Discography Check: Lil Wayne

By @TrueGodImmortal

There aren't many MCs in hip hop that are more prolific than Lil Wayne. With a hip hop career spawning over 20 years now, Wayne has been holding it down since the mid 90's in hip hop, first as a part of the B.G.'z, then as a part of the Hot Boy$, then as a solo artist. From his humble CMB beginnings to his Young Money Empire dominance, Wayne has become one of the most decorated and iconic figures in hip hop history. Today, we look back at his discography and what he brought to the game. Let's get into it.

While Wayne's albums aren't necessarily the most regarded part of his discography, before 2010, he had a pretty solid catalog album wise. Afterwards, his whole music period took a bit of a hit, but there were still a few flashes of brilliance so to speak. Let's look at his albums and the legacy of them.

*Tha Block Is Hot (1999)

-The beginning. November 1999. I remember the first time I heard the title track of this album, I thought it was the greatest song ever. Honestly, I did. I would sit up and listen to the title track over and over again until I learned all the words, the song was a classic. The album? While not a classic, I love this album, and it's one of my top 3 Wayne albums. What makes the album so dope to me is the youthful innocence yet aggression in Wayne's delivery and lyricism. Wayne was talented then during these days and he had some quotable verses and bars, but his flow and voice is what kept people from giving him his props for the most part. Regardless, on songs like the aggressive "Fuck Tha World", "Enemy Turf", "Respect Us", and of course, the title track, Wayne shows he was ready for the big time and the mainstream stage. My favorite song on this album? Aside from the hilarious Cash Money posse track "Loud Pipes", it's another Cash Money posse track on the truly comedic, but all around dope track "Kisha" which featured Juvenile, Turk, and B.G. on the verses, with Birdman talking at the end. It embodies the era of Cash Money at the time, and Wayne would win big, securing a platinum plaque for the album, selling over 1.6 million copies. So far, so good. A big win.

*Lights Out (2000)

-This is probably the most slept on Wayne album of them all. Though only a gold album that still sits at about 800,000 copies sold, this album is truly a coming of age project for Wayne, that hits the mark more than misses it. The first single "Get Off Tha Corner" was a moderate hit and while I wasn't the biggest fan of the song (I felt like it was playing too close to the theme of Tha Block Is Hot), I could never deny the greatness of the Hot Boy$ featured "Hit U Up" or the mega single "Shine", both of which are my two favorite songs on the entire album. There's also the Big Tymers (mostly Birdman) assisted track "Lil One", which was extremely dope to me as well. Wayne showed some emotional depth on "Everything" as well, and while this wasn't a better album than his debut, this was an attempt to be more "grown" for Wayne, and in many ways, it worked.

*500 Degreez (2002)

-I guess you can't win them all, can you? After the departures of Juvenile, Turk, and B.G., Wayne was left holding the bag for Cash Money, and unfortunately, he was not yet ready for the heavy task. This album... simply stinks. It sucks. It's the worst mistake Wayne would ever make in his career (with the exception of one big mishap we'll address later), and for most, this would be career suicide. While the single "Way Of Life" garnered radio play and attention, the album itself fell very flat. Despite gaining a gold plaque, this is actually Wayne's lowest selling album, and while I can tolerate a track like the "Young'n Blues", the rest of the album certainly pales in comparison to the other entries in his discography. Wayne has his first miss and it's certainly a big one.

*Tha Carter (2004)

-Wayne bounced back from what was essentially a huge loss with his biggest win in the history of his career. Gillie ghostwriter claims be damned, I feel like this is the actual best album in the Wayne discography. Why? It's the most cohesive record he's ever assembled, from lyrics to production to the overall flow of the album. He puts on one of his best displays as a MC on "BM JR", which is a top 5 all time Wayne track to me, and even on the singles like "Bring It Back" and "Go DJ", Wayne was comfortable as a lyricist and rapper on the track, which is vital to making a great song. His personal ode to his former Hot Boy$ members on "I Miss My Dawgs" is a superb moment for hip hop, and the Jazze Pha produced and assisted "Earthquake" is that true to life soulful yet smooth playa music that rounds out a true classic. Wayne doesn't have many classics and some would say be has none, I give him credit for one thing classic wise and that's this album. It's almost flawless, which is rare, but Wayne shows up on every track, a great improvement over 500 Degreez to the sound of another platinum plaque as Tha Carter would sell about 1.2 million overall. Some say this is not his best, but I would 100% say it is.

*Tha Carter 2 (2005)

-This is likely the 2nd best Wayne album, but I'll be honest, I've always seen it as a bit overrated. What makes the album so special is because it marks the beginning of the Wayne superstardom rise. The first edition of the Carter series was essentially the reintroduction of Wayne in a new light, while this was the manifestation of it all. However, the album had some disappointing spots, but they were not as plentiful as the greatness, which could be summed up in two words honestly: Tha Mobb. This was around the time Wayne somehow became a blood, very inspired by Dipset, started wearing BAPE more, got solo magazine covers, and truly began his journey. The opening track, "Tha Mobb" features an amazing soulful production from the Heatmakerz, and Wayne provides us with some of his best verses thus far on this one. Another top 5 Wayne album track for sure. Tracks like "Hustler Musik", "Receipt", "Money On My Mind", and "Feel Me" all bring depth to this album and are some of my favorite tracks here. Though I don't think Carter 2 is the best Wayne album or a classic completely, with the impact it had for garnering Wayne more attention, it definitely is right up there with some other classics of the 2000s. The near 2 million copies in sales didn't hurt either.

*Like Father, Like Son w/ Birdman (2006)

-I'm still shocked this album was so slept on actually. Wayne was truly in his zone during this period and of course he steals the show on almost every track. This album was different because there was one man who could rap his off, and another who was just sort of there. Rapping kinda but more so game spitting. Birdman was infamous for spitting game on records, and this album was no different. Wayne however carried tracks like "You Ain't Know", "Leather So Soft", "Over Here Hustlin", and the slept on track "1st Key". This was an interesting album and an attempt to capitalize on the Wayne and Birdman father and son dichotomy and with 750,000 copies sold in a relatively dead market, I'd say it was a success in that regard.

*Tha Carter 3 (2008)

-The most commercially successful album of the Carter series falls a bit short of the standard set by the first two albums. After selling 1 million copies in the first week, Wayne became the biggest hip hop star in the entire world. He had accomplished a feat that not many before him had and he solidified himself in the mainstream. With almost 4 million copies sold, Tha Carter 3 is now the 2nd highest selling album overall in Cash Money Records history (2nd to only 400 Degreez by Cash Money legend Juvenile). As far as the actual music goes, there were critics calling it album of the year and Wayne even won a Grammy for the album, but songs like "Phone Home", "Got Money", "Lollipop", and "Shoot Me Down" don't entice me, while we see "Mr. Carter", "3-Peat", "A Milli", "Comfortable", and "Let The Beat Build" all work masterfully on this album. The album isn't bad, it's a good album overall, it just misses almost as often as it hits. Almost.

*Rebirth (2010)

-Why does this album exist? What was Wayne thinking? Why did Birdman let him put this out, but not release Carter 5? These are questions that need answers, but regardless, there was absolutely no way in hell that this album was gonna work. Sure, it went gold, and "Drop The World" was successful, but the music just made no sense. Wayne can't sing so why are we making a rock album with a bunch of rock elements that usually don't even matter. This album was trash in every sense of the word and it's crazy they let this happen. I don't even want to pinpoint any good songs because there really aren't any.

*I Am Not A Human Being (2010)

-I thought this album was solid. Wayne went to jail for about 9 months and when he did, he gave us this album. Drake was featured quite a few times on this album, and on songs like "With You" and the single "Right Above It", we see the usual Wayne and Drake chemistry that made Young Money such a force. I loved the "I'm Single" joint and it became such an anthem for everyone, especially when your significant other was getting on your nerves. Play that song and coast through the streets for the night if you will. The album wasn't as successful as a Carter 1, 2; or 3, but it still managed to sell just about 1 million total copies to be platinum.

*Tha Carter IV (2011)

-Talk about a disappointing album. There hasn't been an album much more disappointing than the Carter 4. I don't know what it is about this album, but it just lacks everything you would look for in a Wayne album. While I didn't expect deep substance and compelling lyrics, I expected to be entertained, with a ton of catchy songs that I could rap along to, and while there's about 3 or 4 of those, this album fell short. I enjoyed the album opener "Blunt Blowin", and the dope "Nightmares Of The Bottom", along with "So Special" and "It's Good", but overall this album lacks cohesion, and sonically misses on a number of tracks. Though the album was a success commercially selling almost 1 million the first week again, and about 2.5 million total, it just doesn't live up to the Carter series name and expectations. I think this is where the decline of Wayne really began, as he was never really the same musically after getting out of jail. At least that's how it seems.

*I Am Not A Human Being II (2013)

-I didn't think this was a bad album per se. It feels like Wayne was trying to recapture some old glory, and when he came back with this one, it didn't necessarily work as great as he wanted it to, but this was a solid listen at least. Wayne came with nothing but hits here, from the booming "My Homies Still", to one of my favorite more recent Wayne tracks, the hilarious "No Worries", to the hugely successful Future and Drake assisted "Love Me" to the banger "Rich As Fuck" with 2 Chainz assisting. The rest of the album was hit or miss, but Wayne found a formula for hits here and it worked well in this regard. This is one of his lower selling albums, at around 600,000 copies total, but it was still no. 1 on the Billboard 200. I'd say this was a success.

*Free Weezy Album (2015)

-The last actual album we got from Wayne since we will never get Carter 5 (and that might be for the best). I thought this might be something special, but as usual with Wayne these days, I was disappointed. I didn't hate the album, but I also didn't love it. Wayne as usual has his moments of dopeness, check "Glory", "Pull Up", and "Living Right", but majority of these tracks feel a bit lifeless, from the production to the lyrics to the lack of cohesion in the entire album. Wayne could do better than that after such a long wait, but once again, he misses the mark. The reason being is likely that Wayne has his mind on skateboarding and other things and doesn't want to rap as much anymore. I feel like his heart isn't in the music anymore. That's a shame.

Now, I'm not going to cover every single mixtape from Wayne, because I don't have that kind of time and I would hope no one does honestly. Wayne has released a plethora of mixtapes and been featured on so many over the years. I'm going to pick his most significant mixtapes and include them below to close out his discography check. We'll start at the first Dedication and go from that point on.

*Dedication (2004/2005)

-The first Dedication is slept on honestly. Wayne was hungry. He was possibly leaving Cash Money after the success of Tha Carter and heading to Def Jam. What type of career would he have then? It's hard to say, but on this tape he goes in, most notably his verse over "Down and Out", which is where I saw Wayne as a top tier MC even more. He was lyrically coasting on the Kanye instrumental and seemed at home killing a soulful sample, something that I wish he would do more often now instead of leaning on trap production. "Alchemist Shit" is also a highlight and Wayne kills a Crime Mob instrumental as well. Overall, this project is definitely a great showing for Wayne and another notch on the belt.

*Dedication 2 (2006)

-This mixtape represents a whole different era of Wayne. It's my personal favorite. Wayne in 2006 was a whole different beast. He was calm, yet aggressive in his flow, he controlled the beat and was hellbent on living up to the title he had bestowed upon himself as the best rapper alive. While that was never a true statement, Wayne was certainly in a class that only the best could be in, as evidenced on tracks like "Get Em", "Sportscenter", "Cannon", "They Still Like Me", "This Is What I Call Her", and more. This is the brightest moment in the career of Wayne and I certainly can't help but think this might be the best mixtape of his catalog, if not the best project overall. It's certainly possible.

*Da Drought 3 (2007)

-I think this might be the best work ever from Wayne. It's hard to choose between this and Dedication 2 from a mixtape perspective. He was lyrically in his prime during this period and I really wish we could have seen what an album would have spawned during the 2006-2007 period. Regardless, this double disc mixtape was a classic, as Wayne flawlessly went through every beat and asserted dominance as a MC. His verse over Beyonce's "Upgrade You" is a classic and one of my favorite moments on this tape, but there is no moment greater than when Wayne took a Mike Jones instrumental and made it his own song on "Ride For My Niggas". Throughout the tape, Wayne brings wit, aggression, and shines at his best lyrically. Drought 3 might be his best project overall. It's certainly in the running for that spot.

*The Drought Is Over 2: The Carter 3 Sessions (2007)

-This is what the Carter 3 album should have sounded like. Hands down. This is quite possibly the best work we've ever heard from Wayne. Production wise, lyrically, Wayne seamlessly coasts over a number of soulful beats and puts his soul on wax while providing us with something different than his usual. Of all the Drought Is Over mixtapes, this is the absolute best and like I said, I rank this one right there with a Dedication 2 or Drought 3. From the lyrical slaughter he brings on "How Ya Like Me Now" to the odd yet heartbreaking "Something You Forgot" to the slick smooth sound of "World Of Fantasy" and finally to the Kanye West produced jazzy banger "Did It Before", Wayne was in rare form and his music never sounded better. If you're looking for Wayne in the final moments of his prime, his Jordan 6th ring if you will, this is it.

*Dedication 3 (2008)

-This was awfully disappointing and unnecessary in many ways. I didn't enjoy this mixtape much when it first dropped and to be honest, I still don't enjoy it very much. Wayne just seemed to phone in his work here, and while he has flashes of brilliance as usual on this tape, nothing REALLY stuck out to me here aside from "Still I Rise", "Stuntin", and maybe two other tracks at best. The rest fall flat and Wayne would begin to employ the unnecessary overuse of autotune on his vocals, something that has brought his music quality and career down overall.

*No Ceilings (2009)

-I think people overrate this tape just a bit, but it's certainly a classic mixtape overall. I remember when it first released, I remember thinking that it's not quite as good as his Drought 3 and Dedication 2 classics, but it's just a notch below. Wayne was spitting some solid verses here, and I thought he killed it on "Swag Surf", "D.O.A.", "Oh Let's Do It", and "Watch My Shoes". There's a few joints that don't live up to the hype of this tape, but for the most part, Wayne doesn't miss at all here. There's a reason why people had such high expectations for the 2nd edition of this tape. The first one had set such a high standard.

*Sorry For the Wait (2011)

-I wasn't really excited about this one. I didn't think it would be very good, and I wasn't necessarily wrong. Over 10 tracks (12 if you count a deluxe edition), Wayne provides us with some decent rhyming, but this one seems a bit lifeless to be perfectly honest with you. Though he kills it on "Rollin", "Gucci Gucci", and "Grove St. Party", I think he just picked the wrong instrumentals to rap over mostly and this makes the whole project slightly forgettable in his mixtape collection. Some good moments, just not enough consistently, which was slowly becoming the norm in Wayne's music.

*Dedication 4 (2012)

-I can't lie.... I actually liked some of this tape. I had my expectations low, but I found myself entertained by Wayne immensely on this tape. I remember when it first dropped, I listened a few times and thought it was a step up from Dedication 3, but nothing in comparison to the first 2 Dedications, Drought 3, or No Ceilings. It hit the mark on some tracks, and missed the mark, as Wayne teetered between lyrical beast over the right beats, and just coasted on some. I think the lack of response to Carter 4 made him go in and rap again like we wanted him to on some songs, but once again, this definitely wasn't on the same level as his first 2. Better than the 3rd, not as good as the first two. Check for his verses over "Same Damn Time", "Cashed Out", and "Amen" for some of the doper moments here.

*Dedication 5 (2013)

-I didn't hate this mixtape completely, and like the fourth edition it had flashes of brilliance, but this is where you realize that Wayne can say or tell us nothing new really. It's just the same old story from Wayne and the lyrics begin to flow together in a way that is almost boring. He's no longer trying to display his skill to be seen as the best, he's just lyrically coasting and bringing a number of bad punchlines. It's awfully strange in some way, but there's still highlights here like his verse on "Bugatti", "Itchin", and a few other tracks. Wayne reminds us that he can be witty and lyrically sound a few times, but like most of his projects after a certain incarceration, it's not as prevalent.

*Sorry For The Wait 2 (2015)

-When it was made public the issues that Cash Money and Wayne had, I got excited for this mixtape. I felt like Wayne would go back to his vintage flow and lyrically be focused on every track. I was right..... On about 3 or 4 tracks, but overall this tape was definitely disappointing. Lyrically, Wayne seems reinvigorated on "Coco", "Trap House", and "Selsun Blue", and he went in on "Fingers Hurting", but for the rest of the tape, he seems to struggle with finding his footing and has an over reliance yet again on autotune, or at least it sounds like he's on autotune just about every song. That's also a part of his downfall. Too much damn autotune. It's not necessary. Wayne got bigger before he used any of it regularly.

*No Ceilings 2 (2015)

-As the year 2015 was coming to a close, I was excited. I thought Wayne was going to go back to his essence and give us a near classic. How can you mess up the sequel to one of your most famous mixtapes? The same way he messed up the sequels to the Dedication I guess. Wayne couldn't get the music rolling right on this one, and after a strange line from Mannie Fresh to open this tape, I was pretty much done or finished at that point. The only noteworthy song here to me is "Cross Me" with Future and Yo Gotti, everything else here is forgettable and just fails to excite me as a listener and fan. Wayne started to find his footing somewhat on SFTW2, then lost it completely here. This is an absolutely embarrassing tape. Hands down.

Wayne has an interesting discography. A couple of misses, but a lot of high points, and a good amount of middle of the road releases. When all is said and done, his legacy is solidified, I just wish he put as much as effort into his music today, as he did then. That's pretty much my only gripe. However, there's enough great projects and classics here to say Wayne has a much more than favorable discography. Salute to Weezy.



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