In 2002, Lil Wayne was fresh off the 500 Degreez album, the first project where it was clear it was him and him alone carrying the torch for Cash Money Records from an artist perspective. The Big Tymers were still there but the Hot Boys had splintered off in different directions. Juvenile was gone, so were B.G. and Turk. At 20 years old, three solo albums in, Wayne decided to make an artistic decision, one that would shape the rest of his career.
No longer committing to writing lyrics down and letting whatever came to him flow, he initially launched into the Sqad Up series with a crew of young and hungry New Orleans rappers such as Gudda Gudda, Nutt Da Kidd, T-Streets and more. For two years from ’02 to ’03, it was the early proving ground for Wayne to detach from making major-label albums and just go. In 2004, the new Lil Wayne made his debut on Tha Carter and laid out massive breadcrumb trail of unrelated freestyles and unauthorized mixtape series from The Prefix, The Suffix and more. When he linked with DJ Drama for the first Dedication mixtape in 2005, Wayne was a completely different rapper than 500 Degreez.
In the fifteen years since, Mixtape Wayne has become an entirely separate entity from Lil Wayne. For a generation, he’s their GOAT, a rapid-fire, metaphor and wordplay driven artist with one-liners aplenty. A lighter flick meant a hijacking was coming and your beat was not safe. Sorry Mike Jones, “Sky’s The Limit” from Da Drought 3 doesn’t belong to you anymore. Wayne recorded so much, asking “You got that new Wayne?” felt like you were trying to catch The Flash and he already had a head start on you. There was almost too much new Wayne – and fans ate it up.
From 2004 with Tha Carter to 2009’s No Ceilings, Wayne had arguably the most impressive stretch of music from a Hip Hop perspective counting for mixtapes, guest features, and albums. There were some low spots in the oversaturation of the Dedication series with D3 but that was more of a Young Money showcase than all-out Wayne.
So for Black Music Month and in the midst of the Great Debates – we ask you, what’s the greatest Lil Wayne mixtape of them all? Is the one listed? Don’t see the one listed? Hit us up and tell us what YOUR favorite Wayne tape is.
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