September 27th should be considered a Hip-Hop holiday. This is the day that we celebrate the life of one of the greatest rappers of all time, Dwayne Michael Carter aka Lil Wayne. As we take time today to big his records a few extra spins and get his name trending throughout the country, I’d also like to give my take on the best Lil Wayne projects of all time (in no particular order). Mixtapes included, of course. So get your throwback jerseys, red bandanas and lighter flicks ready as we get this started.
1Tha Carter 3
The most anticipated album of 2008. That says a lot when you’re going up against works such as Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreaks, T.I.’s Paper Trails, & Rick Ross’ Trilla. Tha Carter 3 was a game winning chess move for Lil Wayne, as he’s been dominating the game, for what was a four year streak at the time. So many milestones achieved from this album. From selling amill in a week to winning album of the year at The Grammy’s. Weezy F Baby created the most important body of work when we made Tha Carter 3. Because of the star power that followed. Everyone knows where they were and what they were doing when they first heard “A Milli”. Even grandmothers knew the chorus to “Lollipop”. This was the beginning of an infamous character of the near future. Rockstar Weezy.
Arguably his best mixtape recorded, 2009’s No Ceilings was a no brainer for the height on this list. It’s damn near law. Fresh off of his most successful commercial year, to date, Lil Wayne decided to do what he does best and went right back to work. That’s when No Ceilings was born. Another extraordinary display of what “no pen, no pad” means. Hopping on the beats of club anthems like “Swag Surfin”, “Ice Cream Paint Job” and “Oh Let’s Do It” and making it his own. Although it was well documented prior to it’s release, that no one beat was safe around Lil Wayne. This mixtape felt like it was making knew wounds in the heart of the rap game. It also made a lot of the rap community realize that Lil Wayne deserved to be in the Rap God discussions.
It’s simple. Tha Carter is to Lil Wayne what The Blueprint is to Jay Z. Fresh off of a re-signing with Cash Money after it was rumored that he’d leave to join his mentor over at Roc-a-fella Records, 2004 Lil Wayne began his campaign as the rightful best rapper alive (since the best rapper retired). Most kids born after 1995 aren’t familiar with this version of Lil Wayne. His first album in adulthood and his second without his brothers, the Hot Boyz. Coming out of the gate, dropping clean cut, lyrical driven club bangers such as “Bring It Back” and “Go DJ”. The onslaught shortly followed after the album dropped with tracks like “BMJR” and “We Don’t” that gave us not only some of Lil Wayne’s most deadly verses, but Birdman’s most notable verses and shit-talking of his career.
4Tha Carter 2
The second installment of his Carter series and his first official year as king of Hip-Hop. Mr. Untouchable. Confidence oozed on 2005’s The Carter 2 rather than hunger, his it’s predecessor. Weezy is braggadocious on tracks like “Money On My Mind” and “Fireman”. But also proving that he’s sure of his abilities on “Best Rapper Alive”. It also was record during a time where Lil Wayne had to watch his home and family be torn apart by Hurricane Katrina. A lot of the nostalgia and pain can be witnessed on “Feel Me” & “Get Over”. A real grown man album.
5Da Drought 3
This mixtape that was released in 2007 was like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk for the first time, just before releasing Thriller. We knew what Lil Wayne was capable of, but we didn’t understand why we were being blessed by this greatness, in such abundance. Da Drought 3, a two disc long freestyle over the industry’s top hits. Even Beyonce and Jay weren’t safe, as Mixtape Weezy took over “Upgrade You” to the point where a lot of today’s youth only know of Lil Wayne’s version. Da Drought 3 also served as his reunion with his Dipset brother, Juelz Santana, on “Black Republican”. He literally hopped on everyone’s song and made a part two.
You aren’t in the game for real if you don’t have a Gangsta Grillz mixtape. Once you have one, you aren’t going to last in the game if you don’t have an installment of Gangsta Grillz mixtapes. “Dedication” was Lil Wayne’s and his second is the most prominent. With DJ Drama echoing and gassing up Weezy in the background, the New Orleans emcee used 2006’s Dedication 2 and tracks like “Get Em” and “Cannon”, he proved that he is the master of flows and punchlines. While he still proved that he can be the best all while having fun with “Sportscenter” and “Walk It Off”. But the standout was “Georgia… Bush”, his rendition of Ludacris’ summer smash “Georgia, where Lil Wayne challenges President George Bush’s ability to lead this country in a time of disaster and his views on people of color. He finishes the tape off with a machine gun of rhymes over Tupac’s “Ambitionz Az A Ridah”. As he should.
7Tha Block Is Hot
Did you really think that we’d leave off his debut, 1999’s Tha Block Is Hot. The kickstart to southern teen rap stars. Fresh off of being featured on one of the world’s hottest tracks of that year with Juvenile’s “Back Dat Azz Up”. The 16 year old Weezy Wee dropped his first solo project and leading single Tha Block Is Hot, that the set the streets on fire. Only building to the high momentum that Cash Money Records was producing. Showing us a lifestyle of the youngest baby gangster and Hot Boy of the bunch. That quick glimpse into the mind of Lil Wayne showed us the potential of his storytelling and his grasp of the rap language. Tracks like “Lights Off” and “F*** The World” served it’s purpose and grew to becoming hood classics that run deep within a lot of the south’s rap roots of today’s youth.
8Sorry 4 The Wait
A gift to the world, as we all waited for Tha Carter 4, Lil Wayne didn’t realize that Sorry 4 The Wait would make the cultural impact that it did. Proving that you still have to peek around the corner before dropping a track, because NO ONE IS SAFE. This go around he demolishes hits the 2011 hits from Drake (“Marvin’s Room”) and Kreayshawn (“Gucci, Gucci”). Sorry 4 The Wait gave us one of the most memorable moments of that year, when Weezy bringing out The BasedGod himself, Lil B, on Waka’s “Grove St Party”.
Let’s take it back to 2002. That time that Lil Wayne had to put on his big boy pants, as the rest of the Hot Boyz began exiting left and right. Only 19, Weezy decided to throw away his rhyme books and only go off of the dome after getting guidance from Jay Z and his latest album, The Blueprint. He began to mold his sound and mind with this album, as he learned what it really meant to be an emcee and the work that it took to even be considered such by your peers. Hit singles such as “Way Of Life” showed off the influence that his Brooklyn mentor’s lifestyle had on him at the moment, as he cranked out groovy, party anthems that showcased his new lyrical skillset. But let’s not forget about the elbow throwing block party anthem in “Where You At” and Cash Money war cry with the title track “500 Degreez”. His response to former Hot Boy, Juvenile’s “400 Degreez”. This album can not and shall not go over looked.
Although this installment of his Dedication series did not gain as much notable attention as it’s predecessors did, 2008’s Dedication 3 sold over 70,000 copies. Despite being released for free initially. Cracking the Billboard’s Top 200 at 111 and landing it on the Top Rap Albums charts, at number nine. As he used gave a lot of the limelight to his fellow Young Money roster members Drake, Nicki Minaj, Tyga, Jae Millz & Gudda Gudda. Lunch table cyphers turned into a great start for that era of Young Money. A shortly appreciated body of work that gave us longtime favorites such as “D**k Pleaser”, “Aint I” and “Stuntin”.