New Orleans rapper and Young Money founder Lil Wayne is often considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. As one of the first rappers from the South to achieve mogul status, Lil Wayne provided hope to other young rappers from the South who hadn’t seen someone like them go very far.
Born and raised in the deprived Hollygrove area of New Orleans, Lil Wayne (real name Dwayne Carter) was discovered by Birdman when he was just a teenager. Lil Wayne’s childhood friend Mack Maine equated the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans to warzones, recalling that, like its neighbouring states, Louisiana had such loose gun laws at one point that in Hollygrove, there were new dead bodies on the street every morning.
Quick to accept the offer of Birdman, Lil Wayne signed to his record label Cash Money as a mere teenager in the early noughties. He signed a record deal as part of the New Orleans rap crew The Hot Boys, but after the crew disbanded with their producer Mannie Fresh abandoning the label, only Lil Wayne was left at Cash Money.
Lil Wayne released his debut album Tha Block Is Hot, on the label in 1999. Having already built a buzz by touring on the underground across the south and with multiple tracks receiving local airplay in the south, Tha Block Is Hot, pushed by Cash Money and Universal Music, debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.
Between 1999 and 2004, Wayne released two more studio albums, but they never reached the heights of his debut. However, he did multiple features, including a verse on the Destiny’s Child song ‘Soldier’. In 2004 Wayne released his fourth studio album, Tha Carter, which birthed his Carter album series. Fortunately, with his classic mixtape series Dedication alongside DJ Drama shaking up the underground, Lil Wayne became Cash Money’s face and, before long, its new star.
In the early noughties, Wayne had one of the most successful mixtape runs in rap history, and by the end of the noughties, the rapper had his own imprint of Cash Money, Young Money. The label launched the careers of Nicki Minaj, Tyga and Drake, to name a few. With Maybach Music Group being their only competition in the early 2010s, colloquially known as YMCM, Young Money was untouchable and was responsible for hits such as Tyga’s ‘Rack City’, Drake’s ‘Best I Ever Had’ and more.
With 13 studio albums, one collaborative album, three compilation albums, five EPs, and a mind-blowing 29 mixtapes, we have compiled a list of his albums ranked from worst to best.
Lil Wayne’s albums ranked from worst to best:
10. Rebirth, (2010)
Rebirth consisited of, for the most part, tacky rock-infused pop-rap songs that just didn’t suit the rapper. To keep it brief, Rebirth was sonically poor across the board. This was unfortunate timing because the early 2010s saw his Young Money counterparts flourish as he withered.
In 2010, both Nicki Minaj and Drake released albums to critical acclaim, so juxtaposed with that success, it was quite an embarrassing outcome for Wayne.
9. I Am Not a Human Being (2010)
Another album dropped in 2010, this one was released while Carter was in prison. The album lacked relevance and felt like it was put together hastily to ensure Wayne wasn’t left behind while he was incarcerated.
A shambles mostly comprised of slurred words and stereotypical sex tropes, I Am Not a Human Being is most definitely not Wayne at his finest.
8. I Am Not a Human Being 2 (2013)
A sequel to the 2010 release, this album felt just as bad. A lead up to his Carter V album, there were some decent tracks on the album, but for the most part, it was musical fodder. Tracks such as ‘Rich As F*ck’ garnered a fair bit of attention as singles, but the album is not among Wayne’s best.
7. Tha Carter V, (2018)
Tha Carter V released in 2018, was Wayne’s first album not released on Cash Money. After the rapper’s feud with Birdman, he wanted out of the label. After a long and tiring legal battle, in June of 2018, Wayne was finally released from his Cash Money contract and announced an album straight away.
Tha Carter V featured the late rapper XXXTentacion and others and was received well. Music magazine Pitchfork wrote that “The long-delayed album captures Wayne how we want to remember him: openhearted, word-drunk, and exhilarated by the possibilities of his own versatility”, highlighting that “the most surprising takeaway from Tha Carter V, it turns out, isn’t that Wayne still has music this vital in him. It’s that after all these years, there’s still more to learn about him.”
6. Tha Block Is Hot (1999)
Released in 1999, Tha Block Is Hot was Lil Wayne’s debut album and was met with mostly positive reviews. Debuting at number three on the US Billboard 200 chart, the album, which was released in November, was certified platinum by December of the same year.
Its singles didn’t do amazingly well, but the project as a whole claimed quite high. One thing that was integral to Lil Wayne’s career was local radio play. New York and Los Angeles had their fair share of successful rappers and representatives by the end of the ’90s. However, the South had not really found much success.
However, Lil’ Wayne’s sound and delivery and his overall style really turned the head of the US as everyone in the south rallied behind him. Lil’ Wayne, along with Trick Daddy and a few others such as Slim Thug, were really the first people to break down doors for southern artists, and the success came in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Tha Block Is Hot certainly helped cement this.
5. Tha Carter, (2004)
The first-ever Carter album, Tha Carter, released in 2004, became Lil Wayne’s third US top-ten debut. It was the rapper’s fourth but is legendary for the fact that it was the start of Wayne’s Carter album series, which became very popular very quickly.
Following the mixtape format of being released in instalments, Tha Carter albums almost felt slight slightly more polished mixtapes, and Lil Wayne most definitely brings that southern, gangsta rap aspect that made his Dedication mixtapes so popular to Tha Carter.
4. 500 Degreez, (2002)
500 Degreez is another one of Wayne’s fundamental albums. Released three years after his debut 500 Degreez continued to showcase that a southern rapper could use East Coast cadences and sound clear-cut on a beat. With lean culture extremely prominent in the south, the majority of hip hop consumers disregarded southern rappers as word-slurring mumble rappers.
Furthermore, with acts such as Lil Jon just screaming, southern rap was really not respected. However, Wayne changed this perception with his razor-sharp delivery and flows he was truly the saviour of the south.
3. Tha Carter II, (2005)
A follow-up from his debut album, Tha Carter II, was a huge success upon release. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum by the RIAA. Akin to other Wayne albums, the singles did not do so well, but still, the album went on to chart highly.
2. Tha Carter IV, (2011)
This was Wayne’s second most successful album. Released in 2011 when he came out of prison, tracks such as ‘6ft 7ft’ show Lil Wayne’s lyrical versatility. The album went five times platinum and boasts other hits such as ‘She Will’ featuring Drake and ‘Mirror’ featuring Bruno Mars.
Like many of his albums prior to this, Tha Carter IV topped the Billboard 200 and is one of Wayne’s best albums.
1. Tha Carter III, (2008)
This album is nothing short of monumental. Tha Carter III was, arguably, the peak of Lil Wayne’s career. Released in 2008, songs such as ‘Lollipop’ and ‘A Milli’ were smash hits and loved the world over. Furthermore, Wayne was fresh off of his 2004-2007 mixtape run, which saw him build an unbelievable amount of fans.
Tha Carter III is arguably what cemented Wayne as a top level rapper and mogul. It was certified eight-times platinum by the RIAA and is still Wayne’s most successful album of all time. Tracks from Tha Carter III still get played on the radio today and are undeniably timeless Tha Carter III has to take the top spot with regard to Lil Wayne albums.