Audi was just a kid from Cleveland, sums up his underdog nature like “Man on the Moon (Anthem).” This is emo-rap in the vain of Kanye West and every bit as good for a guy who used his status as an outsider to engage a loyal audience. Lloyd Banks was always lurking in the background on G-Unit’s mixtapes, teasing us as the most talented lyricist in the crew.
He took over the spotlight on “Money in the Bank” and its standout song “Air You’re a** Out.” Lines like “Bulletproof cap, I ain’t going out like Kennedy” and “As far as the clips, You know how gorillas feel about bananas” remain iconic in G-Unit folklore, even if Banks never fully stepped out of 50 Cent’s shadow. Chance the Rapper’s quirky rhyme style and love for breezy jazz beats was really representative of how far mixtapes had come by 2013’s.
And while there are several standouts (“Chain Smoker,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses”) it’s the beautiful “Acid Rain” that stays with you with its nostalgia factor and thought-provoking nature (“Sometimes, the truth don’t rhyme”). T.I.’s “Trap Muzak” made him a southern rap star in 2003.
But a year later, Little Flip lit a fire under the self-proclaimed king of the south, causing T.I. Even closes things out by referencing Little Flip wearing a leprechaun suit on an album cover.
Drake once said of “Type of Way,” the breakthrough single from Rich Home Juan’s “Still Going In: Reloaded” mixtape, that he wish he’d written it. The gold-selling single become one of the top hip-hop anthems of 2013 thanks to Juan’s off-kilter flow and glossy production from Young Carter.
Before beefing with Machine Gun Kelly, Eminem was known for annihilating any and everyone who dared cross him. In 2003, that was Benzine (aka the “83-year-old fake Pacino”) and The Source magazine, which was intent on trying to end Eminem’s career.
In response, Eminem fired back with a one-two punch on the first DJ Green Lantern “Invasion: Shady Records” mixtape with the brutal “Nail in the Coffin” and scathing “The Sauce.” The former comes with the memorable punchlines. Minos released two massive singles from its “Y.R.N.” mixtape that took the hip-hop world by storm.
The other was “Hannah Montana,” one of the most WTF moments in recent hip-hop history. And, in case you’re wondering, “Hannah Montana” (Yes, named after Miley Cyrus’ Disney character) represents drugs.
And while Jay says he isn't talking about anyone specific, the lines “It's Hopi baby/You Kobe, maybe. Without a surefire single, July Santana’s debut album didn’t live up to the expectations Def Jam had, making his sophomore effort make or break.
Big Sean was already an established name in the mixtape game thanks to his “Finally Famous: The Mixtape.” But he took things to the next level on its follow-up, dropping songs like “Million Dollars” and “Spa DUP,” which earned him the label as one of the next big things. His flow on “Spa DUP” would get jacked by some of your favorite rappers, setting the stage for his platinum-selling studio album.
One of the great mixtape artists of all time, Gucci Mane knew how to write a party anthem. Though, the song has a deeper meaning as Gucci conveys the exhaustion that comes with such a lifestyle.
His releases haven’t been as popular as those from Wiz Khalifa or Meek Mill. Olympus,” nothing really measure up to the emotional wallop of “Hometown Hero,” a song that features a compelling “Friday Night Lights” intro before K.R.I.T.
Annihilates a sample of Adele’s “Hometown Glory.” It’s the kind of beat you would never think of rapping over until K.R.I.T. Judaism’ “Rocky” moment came at the hands of Green Lantern, who sampled Will Smith’s catchphrase from “Ali” for one of the sickest beats of 2004.
The original version of Kanye West’s “Through the Wire” is astonishing to listen to. But the original on “Get Well Soon” is a showcase of the determination that would help establish West as a genius of his generation.
“So Far Gone” may very well be the most iconic mixtape of all time with its single Best I Ever” had becoming one of the biggest hip-hop hits of 2009. The track is a perfect marriage of Drake’s rap and R&B sides, even earning two Grammy nominations.
“When I feel really crazy, I just get on my broom and fly away” Final says during the intro. His album “Victory Lap” would find Nipsey perfecting the art of the song.
By the time of its release, Young Thug had been written off at an emcee who may have missed his shot. But Bird man knew the youngster could be Cash Money’s new Lil Wayne.
So once Thuggery gets going on “Givenchy,” he goes for broke with a series of lines that would establish him as the label’s next big star. Meek Mill became a mixtape king when he kicked off his “Dream chasers” series, which was massively popular.
On “Tony Story,” Meek shows off his incredible storytelling skills. His raw talent would set the stage for a second installment of “Dream chasers” that would shut down Ratliff.
The atmospheric sounds with chopped and screwed choruses on songs like the magnificent “Peso” were meshed with Rocky’s New York swagger. With “Peso,” ASAP Rocky laid down the blueprint of how to breakthrough with a commercial mixtape in the 2010s.
You could pick a lot of Future songs to land on this list (“F*** Up Some Commas,” “Perks Calling” and “Codeine Crazy” come to mind). But the moment where things changed for Future, and he became one of the biggest rap stars in the world is “March Madness.” The frantic nature of Future’s flow takes full hold of you on a socially conscious song about being harassed by the police while just trying to party.
It functions as a thought-provoking anthem, workout song and lyrical showcase for a rising star. Rick Ross has released some solid albums during his career.
But many fans still rate his 2012 mixtape “Rich Forever” at the top of the list. At the center of it is “Stay Scheming’.” But Ross isn’t the star of this show.
For fans that have been with Wiz Khalifa from the beginning, “Memorized” is the ultimate. The hazy track opens his iconic “Kush & Orange Juice,” one of the greatest mixtapes of all time, is inescapable and representative of Khalifa’s signature sound.
Joe Burden’s debut album may have featured a hit. Things reach their peak on “Mood Muzak 2” with “Dumb Out.” No one is safe on a vicious track that finds Burden airing all his grievances.
Jeezy’s “Trap or Die” mixtape was a monster, maybe even the best of DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grille series, which is saying something. The title track is a play on Daddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign from that time, only Jeezy takes things to the street.
A refined version of the song would later appear on Jeezy’s major label debut. “Lights Please” finds J. Cole merging his boastful raps with socially conscious material.
Yet, unlike other rappers on an intelligent tip, Cole’s rhymes didn’t come at the sacrifice of mainstream appeal. Things were still going strong into 2008 on the posse mixtape “Clips Presents: Re-Up Gang.” Malice and Re-Up Gang members Ab-Live and Sandman all bring the heat.
Chances are you first encountered “Wanks ta” after 50 Cent’s mixtape glory days were done, and he was about to make truckloads of money with Shady/Aftermath. The duo slapped the song on the end of the “8 Mile” soundtrack and 50 Cent’s major label debut “Get Rich or Die Train’,” giving it the ultimate exposure.
The opening of chords of “Sky Is the Limit” (aka “Ride 4 My N*****”) are unmistakable for Weezy steins. The wordplay is insane (“The only thing on the mind of a shark is eaten/By any means, and you just sardines”) with that first verse remaining one of Wayne’s best of all time.