Lil Wayne, Hip Hop’s Pioneer of the 2000s

SAM SORENSON | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

In 2008, Lil Wayne released his critically acclaimed album, “Tha Carter III.” This was the first CD I ever bought with my own money and was one of the albums that got me involved with hip hop music. Last year when Lil Wayne announced his retirement, I had to go back and reevaluate what he means for hip hop and how important he is to today’s landscape. Even though he came out of retirement soon after, he has been reintroduced into my weekly rotation. It has always bothered me that people do not give Wayne his credit as a rapper for both his skill and impact. I will be breaking this down in honor of his 35th birthday.

Lil Wayne has been rapping for about twenty years now, and his discography shows it. He has over fifty full-length projects, and Wayne is still coming out with new, creative material today. The most important thing that Wayne has done for hip hop is make mixtapes profitable. Although definitely not the first to release mixtapes, Lil Wayne popularized the template of releasing free music to gain traction for albums and hold engagement of fans. Fans could expect to get a Wayne project two or three times a year. Artists no longer needed to rely on paid releases to gain popularity and bring people out to shows, and obviously fans loved getting free music. Hip hop today is completely centered around free music with the popularity of SoundCloud and mixtape websites like Datpiff.

Another area in which Wayne made an impact is as an executive. After being named president of Young Money Records, he recruited hugely successful artists like Drake and Nicki Minaj. This is all under a career that focused on rapping. As an executive, Wayne stood out and revamped the idea of artist-run labels. With older labels like Death Row and more modern ones like Roc a Fella Records, being able to stand out is an accomplishment. Not only was he putting on huge artists, but he also never stopped putting out music himself.

Another huge accomplishment of Wayne’s is his dominance as a featured and solo artist on the charts. He has had over a hundred appearances on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Wayne played a major role in doing crossovers and features on many artists’ songs, hip hop or not. Whether it was covering his body in tattoos, skateboarding or making a rock album; Wayne was doing things confidently that other artists in hip hop were not.

All of this would be undermined if his music was not good, but honestly it is. I know many people have mixed feelings about his sometimes nonsensical or corny lyrics, but he still manages to make funny and creative songs. He has always gone for a quantity over quality approach, but he is still miles above most other rappers. Without Wayne we would not have the Internet age of rap or the mixtapes that came with it. If not for Wayne, most of the rappers who seem to blow up overnight would not be around. Wayne is the Godfather of Internet rap.

Music recommendation of the week:

Iglooghost’s, “Neo Wax Bloom.” Iglooghost is an Irish electronic music producer signed to Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder Records. If you are looking for some absolutely insane and frantic sounding instrumental electronic music, you should check this out.

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