Lil Wayne is one of the most skilled lyricists in hip-hop, and many consider him to be the best rapper of all time. Born and raised in the Holly Grove neighbourhood of New Orleans, the rapper (real name Dwayne Carter) was discovered by Birdman when he was just a teenager.
Lil Wayne was a member of the New Orleans-based collective Tha Hot Boys. Comprised of B.G., Lil Wayne, Juvenile and Turk, the group released their album, Get It How U Live! in 1997, and they were a big success locally. Only Juvenile and Lil Wayne went on to have solo careers. However, even before they released their first project, the ‘A Milli’ emcee was the star of Cash Money Records.
Get It How U Live! saw guest features from the likes of Bun B, Pimp C, Magnolia Shorty and the Big Tymers. Executively produced by Ronald ‘Slim’ Williams, the project only peaked at number 37 on the Billboard R’n’B chart.
Wayne (real name Dwayne Carter) built a buzz by touring on the underground across the south and had multiple tracks getting local airplay. As Birdman’s prodigy child, Lil Wayne released his debut album, Tha Block Is Hot, on the label in 1999 and, pushed by Cash Money and Universal Music, it debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.
From there, Wayne only grew, partnering up with DJ Drama and Don Cannon. Still, under Cash Money, the rapper flooded the South with his classic underground mixtape series Dedication. In the early and mid-2000s, Wayne had one of the most successful mixtape runs in rap history and, in his career, has released over 29 mixtapes.
Carter was offered his own imprint under Atlantic, Young Money and, as the founder, signed now iconic acts such as Nicki Minaj, Drake and Tyga. However, his success was due to the drive he developed in his early teens.
Carter dropped out of high school when he received his first cheque from Birdman and, with the consent of his mother, recorded non-stop with Birdman, releasing several mixtapes a year. Below, you can see a rare MTV News interview with Lil Wayne when he was 14 years old.