20 essential tracks from the “best rapper alive”
Since proclaiming himself “best rapper alive” on his 2005 album The Carter II, New Orleans MC Lil wayne lived the title. Born September 27, 1982, Lil Wayne is over 25 years old in the game; He’s one of the best-selling artists of all time, and as Lil Wayne’s best songs show, his influence on hip-hop culture is immeasurable. In the mid-2000s, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing his free-flow, and now we’re counting Lil Wayne’s 20 best songs. After all, this is Wayne’s world, we live in it.
Did we miss any of your best Lil Wayne songs? Let us know in the comments section below.
20: “I miss my friends”
“I Miss My Dawgs” is a poignant song for many reasons. It’s Lil Wayne at a young age, honestly and candidly approaching his falling out with former label mates – and he’s still on the label. It was also an early sign of the power of Wayne’s elastic voice, which could go from a shrill croak to a brash rasp in an instant. Over the years 2004 The Carter, Wayne already had a story that made him a legend.
19: “3 peat”
The opening of Wayne’s most monumental album is huge. On a Maestro beat, he bangs his ass for three minutes in a row. At Carter III, he did it while making pop in the greatest of ways, getting weird on songs like “Phone Home” and taking characters in songs like “Dr. Carter.” “3 Peat” is so impressive that it basically gives Wayne permission to do whatever he wants.
18: “Money To Blow” (Birdman, with Lil Wayne and Drake)
Together, Wayne, Duck, and Birdman recorded a number of tracks, most of them certifiable hits that ended up on Birdman projects or Wayne mixtapes that didn’t get an official release. “Money To Blow” is the most iconic Birdman lifestyle that all these guys brought together. It also boasts a classic Drake hook from his early days and culminates with one of Wayne’s most prophetic sayings of all time: “We’re going to be okay if we put Drake on every hoooook.”
17: “Make It Rain” (Fat Joe, with Lil Wayne)
One of Wayne’s first classic features comes from an era that apparently had no end. And that’s just a hook! Wayne has always been good at a hook – it’s one of the most underrated aspects of his career, and certainly an unrecognized skill as a featured artist. Such a great rapper appearing on a track with Fat Joe was another sign that hip-hop was changing rapidly during the 2000s.
16: “Back That Azz Up” (Juvenile, with Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne)
“Back That Azz Up” is one of Lil Wayne’s best songs – and it’s not even his track. It only has one feature, and it’s an outro. While not an example of his best lyrics, the song became a staple of every black American celebration and an early sign that Wayne would be a star. His presence alone is a testament to his charisma, even if he wasn’t even solo yet.
15: “Tie My Hands” (with Robin Thicke)
Wayne has rapped a lot about the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the Bush administration. Sometimes he’s done it brazenly, but “Tie My Hands” is the opposite, thanks in part to a feature film by Robin Thicke. His voice is restrained but hopeful, and a great counterpart to Wayne’s (sometimes frenzied) grief. Few rappers are tied to their city like Wayne is to his.
14: “Grown Man” (with Curren $ y)
Wayne has done a handful of songs like “Grown Man”: laid back without really evolving into full fledged seduction hymns. He was the most convincing in this fashion on The Carter II, on which his fame and power were in perfect balance. After that he got too big to hit him like that. ‘Grown Man’ is a classic not just for the beat, but for the king of chill, Curren $ y, who gets a feature film. He and Wayne have busy careers, but this is his only appearance on a Lil Wayne studio track.
13: “This is the crankcase”
Because the collaborations between Wayne and Mannie Fresh were ultimately less numerous than many people hoped, the highlights aged like fine wine. “Much richer and much smarter” was not only true on The Carter, it was true three times in a row. Wayne’s mumble “Finally Perfect” wasn’t true yet, but the way he said it, you knew it would be.
12: “Go DJ”
“Go DJ” is the quintessential song from the golden age of Lil Wayne and Mannie Fresh. If you were to bring a song from The Carter on a desert island, that would be it. Wayne looks hungry, like he could’ve rapped this stuff forever. In some ways he did, although the song would more or less mark the end of his professional involvement with Manny Fresh for years to come.
11: “Dr. Carter”
“Dr. Carter” is perhaps the most unlikely success of Wayne’s career. It’s not just a concept song, which by 2008 was largely out of fashion, but it’s also exceptionally literal. Besides, it’s ridiculous. But the fact that it works and that he’s inherently charming is a testament to the charisma that made Wayne boast of the “best rapper alive” when The Carter III has been freed.
For a generation of listeners, “Fireman” was their introduction to Lil Wayne; this may have been the first time they saw the A Bathing Ape equipment in a clip, or recognized the ghost on the cover of Carter II name. For others, it was a moment of notable transformation for Wayne into a more diverse, freely associative rapper. With “Fireman” it became clear just how much potential Wayne had.
9: “We Takin ‘Over” (DJ Khaled, with Akon, TI, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Birdman and Fat Joe)
Another DJ Khaled song ranks higher than this one, but the original “We Takin ‘Over”, and Wayne’s subsequent freestyle on the instrumental, was indisputable proof that when he said he was the better, he was right. The sentiment of the song literally applied to Wayne, and “Feed me rappers or feed me beats” would be his defining career mantra.
8: “Right Above It” (with Drake)
“Right Above It” came at a precise moment in Wayne’s career: his unopposed run as king of rapdom was drawing to a close and he was about to begin his infamous Riker’s Island imprisonment. Kanye was about to go out My beautiful twisted dark fantasy, and Drake was getting bigger every day. Kane Beatz also made some of the best beats of the time, and this was one of them. This is one of Wayne / Drake’s most notable collaborations that sees them gloat in unusual ways, but not without venom.
7: “I’m On One” (DJ Khaled, with Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne
This is one of the best, if not the best, of DJ Khaled’s singles, and it’s absolutely vintage Drake and Rick Ross. The “DJ Khaled! drop is almost scary, and it would be hard to beat a beat with these three artists at this point. But the real show-stealing moment comes from Wayne, who opens his verse with one of the best lines of his career: “I walk around the club… f__k everyone.”
6: “Shooter” (with Robin Thicke)
Wayne has always been a confident and eclectic collaborator. This is one of the things that ultimately led him to Renaissance. If “Tie My Hands” is a sobering tribute, then “Shooter” is a slow, alluring construction of a series of piercing moments that are quite the opposite of what is sobering. Thicke’s best collaboration with a rapper is also a firm and impressive indictment against anti-Southerner sentimentalities: “If we’re too simple, you don’t understand the basics.
5: “Stuntin ‘Like My Daddy” (with Birdman)
Of all of Wayne and Birdman’s collaborations, this is the most essential. It has the best crochet of any song they’ve done together – and probably the best crochet of the time – and it features some of their more vintage verses. For mainstream fans more familiar with Wayne, this made Birdman a household name. “Stuntin ‘Like My Daddy” is so big its reputation will likely survive the feud that ultimately undid their collaborative partnership.
4: ‘Mr Carter’ (with Jay Z)
The Carter III established Wayne as one of the most important rappers of the time. It opens with the bombastic and melodramatic “3 Peat”, as Wayne runs his victory lap throughout the rest of the album. ‘Mr Carter’ isn’t just two titans trading bars on a classic soul sample, however, it’s one of the best stick passes and endorsements of all time. Jay’s presence on the song was especially significant given the duo’s history of feuding.
3: ‘Lollipop’ (with Static Major)
T-Pain and Kanye both rose to fame thanks to the autotune, but it was Wayne’s “Lollipop” that really brought it into mainstream acceptability. It’s a mainstay now, but “Lollipop” is still one of the most memorable moments of the time. It’s lyrically more sparse than a lot of what Wayne was known for at the time, but compromise was one of his most earworm-y hooks and the biggest crossover singles ever. ‘Fireman’ and the majority of singles off The Carter were smash hits, but for a few months you couldn’t go anywhere in America without hearing “Lollipop”.
2: “Music of the resourceful”
For those among Wayne fans who consider Carter II to be its crowning achievement, “Hustler Musik” is perhaps the most representative of a “they don’t do them like that anymore” beat that showcases Wayne’s confidence in the flow. Even before he became the greatest rapper in the world, Wayne believed he had succeeded.
1: “A thousand”
With “Lollipop,” Wayne created one of the biggest crossover singles of all time, establishing the total domination of the hip-hop he had been talking about for years. If there were any skeptics left, “A Milli” has proven not only that he can perform in the pop lane, but that he can outperform anyone. Rhythm is an instant classic that’s a perfect slam dunk for Wayne’s unmatched charisma. On “A Milli” he was truly the best rapper alive.