Happy Birthday, Lil Wayne: Weezy F Baby’s Best Songs Of The Past Decade
Weezy turns 35: listen to his best work from each year since 2008.
Lil Wayne was a 15-year-old honors student-cum-rap prodigy about to redefine the parameters of Southern rap with the Hot Boyz. (“So you say you ready to hustle, scuffle over a dollar, rumble over a bundle / Ready to bust over two dollars, ready to die for five, ready to ride on nine, better be bout your change” — “Get It How You Live!!”)
Lil Wayne was a 25-year-old rap savant in the heart of his prime. By now, he had developed a highly original, creative, and associative approach to his craft; this year, he released Da Drought 3, the greatest mixtape of all-time, and was soon to follow it with the equally magnificent Tha Carter III, the album that would propel him to superstardom and formal Best Rapper Alive status. (I’m probably in the sky, flying with the fishes / Or maybe in the ocean, swimming with the pigeons / See my world is different” – “The Sky is the Limit”) (“My flow is nasty / like C Y Phyllis – “The Sky is the Limit”).
It is 2017.
Today is Lil Wayne’s 35th birthday. To be fair, the last decade has been a turbulent one for our hero, defined by an eight-month stint in jail, recurring seizures, the fallout with Birdman and ensuing legal saga, number one hits, show-stopping guest verses, and the occasional evaporation of his musical powers. Since Tha Carter III, he has released 13 mixtapes, album, and joint projects of wildly variable quality, but he is still worshipped by millions. Somewhere beyond the horizon lies sacred Tha Carter V, in all its infinite possibilities.
Happy birthday, Weezy. Scroll onward to listen to his best work from each year since 2008.
2008: “A Milli”
We could have easily gone with “Lollipop” here. But does “Lollipop” reference Bad Boys, Dennis Rodman, and popcorn king Orville Redenbacher?
2009: Young Money – “Every Girl”
2009 was the year of the No Ceilings,Lil Wayne’s last decent project. “Wasted,” “No Ceilings,” “Ice Cream,” “Swag Surf” — this was the soundtrack of our youth. But “Every Girl” was the sound of summer of 2009 in a bottle, a time capsule of the moment when Young Money was about to take over the entire rap game. I like a long hair thick red-bone, open up her legs to filet mignon…
2010: “6 Foot 7 Foot” feat. Cory Gunz
“I didn’t know who was worthy of the beat,” said Bangladesh of “6 Foot 7 Foot,” as told by Complex. “My publisher, Juan Madrid, told me T.I was looking for something. But I’m kinda used to giving T.I music and not getting anything done out of it, so I wasn’t really feeling the idea but I sent it to [Atlantic Records executive] Gee Roberson anyway. He immediately hit me and said, ‘Wayne’ll kill this beat. This is Wayne.’ So I just let him navigate the situation and here we are. I think [Wayne] is at the top of his game. There could be a lot of other rappers on that beat that might not do it justice.”
Though Tha Carter IV failed to fulfill the impossibly high expectations set by TC3, it produced a few indelible moments. Obviously, the 9.0 Richter scale blast of “6 Foot, 7 Foot”; slightly less obviously, the rapid-fire machine gun burst of “MegaMan.”
2012: “Still Got The Rock”
Shoutout to “HYFR” but we must give Mixtape Weezy the love he deserves. On the whole, Dedication 4 was pretty limp-dicked, one exception being “Still Got The Rock,” a slow burner that gradually raises the stakes with a flurry of audacious bars (e.g. “I call my bitch Plain Jane / ’cause she catch nut like a flight.”)
2013: “Rich as Fuck” feat. 2 Chainz
2013 was probably the worst year in Wayne’s career between his health issues and a pair of clunkers in Dedication 5 and I Am Not A Human Being 2. He delivered a smattering of compelling guest verses, most notably on the remix to Future’s “Karate Chop,” but we’re giving the nod to Collegrove prequel “Rich as Fuck.”
2014: Nicki Minaj – “Truffle Butter” feat. Drake and Lil Wayne
For reasons unknown, Nicki Minaj relegated “Truffle Butter” to bonus track status on deluxe iTunes edition of The Pinkprint. Nineteen85 engineered the bass line to descend from the fifth to the root, than perk up to to the fifth just in time for the next bar. It’s the banger that never ends.
2015: “London Roads”
FWA never quite got the shine it deserved, probably because it was (and is) a TIDAL exclusive. We could have gone with “Glory” here, but opted for “London Roads,” a wistful, no-hooks master class in free associative wordplay.
2016: Chance the Rapper – “No Problem feat. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne
A couple weeks after Wayne released Collegrove with 2 Chainz, he delivered a scintillating anchor verse on “No Problem” that gets better with every line, and better with time; later that year, during the Rio Olympics, he took a timely swipe at the embattled swimmer Ryan Lochte during a performance on Ellen, altering the verse’s conclusion to “And if Cash Money tries to stop me, I’mma let ’em rob me, yeah right, like Ryan Lochte.”
2017: Wale – “Running Back” feat. Lil Wayne
Yo, “I’m The One,” I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but “Running Back” is one of the most underrated rap songs of 2017. Wayne bared his soul.