New Orleans-born rapper Lil' Wayne claims to have written his first songs at the age of 8, and by 12 he had made his national recording debut. As a member of the Hot Boys and as a solo artist, Lil' Wayne and his label Cash Money Records became one of the most significant collectives of rap artists from the south. Although he was only 16 when he released his first solo album, with producer Mannie Fresh in tow, Lil' Wayne's career as a rapper was taken seriously from the get-go. A serious free-style rapper, Lil' Wayne stands only five feet, five inches tall, is covered in tattoos, and became a father at 15. Dating popular rapper Trina, in 2005, Lil' Wayne became the president of Cash Money Records, the very same label that gave him his start.
On September 27, 1982, Cynthia Carter gave birth to her son Dwayne Michael Carter in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dwayne grew up with his mother and his stepfather in the New Orleans neighborhood of Holly-grove, where he adapted the culture of rap music as a way of life early on. Afan of Cash Money Records' artist Lil' Slim, Dwayne hung around the New Orleans rapper, who introduced him to Cash Money CEOs and brothers Ronald "Slim" and Bryan "Baby" Williams. Before he was even a teenager, Dwayne knew that he wanted to become a successful rapper and join the Cash Money family. In an interview with XXL magazine, he said he didn't listen to much rap music that wasn't being made in the south; "It was Cash Money or nothing," he said. At just eleven years old, Dwayne impressed the CEOs of Cash Money by showing off his talent. "I did a rap where I spelled out my hood, Holly-grove and they gave me a card. You know, you give a child a card, he ain't never stop callin' that number," he told XXL. The Cash Money crew took Dwayne under their wing and allowed him to hang out at the Cash Money offices and studio. "I wouldn't do nothing sittin' there all day," he continued in XXL, "but some days they'd be like, 'Let's take a ride.' All that escalated into me being part of the clique."
After dubbing himself "Baby D," Dwayne made his first recording appearance on B.G.'s Cash Money album True Story. In 1997, now calling himself Lil' Wayne, the teenager joined fellow rappers Juvenile, Turk, and B.G. in Cash Money's new group the Hot Boys. The young troupe released their debut, Get It How You Live, which sold 400,000 copies. Unfortunately, in the same year Lil' Wayne suffered a personal tragedy when his stepfather was abducted and murdered.
Two years after their successful debut, the Hot Boys shot back with Guerilla Warfare. Group members Juvenile, B.G., and Lil' Wayne all released solo albums the same year. Lil' Wayne appeared on Juvenile's hit single "Back That Azz Up," and Lil' Wayne's own debut, Tha Block is Hot went platinum. Only 16 when he recorded his debut, with production and beats by Mannie Fresh, it was clear that Lil' Wayne's solo career would prove to be more popular than his group efforts. In its first week of sales in 1999, Tha Block is Hot sold 229,500 copies and hit number three on the Billboard 200.
The Hot Boys was put on hold as its members focused on their solo careers, making Cash Money Records a collection of some of the most significant rappers of the south. In 2000, at 18-years old, Lil' Wayne released Lights Out. Unlike many of his teenaged peers, Lil' Wayne's music was harder, more mature and commanding. "Nobody ever looked at me as a little kid rapper-just a bad ass kid," he told MSNBC.com. Just two years later, Lil' Wayne followed up Lights Out with 500 Degreez, and the next year, the Hot Boys got back together for the 2003 album Let 'Em Burn.
Continuing his tight and booming rapport with producer Mannie Fresh, in 2004 Lil' Wayne released Tha Carter. While Lil' Wayne was successful in the south, he had yet to gain attention across the country until the album's first single, "Go DJ," shot through the roof. XXL attributed the success of Tha Carter to, "Mannie Fresh's menacing minimalist track; Wayne's disjointed braggadocio; and the fact that his voice has developed a croak that adds old-soul heft to his trademark, smartass, flyer-than-you- flow." Lil' Wayne announced that Tha Carter was just the first in what would be a five-part Carter series of albums. Lil' Wayne's buzz got even wider when he appeared, alongside rapper T.I., on Destiny Child's hit single "Soldier."
Just one year after Tha Carter, Lil' Wayne followed up on his promise with the release of Tha Carter II. The record sold 244,000 copies in its first week, making it the highest Cash Money debut to date. Although Tha Carter II became Lil' Wayne's biggest commercial success, it was also his first album without Mannie Fresh. With the absence of Mannie Fresh, Tha Carter II was a consciously different album than Lil' Wayne's past effort. From the beats, the music he sampled and even the way he rapped, Tha Carter II was made to hit as many possible listeners as possible. With singles like the Doe Boys-produced "Fireman," the soul-inflected "Shooter" and melodic "Hustler Musik," in an interview with the Village Voice, Lil' Wayne admitted that he was going for something different this time around. "I'm trying to open up a new door for Cash Money itself, and myself alone also," he said. "That's what I had to do. People go used to the same sound. Of course, 'Go DJ' was great, but it was done by Mannie Fresh. I've done Mannie Fresh music all my career, so this album here was my new beginning."
After the success of Tha Carter II in 2005, Lil' Wayne became the president of Cash Money Records. Now residing in Miami, Florida, in 2006 Lil' Wayne was studying online to get his undergraduate degree from the University of Houston, overseeing Cash Money as president and continually helping out his hometown victims of Hurricane Katrina.
(With Hot Boys) Get it How U Live, Cash Money Records, 1997.
(With Hot Boys) Guerrilla Warfare, Cash Money Records, 1999.
Tha Block is Hot, Cash Money Records, 1999.
Lights Out, Cash Money Records, 2000.
500 Degreez, Cash Money Records, 2002.
(With Hot Boys) Let 'Em Burn, Cash Money Records, 2003
Tha Carter, Cash Money Records, 2004.
Tha Carter II, Cash Money Records, 2005.
For the Record …
Born Dwayne Michael Carter on September 27, 1982, in New Orleans, LA; son of Cynthia Carter.
Caught the eye of Cash Money Records CEOs at the age of 11; joined group Hot Boys, 1997; with Hot Boys, released Get It How You Live It, 1997, and Guerilla Warfare, 1999; released solo debut Tha Block is Hot, 1999; Lights Out, 2000; Tha Carter, 2004; Tha Carter II, 2005; became president of Cash Money Records, 2005.
Addresses: Record company—Cash Money Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404, web-site: http://www.cashmoney-records.com.
Billboard, November 20, 1999.
Village Voice, January 19, 2006.
XXL, November 1, 2005.
Cash Money Records Official Website, http://www.cashmoney-records.com (July 6, 2006).
"Hot Boys," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusicguide.com (July 6, 2006).
"Juvenile," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusicguide.com (July 6, 2006).
"Lil' Wayne wants respect for Southern rap," MSNBC.com http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12992671 (July 6, 2006).
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