Lil Wayne To Be Honored as the I Am Hip Hop Award Recipient

I Am Hip Hop Award Recipient: Lil Wayne

Written by BET Staff

Published August 21st

"I look at things as 'Everything is meant to be.'" – Lil Wayne

Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. was born and raised in the Hollygrove neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisana. Lil Wayne was an A-student, but he found music was his best method of expressing himself. His love for music prompted Wayne to start writing rhymes, and by age 11 he persauded the New Orleans-based Cash Money label to bring him on, even if it meant only working around the office. By the age of 15, Lil Wayne joined the roster, inking a deal with Cash Money Records and started making music with his fellow label mates: B.G., Juvenile, Young Turk, and Cash Money producer Mannie Fresh. Wayne joined the hardcore rap group Hot Boys and they pushed out their debut album Get It How U Live! In 1999, Hot Boys dropped Guerrilla Warfare, which went certified Platinum sold 142,000 copies in its first week and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. By 2001, the group disbanded and Lil Wayne was the only artist left from the group that was still signed to Cash Money.

After Juvenile departed from the Cash Money label, Lil Wayne grew closer with Cash Money CEO, Birdman, to show that he was loyal and dedicated to releasing more hotter hits than his predecessor.

Lil Wayne went on to officially launch his wildly successful solo career a year later with the album Tha Block Is Hot. The album went double platinum, but Wayne was still struggling to gain the fame he deserved. Lil Wayne's audience continued to grow by the time he released his second album, Lights Out, which featured the Big Tymers' hit single "#1 Stunna."  By 2002, it was rumored that Cash Money was running into some financial troubles and possible bankruptcy, but it wouldn't stop Wayne from continuing to release his music. 

Wayne received massive attention from hip-hop outlets for the Da Drought tape, which led him to release multiple mixtapes in expectancy of his upcoming album releases. In 2004, Tha Carter album was released and was the new beginning of critically-acclaimed projects for Wayne. The album had the same authenti Mannie Fresh production, but the difference was how much Wayne had grown lyrically. The album's hit single "Go DJ" was an ode to hip hop's legendary DJ, Mannie Fresh, and it's popularity pushed the song to become a hip hop cultural treasure. Additionally his guest feature on Destiny's Child's No. 3 single "Soldier" featuring Lil Wayne and T.I. had proved Wayne was finally crossing over into mainstream music. On the alternative side of mainstream, Lil Wayne had gained serious street cred for his unmatched mixtape projects that he continued to push out year after year.

In 2005, Lil Wayne dropped Tha Carter II and it sold over a quarter-million copies in the first week of its release. Singles "Fireman" and "Shooter" featuring Robin Thicke left fans wanting more music and helped the album reach platinum status. In the same year, Wayne introduced his Young Money crew to the world. The Young Money team is known for breeding acts such as Nicki Minaj, Drake, Tyga and many more. A year later Wayne collaborated with Birdman for the Like Father, Like Son album, featuring the hit single "Stuntin' Like My Daddy." The underground was bubbling with Lil Wayne mixtapes, including the unforgettable Dedication 2, which features one of Lil Wayne's most iconic images to date, on the cover.

As Wayne took a much deserved break from his own projects, he was free to jump on numerous collaborative tracks. With big hits like "Make It Rain" by Fat Joe, "Gimme That" by Chris Brown and "Duffle Bag Boy" by Playaz Circle, Wayne was able to stay current in mainstream music.

When Tha Carter III dropped in 2007 and sold more than a million copies in its first week, it proved that Lil Wayne was truly a hip hop force to be reckoned with.

By 2008, Wayne and the late hitmaker Static Major dropped hip hop banger "Lollipop," and it quickly rose to No. 1. At the 51st GRAMMYs, he earned his first GRAMMY wins as he took home four awards, including Best Rap Album (Tha Carter III) and Best Rap Song ("Lollipop"). The 51st GRAMMYs also featured a his first ever GRAMMY performance of "Swagga Like Us" with M.I.A., T.I., Jay Z, and Kanye West. To further showcase his mainstream popularity, Wayne took to the Country Music Awards and performed with Kid Rock, where he played the guitar. Later that year fans were noticing Wayne was leaning more into rock and had even planned a rock album release, and teased fans with the 2009 single "Prom Queen." The album missed its April release, so Wayne moved on and began working with his Young Money team to release the underground mixtape Young Money Is the Army, Better Yet the Navy.

Wayne dropped the single "Every Girl" and the official album We Are Young Money that same year. By 2010, Lil Wayne finally released his rock album, Rebirth, which occurred around the same time as he was sentenced to a nine-month prison sentence. But being behind bars was not going to stop the rapper from crafting his ten-song EP, I Am Not a Human Being, from dropping on his birthday in September 2010. 

Tha Carter IV came out in 2011 along with the lead single, "6 Foot 7 Foot," featuring Cory Gunz and produced by Bangladesh, who also produced "A Milli." The album took the top spot on the Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 964,000 copies. Lil Wayne moved forward with releasing part two of I Am Not a Human Being and the album debuted at number two featuring singles "No Worries" and "Love Me." To apologize to his disappointed fanbase for his project delays, Lil Wayne self-released Sorry 4 the Wait 2

By the end of 2016, Wayne published a memoir about his moments spent at Riker's Island called Gone Til' November: A Journal of Rikers Island, and released another hit with the collaboration track "Sucker for Pain," which was popularized by the Suicide Squad film soundtrack. In 2017, DJ Khaled's "I'm the One" became one of Wayne's biggest collaborations and is on it's way to quintuple-platinum status. 

Currently, Lil Wayne has come to a settlement with Cash Money CEO Birdman that has released him from his record deal with Cash Money Records. Lil Wayne's lawyer noted that Lil Wayne now owns his assets and his music. What does it all mean for Wayne moving forward? Moving forward, Lil Wayne is in a great position to relaunch his commercial career and continue to be recognized as one of the greatest rappers of all time.

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