You have his monstrous mid-2000s run where he stomped around with that undisputed Best Rapper in the World title, but there’s also all the stuff that came before that. The Best song: “Holley At Them Boy.” A great back-and-forth with Wayne and some guy named J. Gupta.
It’s also a novelty because it’s the only time he’s ever laid down a line as modest as “The hottest Carter next to Shawn.” 'The Prefix,' which features a fresh-faced Weezy tearing through a handful of Nigga classics, is probably the closest their rivalry came to smoldering; this was ONG before they kissed and made up on “Mr.
He slayed verses on “Look At Me Now,” and “I’m on One,” and put out “6” 7”,” which might be the greatest Wayne song of all time. Why it matters: The popular narrative is that Wayne fell off sometime after 'They Carter III,' burned out creatively and emotionally after a long prison sentence.
But titans of industry only sleepwalk for so long, and the just-released ‘Sorry 4 The Wait 2’ captures a rejuvenated Weezy that we always knew we’d see again. We never expected to witness a Wayne /Bird man feud, but here we are, and it has one of the best MCs in the world motivated.
‘The Dedication’ captures a young man freshly acquainted with his genius. After all, Snoop Dogg was making millions with “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” and Wayne knew full well that he’d coined that particular phrase years earlier.
Why it matters: ‘No Ceilings’ is one of the more forgotten gems in LilWayne’s (admittedly Byzantine) mixtape career. Here, Wayne comes to its defense, and furthers his beef with HOV which has subtly been the most enjoyable feud in all hip-hop.
‘The Drought is Over 2’ was released unofficially by an enterprising DJ named The Empire, who managed to pilfer a handful of tracks from the interminably delayed ‘The Carter III.’ But whatever the ethics, this tape still captures Wayne at one of his most creative moments, and not including it on this list just feels wrong. The Best song: “I Feel Like Dying.” The realest meditation on addiction and depression you’ll probably ever hear from Lil Wayne.
It still stands as a better Bush era anthem than anything Eminem or the Dixie Chicks ever wrote. A 27 track, two-hour conquering of every single beat making its way across a terrified rap radio.
Both The Drought and Dedication can claim the top spot of that title, but in this day in age, when the vast majority of people consume music through streaming services, mixtapes tend to be overlooked and forgotten, as it can be quite a tumultuous process for them to be added to streaming services due to possible copyright issues. The Wayne train was in full motion circa 2006, fueled by a compilation of leftover tracks from They Carter III brought to us by New Oceanian and former Weezy collaborator DJ Raj Move.
This tape is reminiscent of the days when gangsta rap was the primary sound of mainstream hip-hop, before the crown was slowly but surely usurped by backpack rappers. Despite some songs sounding like they were recorded on a webcam in a hotel bathroom, this leftover dish still packs some flavor 13 years after it was released, but luckily for us, this was still just an appetizer.
Even if D3 doesn't scratch the itch for a hard-bodied flow or killer double entendres, it's packed with hilarious skits and features from Nicki Minaj and Drake, among other upcoming acts of the era. Later in his career Wayne would master a quick transition from staccato to melodic deliveries in the span of a single bar, for which we thank him, because the world is too small for it to have two T-Pains.
Unlike the rest of the series, The Drought 2 packs an equal amount of good and not-so-enjoyable songs, which happened to be the same tracks where we don't hear the Martian at all. It's no secret that HOV is Weezy's biggest influence when it comes to lyrics (to the point where Wayne has one of the Brooklyn MC's verses tattooed on his leg).
This project signifies the rise of the older, more mature Weezy, who effortlessly aces mixing bouncy and melodic flows. Roughly 15 years after his rise to stardom, the Young Money general was still able to impress with what was supposed to be an appetizer for They Carter V.
Composed and released by Raj Move, Weezy's affiliate from They Carter I days, this tape has quite an accurate name to it as it bleeds Louisiana, mostly because of the amount of guest features from local artists, which include preppiest Talk Currency, Mack Maine and Raw Dizzy. Unfortunately, just like with The Drought 2, we don't hear as much Wayne on this release compared to other projects, but we can spot a rare occurrence of an act known as 2 Chain, who was still performing under the moniker City BOI and was a part of Play Circle.
The The Drought series was brought to listeners' ears by none other than DJ Khaled, when fans were finding for new music from the New Oceanian. He definitely backed both of those statements up, as the large amount of romantically vulgar punchlines and references to mind-altering chemicals have proven to be his go-to topics for the better part of this decade.
Once again, this was a major nod to the move JAY-Z had pulled three years earlier when launching his own line with Reebok accompanied by a release of a mixtape dubbed The S. Carter Collection. From such lines as “I love a blowjob, I need an employer” to the rhymes galore on all three parts of “16 Bars,” the collections pack paramount material when it comes to ace Weezy lyrics.
Clearly a worthy, if not a superior, follow-up to the previous release, No Ceilings 2 dropped at a time when the world was dying for They Carter V, and it offered a system of life support akin to Tony Stark's Iron Man suit. Declared the MC as he impenitently unwrapped this 12-track apology to his fans for the untimely release of one of his most monumental bodies of work, They Carter 4.
Conclusively, Big Wayne's take on Adele's monster hit “Rolling in the Deep” actually brought something new to the table, all it took was sprinkling some Weezy magic on it. One of the highlights of the tape is a feature from July Santana, especially for those who are still waiting for their collaborative project, which at this point in time has gained a Detox -level of mysticism.
Sound-wise, this tape signifies the birth of the modern day Weezy, who seriously 1-up'd his lyrical game compared to previous releases by expanding the topics of his bars. It might be his best tape when it comes to the quality of guest verses, varying from Wayne's old roadies and fellow New Orleans Currency & Mack Maine, as well as July Santana in his heyday.
The Drought 3 was so good that Rolling Stone counted it as an album, just so they could feature it on their list of top projects of that year. He did a bunch with The Squad before this one, but The Drought really kick started the mixtape Weezy a lot of us came to love.
The Drought was the transition period between 500 Degree and They Carter, so the growing pains were obviously for the best. However, the short length and material itself proved that Wayne had better days to come.
It seemed to be more so an attempt at capturing what's popping with the youth (or hopping on a bandwagon, if you will), rather than the ill bars we've seen on mixtapes past. The rhymes over “Columbia” and “MONO” were instant classics, but the entire thing lacked the lyricism of some of Weezy's best efforts.
At one point, he rivaled the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West, repeatedly calling himself “the best rapper alive” with a ton of people in his corner. As the New Orleans MC used his auto-tune chuckle to rhyme over “Whatever You Like,” it's clear he could do no wrong.
Everything he stamped his name on was hot as shit in 2008, and the DJ Drama -hosted tape was a testament to that. Lil Wayne had entered his skateboarding phase by 2012, and his Pharrell -inspired mixtape art proved that.
The 2005 Lil Wayne was certainly something special, and it's crazy to think that these tracks were released 10 years ago. The 2009 mixtape saw Wayne go in on instrumentals like “Swag Surf,” “Ice Cream,” “DOA (Death of Auto-Tune),” “Throw it in the Bag” and many more, putting his Southern twist on rap tracks from around the country.
No Ceilings were the hottest thing in college campuses around the nation for worthy reasons. Dedication 2 had raw bars and funny banter from Wayne, without any care for mainstream appeal.
Not only is DD3 the dopes Wayne mixtape, but it probably gives any other tape a run for its money. Two discs worth of straight fire-breathing bars where Wayne made a run for the throne.
Hopping over the hottest beats of the time, along with classics, Wayne switched up flows, voices and styles to display his versatility to anyone who doubted him. Fittingly, the last mixtape he released before spending eight months in prison, was his final classic.
“Run This Town” was the tape’s highlight, as Wayne jumped on the moment’s hottest song, making the Jay-Kanye original, obsolete. Recorded during They Carter III sessions, the tracks were leaked online early, forcing Wayne to package them as an EP.
He spends the track’s opening thirty seconds name-checking every relevant ESPN show, before unleashing a two-minute verse without breaks. Only peak- Wayne, at his most eccentric, could twist a drug-induced ode to death into a perky tale of life.
In recent years, having witnessed cough syrup’s presence throughout Future’s discography, it’s hard to imagine him being able to do so, without Little Wayne ; and specifically, “I Feel Like Dying.” Masterfully, Wayne uses the simultaneous pandemonium to produce one of the greatest lyrical exercises of his career.
Backed by Swizz’ trademark horns and claps, Wayne does lyrical gymnastics for three-straight minutes. Kanye may have been the first rapper to call-out George Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but Little Wayne’s response is the only one that matters.
Due to an endless amount of leaks while recording the album, Wayne was forced to package all the tracks into a mixtape; for all intents and purposes, known as The Carter 3 Sessions. Over the next two years, 50 Cent, T.I., and Young Jeezy grabbed it momentarily; but only when Little Wayne proclaimed himself the Best Rapper Alive” on 2005’s They Carter II, did it feel like hip-hop was close to crowning a new king.
The following year, Jay-Z returned with his first single “Show Me What You Got.” The track, as well as its accompanying album, Kingdom Come, felt forced. In April 2007, he boldly used the beat for The Drought 3, flipping the chorus into “Dough Is What I Got.” In an instant, the torch was passed.
When you’re surrounded by yes-men building you up constantly, I suppose it’s impossible to maintain the chip-on-your-shoulder mindset which helps push rappers toward hip-hop’s upper echelon during the early stages of their career. Fittingly, Little Wayne used a poop reference to reinforce his streak of dusting the competition.
In its entirety, the verse stands as one of the best of his career, but the final 30 seconds may be the most accurate testament to his greatness; specifically, when Wayne spends four-straight lines uttering words (“Beef! Wayne blacked out so effortlessly, so often, that his brilliance made him immune to following the rules taught in Grammar School.
Hip-hop accepted Little Wayne’s habit of beat-jacking, in large part because his remixes frequently supplanted the originals. Jones.” Wayne didn’t just use the beat to showcase his unmatched prowess, but also crafted an entirely new song out of the triumphantly dark instrumental.
Ten years on, “Sky Is the Limit” is the best anthem in Wayne’s catalog, if not one of the greatest in hip-hop’s last decade. Most importantly, though, it represents Wayne at his most urgent; one year before being unanimously considered the Best Rapper Alive”, on this track, he was still playing the role of underdog.