1. You Only Know His Bad Stuff
Lil Wayne has undone much of his mystique.
It’s a problem, inevitable from success and over-saturation. All underground rappers end up poisoning their cred with success, but Lil Wayne has done an especially egregious job of it.
If you only know him from hits- “Lollipop” “Mrs.Officer” or even “A Milli” you’re used to the syrupy pop-synth that he brings to the table, and, most likely, you’re sick of it.
It doesn’t help that Lil Wayne’s been phoning it in with embarrassing teenage-level oral-sex jokes and skateboard references on poppy guest verses for the past few years.
Don’t be fooled, though: despite his Benjamin Button-like descent into childishness, Lil Wayne’s previous- and perhaps future- level of talent is absurd. He has an iceberg of skills; far more exists than what is seen at the surface, and if you delve into his career, you’re going to find gems and strange, surreal albums and mix-tapes overflowing with creativity.
You’re going to find a lot. Because…
2. Lil Wayne Has Made More Music Than Anyone Ever In History, Sort Of.
Lil Wayne has too many albums and mix-tapes to count. Like an ant farm, much of it tunnels underground, hidden away from prying eyes.
You don’t like a few pop songs? Well, that’s barely one percent of a career that’s totaling thirty-one mixtapes and albums by my count.
Yeah. Thirty one. And that’s excluding the fifteen (fifteen!) collaborative albums and tapes he’s done. Let’s give him half credit on those. and round that up to thirty-eight or so.
Do you know how many thirty-eight albums and mix-tapes? I’m not sure you do. After awhile numbers blur together, but just try to grasp that even one album is an accomplishment. Two or three is great. Four, five, or six would represent a real career. Seven, eight or nine would represent an exemplary one. By the time you’ve released ten or eleven albums, you’re a veteran, an established and permanent part of the musical landscape.
Lil Wayne has thirty-eight. The thirty-ninth, Tha Carter V, should be out in a month.
It’s dizzying. As in, you can’t even look at that paragraph without it blurring; how much harder is it to grasp his musical impact, then? It’s impossible. Lil Wayne’s music catalog is just on this side of madness. It’s a sphere, too large to be gripped by human eyes or imagination. As we learn more, more gets forgotten as it rotates away.
That sheer devotion ensures something strange. That, based on my very basic math, you could listen to Lil Wayne for 36 straight hours and never hear the same song twice.
Lil Wayne doesn’t just succeed in quantity, though. Diversity in that quantity is key.
3. Lil Wayne’s Skills Are Wildly Diverse
I tried to write this article a few different times, and every time, I fail to explain quite what I mean when I talk
Let’s talk about the viciousness.
All the best rappers have a viciousness to them. Tupac had a fiery fury, and Jay-Z had a colder, more calculated ambition. Eminem, obviously, had an anger that solidified to a technical, cutting precision. But Lil Wayne had a viciousness of a different stripe; the unrelenting, pure joy of a competitor who knew himself to be better. Other rappers used to show off by making better songs. Lil Wayne would do that, but he’d do something else , too.
He’d take your song.
If you were a rapper in Lil Wayne’s prime, your beats weren’t safe. You made a name on a song? Lil Wayne would do it on a mix-tape. For free. And, with each name and song crossed off, Lil Wayne gradually showed the unprecedented range he had as he swerved over from song to song.
Want to hear Lil Wayne demolish Jay-Z on the “Run This Town” instrumental? Of course you do.
Lil Wayne has always had a hunger to one up Jay-Z. It’s universal. But he doesn’t stop there. He’s taking on classic Nas tracks and even one hit wonders: Lil Wayne is going to Walk It Out and Throw Some D’s On That Bitch. Remember Kreayshawn’s only hit, Gucci Gucci? Wayne does.
Nobody and nothing is safe. Not even Beyonce.
He’s even taken Drake songs, and, even more pressingly, made a better Drake song than Drake has ever made.
That skill requires a wild range of styles and focus. But he did it and he does it on more than a dozen mix-tapes throughout the years.
Because he can.
That’s the Lil Wayne to remember and praise- the rapper who can one-up any rapper’s song while putting out his own. It’s strange and sinister, and, sadly.
4. His Strange Talents Get Usurped By Popularity.
One of Lil Wayne’s biggest songs- A Milli is worthy of special attention here.
You might remember it as an ubiquitous hit, but let’s circle back to it. Remember how weird it was? How syrupy, strange, the diversity of the flows and rhymes compared to anyone else in the game? There was no catchy hook; it was just Wayne, flowing, and it became a hit on the caliber of a “Call Me Maybe” earworm.
That was Lil Wayne. His popularity obscures his uniqueness- when you hear the song forever on loop, you’re sick of it; but returning to it now, you can finally hear it for the fresh, surreal track it was.
That’s Wayne. Or, with a similar track- good, popular, and stranger than you noticed- that’s just Weezy Baby. And, lastly,
5. He’s Good
That’s not just that Lil Wayne is good. It’s that his talent. defies the realm of the understandable.
It’s hard to fully explain because none of what I can write can replicate the tingling awareness you get delving into the Lil Wayne canon. There’s so much, of so many types, that it grows on you. It builds like an anthill; new tunnels emerge, and, like an anthill, much of that glory is hidden underground. It’s a smothering, inexplicably library of greatness with seemingly no end.
The best I can do is guide you to the secret bonus playlist I gave you in the links above. Play them all, in or out of order, and let the talent sink in. Let it resonate and see it build up upon you.
That’s just Lil Wayne. And that is the Carter.