Love him or hate him, there is no way to avoid him, as Lil Wayne has not only cemented himself as rap’s protagonist, he is also one of the media’s biggest figures. At a time when the legends struggle to go platinum, Lil Wayne can do so in a week’s time. Eight years ago, Wayne warned the hip hop world things would be like this, no one listened.
By the early 2000s, hip hop had become somewhat reliant on Jay-Z. Like clockwork, fans could expect a new album from him every year. In addition to his yearly albums, Jay-Z also expanded into several business ventures. Jay-Z decided to put his mic down and solely focus on these business ventures before the recording of his 2003 album.
Lil Wayne grew up a major fan of Jay-Z and dreamed of collaborating with him. News of Jay-Z’s retirement sent shockwaves throughout the hip hop community and Lil Wayne viewed it as an opportunity. While 2003 would mark the final album from Jay-Z, The Black Album, he would continue promoting the album well into 2004. Each track on his album had a goodbye theme, while every Lil Wayne song now announced his ascention to the throne.
Tha Carter was released in 2004, a rebouding album from Lil Wayne following his lackluster 500 Degreez album. While the album was a platinum success, it lacked the sound intended for it to truly cement Lil Wayne as “the best rapper alive.” Lil Wayne did more to live up to the title with Tha Carter II. Despite the album being hailed as a classic and a second straight platinum album in as many years, Lil Wayne decided to take a break from the game, releasing music on the mixtape level, honing his skills.
The mixtape scene was flooded with Lil Wayne’s material from 2005 through 2008. Despite Lil Wayne’s mixtape success and standout verses on songs by other artists, there were still questions about Lil Wayne being able to carry his own weight. Lil Wayne put those questions to rest when he topped Billboard Hot 100 with “Lollipop,” which drove his Tha Carter III to platinum status days after its release. The album even featured a verse from Jay-Z, who co-signed Lil Wayne as “the best rapper alive.”
It took four years, but Lil Wayne did the impossible, proving he belonged in the conversation, while also proving he could make true hit records and sell albums. In the eyes of many, Lil Wayne had done all he set out to do, thus reaching his peak. However, Lil Wayne promised he was far from done, as he was going to focus on his Young Money label. Lil Wayne created Young Money before Tha Carter II was released, but the label was struggling to develop other stars, with Curren$y leaving the label.
A year after Tha Carter III revamped Lil Wayne’s career, Young Money signed Drake and Nicki Minaj. Those signings would pay dividends for the label, nearly three years after their initial signings. Lil Wayne continued to have success, becoming the new face of hip hop. Fans grew to trust in Lil Wayne the way they did Jay-Z a decade prior. Not only was he delivering an album a year, he also had artists of his own who had big fan bases. While Lil Wayne continued to make hits, his artists also established themselves as superstars.
The most-recent accomplishment for Lil Wayne was the release of Tha Carter IV. Much like with Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne dominated the game, as far as record sales go. Despite this, Lil Wayne was in the shadow of Rick Ross throughout 2011 and has been throughout 2012. There have been major announcements about Lil Wayne for 2012, with him planning the release of his new album. However, Lil Wayne has done everything imaginable over the past five years, his last album, while popular, did not impress the way his previous albums have.
With Rick Ross’ takeover, which includes Wale, Meek Mill, and Stalley, the emergence of French Montana in New York, Young Jeezy and T.I.’s respective comebacks, and Future dropping hits, it is a crowded field for Lil Wayne. What will Lil Wayne do in order to keep himself relevant, let alone put him back in the position he held in 2008? What’s next for Lil Wayne?