His debut single featured Juvenile and B.G., and was released just days before his 17th birthday (!). And even back then, Tunechi was simultaneously schooling and weirding out the hip-hop world. Watch the video after the jump.
As you can see in the music video, Lil Wayne’s predator dreads were smaller and his skin didn’t yet look like an Etch-A-Sketch, but that distinctive semi-growl/semi-nasal flow was already fleshed out. The plodding, cheaply synthetic beat was typical of the utterly disposable gold-plated rap spewed forth by Cash Money and No Limit at that time, but Weezy’s sheer lyrical endurance and odd cadence cut through the bling-y bluntness (see: “It’s all good in the hood, but a lot illegal / Soon as you get it, hot SKRRT, there go them people / Break up the block and hit the cut by the corner sto’ / End up in Miss Taylor backyard, be quiet, she on the porch”).
While it only peaked at #65 on the charts, the title song to Weezy’s debut Tha Block Is Hot helped the album open at #3 and go on to reach Platinum status. (We remember it being a particular favorite of suburban high school locker rooms.)
Here we are 13 years later, and the guitar playing, skateboarding Lil Wayne has his own Cash Money imprint, where he has cultivated talent like Drake and Nicki Minaj. All while churning out 237 mixtapes (rough estimate) and commercial hip-hop classics like Tha Carter IV, and prepping his tenth album I Am Not A Human Being II for a November 13 release.
So happy birthday, Lil Wayne. Your youth may be officially over, but you still “like to dress in all black up in my residence / Ain’t got on no suits, cause we ain’t tryin’ to be presidents” — and really, not wearing a suit at age 30 is pretty much the ultimate goal of this circus we call life, so that’s a cause for celebration.