Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., known to most of us as Lil Wayne, was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. At just 11 years old, Wayne met Bryan “Baby” Williams (Birdman), rapper and co-owner of Cash Money Records at a local record store. From that point on, Baby became Weezy’s mentor and father figure (and eventually his boss after signing him to Cash Money).
In 1995, Wayne joined the label as one half of the group B.G.’z. From there, the duo became part of the label’s quartet Hot Boyz, along with Juvenile and Young Turk. They would release one project, Get It How U Live!, before Wayne signed a solo recording deal with the label in 1998. Lil Wayne’s first studio album, Tha Block Is Hot, debuted at number three on the Billboard Hot 200 chart and was certified platinum when he was just 17 years old. Tunechi’s subsequent albums (Lights Out and 500 Degreez) failed to reach the level of success of his first but were certified gold.
In 2003, Wayne launched Young Money Entertainment, a joint venture label with Cash Money. Under this label, the rapper began releasing his own music and cultivated a community of artists he believed in, including Drake and Nicki Minaj. It was during this time that Tunechi made major advancements in his career and image. Over the span of two years, Weezy released Tha Carter, Tha Carter II, and Like Father, Like Son, the latter of which was a collaboration project with Birdman. All three albums were met with critical and commercial success.
Although Wayne would continue to gain mainstream popularity throughout the early 2000s, his album Tha Carter III, released in 2008, was one of the rapper’s first huge hits. The album won three Grammy awards: Best Rap Solo Performance for the song “A Milli,” Best Rap Song for “Lollipop,” and Best Rap Album. He went on to release three more albums before dropping the next in the Tha Carter series: We Are Young Money, Rebirth, and I Am Not A Human Being. The first was a collaboration project with those signed to his label, the second a reissue of Tha Carter III with additional recordings, and the third a solo project released during his one year prison sentence for gun possession.
Tha Carter IV, the next installment of his series of albums, was his third chart-topping album, selling almost 1 million copies within the first week of its release. The lead single, “6 Foot 7 Foot”, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and became one of the most successful singles on the album. Following the release of The Carter IV, Lil Wayne made clear that there were troubling factors that lead to a delayed release of music, specifically Tha Carter V, dropped under Cash Money Records. According to Wayne, Birdman was to blame.
In 2015, Wayne sued Cash Money Records for $51 million after claiming a failure to pay him advances, as well as general money mishandling. That same year, the rapper joined TIDAL, JAY-Z’s streaming service and dropped FWA (Free Weezy Album) exclusively through it. Until 2018, Wayne delayed the release of Tha Carter V due to his displeasure with Cash Money Records. Then, in June 2018, after four years of legal battles, Weezy was reportedly released from his contract with Cash Money Records. Three months later, the long-awaited Tha Carter V was released, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Since the release of The Carter V, Lil Wayne has announced a joint tour with Blink-182 and has teased numerous projects, including a possible joint album with longtime collaborator Mannie Fresh.