“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.
It’s easy to forget that Beyoncé’s “Upgrade U” was a hit-song before Lil’ Wayne freestyled over the Swizz Beatz-produced track on The Drought 3. 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 Lil’ 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 Lil’ 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. On “Amen”, David Roughing’s “Hey Woman” provides a melancholic vibe for Wayne to spill his emotions for four-straight minutes.
Wayne blacked out so effortlessly, so often, that his brilliance made him immune to following the rules taught in Grammar School. Hip-hop accepted Lil’ 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.
Street singles and popped trunks are about as old as hip-hop itself, but Lil Wayne (photographed above during his surprise performance with Juicy J at Red Bull Sound Select: 30 Days In LA) mixtapes were Events. Mixtapes like 'Dedication 2’ and ‘The Drought 3’ are so arcane and non-sequitorial, they stack up with James Joyce.
Last week, Weezy released ‘ Sorry 4 The Wait 2, ’ a stopgap for the impending ‘They Carter IV.' With all this in mind, we’ve selected the 10 best mixtapes in Wayne’s career, from obvious classics to buried treasures.
Here, check a young Nicki Minaj spitting hot fire all over T.I.’s immortal “No Matter What” beat. 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 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. Why it matters: Despite the presence of the underwhelming 'Carter IV,' Wayne actually had a great 2011.
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 Lil Wayne’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. After the somewhat disappointing victory lap of Dedication 3, the first song on Wayne's follow-up tape No Ceilings came as a slap in the face (in the best way possible).
Quotable: “Swimming' laps around a bottle of Louie the Thirteenth/ Jumping' off of a mountain, into a sea of Codeine” Easily Wayne's most psychedelic track, “I Feel Like Dying” finds the rapper delving into both the positive and negative aspects of his addiction, without the need to draw a clear line.
Things never panned out for Pitta and the label (and it was probably for the best), but this song makes for an interesting look at an alternate universe version of his career. Once you think Drake has gone as hard as you can possibly go on this Jay beat, Weezy comes in and completely spaces on it (almost literally).
They Carter 3 was certainly a success in many ways, but listening to the outtakes from the project sometimes makes you wonder what it could've been. This is a spacier Carter 2 Wayne, which might be the perfect medium between the personas he embodied on both studio albums-- and part of what made Mixtape Weezy so special.
“Peyton Manning flow, I just go, no huddle” is very indicative of Wayne's approach to rapping on Drought 3. While the density of his wordplay suggests otherwise, Weezy's delivery at this time always had the spontaneity of a freestyle-- which made it all the more exciting.
Quotable: “Man I'll fuck your girl till her pussy got no juice/ Now she can't produce/ So you won't be needing' that baby/ Cause all you really need is Weezy F. Baby” The regrettably-titled “Dick Pleaser” is one of the few moments where Weezy's vocals are unfiltered, and displays the energy we've come to expect from him.
Quotable: “Yeah, welcome to the real outdoors and of course/ That chopper that I tote will split 'em like a divorce” Lil Wayne and July never delivered on the promise of “I Can't Feel My Face,” but they've still got plenty of material on their “Blow” tape to satisfy that niche.
As much as we'd love to see the project come to fruition, it would be hard to match the chemistry these two rappers had at this specific moment in time. At 1:19, Wayne locks into a flow that shows off his inane technical ability without ever sounding mechanical.
The careful, multi-syllabic couplets take a second to register delivered so effortlessly-- a technique few rappers can pull off. This leaked track is clearly unfinished, with the final sixteen being left empty for what was either meant to be a feature, or possibly another fiery Weezy verse.
Weezy shows off his flows, switching up his rhythms with each dynamic change in the perfectly selected Rodney O & Joe Cooley instrumental. While his true talent certainly lies in free-associative rhyming, this track shows him demonstrating a narrative side.
Wayne recognizes Chance's talent and greets him with the respect and competition of a great verse. Wayne rips through some wordplay indicative of his ESPN obsession on a track built out of samples from sporting events.
Lil Wayne and Pharrell never ended up working together extensively, but there is this one gem that surfaced on an unofficial tape just after Carter 3. One of Wayne's most passionate tracks, which finds the rapper lamenting the loss of a former partner with an intensely emotional delivery.
First seen in the Wayne -dismissed, but very good Carter documentary, this song was written in the thick of Weezy's codeine addiction. The result is Wayne at his most garbled and obtuse, as well as creative, instructively rearranging the letters in the word giant, and of course, reciting the entire Pepto-Bismol jingle (a possible precursor to rapping the entire alphabet in his Ransom verse).
Quotable: “Either lock me up or get me to the graveyard quick/ Come and get me I spray, spark, spit, it's straight war bitch” The legend behind this song is that Wayne went through all of his rhyme books, putting all of his remaining words on record, and then ceased to write lyrics down from then on.
“Gossip” officially became a classic Wayne track when he performed it live at the BET awards. The manic energy he brought to the record translated even better in the live setting, and still stands as one of his best ever televised performances.