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Trying to figure out where Lil Wayne’s career is headed and if he can get back on top.

Lil Wayne ruled the hip-hop world for the better part of a decade.  From his mainstream debut in 1999 with the Hot Boyz and his feature on Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” Lil Wayne slowly climbed his way to the top of the rap game with sheer will and determination. No one worked harder then Wayne, no one was on as many features as him, no one came up with as many quality mixtapes as him, and no one stay connected to the streets while still taking over top 40 radio quite like he did.  That all changed in March 2010.

Lil Wayne started his 8-month sentence for gun possession in Rikers Island on March 8th, 2010. In hindsight, this was the end of an era. Weezy’s run from 1999-2010 is arguably the greatest stretch any hip-hop artist ever had.  Lil Wayne’s first 2 albums, “Lights Out” and “500 Degreez” both paved the way for his breakout album “Tha Carter” in 2004.  From there as, Kenny Smith said, “It’s over.” “Tha Carter II” went on to sell over 2 million records worldwide and Weezy’s mixtapes from 2006-2008 only added to the hype. Everything peaked in June 2008 with his release of “Tha Carter III”.  This album sold 1 million copies in the first week alone, which is unheard of in the digital/itunes world we live in today.  Weezy had cemented himself on the Mount Rushmore of Hip-Hop.

Lil Wayne followed on Tha Carter III’s success by releasing “Rebirth” and “I Am Not A Human Being” to close out his decade long takeover.  I guess a rock album is what you do when you are bored and have accomplished everything else. While these didn’t put up the crazy numbers that Tha Carter III did, they still put up high sales for any other rappers standards. It appeared as if anything Weezy touched was gold.

Fast forward to now. So what happened to Weezy’s stranglehold on the rap game? The most obvious answer is that he was out of the public eye for 8 months sitting in a jail cell. In the fast paced world we live in today it’s hard to stay relevant when no one hears from you except for the occasional Lil Twist written tweet.  But it goes farther then that.

Even with Wayne’s release and return to the rap post-jail Wayne just has a different sound, a different feel, and the lack of the hunger that made us all love Weezy in the first place.  His 2 big releases after jail, the mixtape “Sorry For the Wait” and probably the most hyped rap album in a long time, “The Carter 4” both fell short of fans and critics expectations. Maybe it has to do with his sobriety. Wayne’s love for marijuana, “purple drank”, and whatever other concoctions he used are well documented.  It would be foolish to say that these drugs could be good for anyone’s health; especially the way Wayne abused them. But from the outside looking in, it looks like Wayne went to another place or different level musically when under the influence of them. I am not advocating that he get back into that lifestyle at all, and for his own sake it is for the best that he is sober. But selfishly I miss the syrup sipping, blunt smoking, free styling Weezy.

Maybe it has due with the fact that he’s accomplished everything an artist could accomplish. It’s hard to stay hard and keep your edge when you have gone platinum, won Grammy’s and made well over $100 million in your career.  I don’t want to say that he is complacent but it appears he doesn’t have the same drive that pushed him to be the artist we saw at his apex with Tha Carter III.

Or maybe it has to do with his successful record label Young Money. Lil Wayne is responsible for two of the biggest names in the game right now: Drake and Nicki Minaj. Is it possible that Wayne just wants to sit back and watch his prodigies take over? It is a very realistic possibility. From all the clowns that he has signed to Young Money, it looks like Weezy is loyal and takes just as much, if not more joy in the success of his artist, as he does in his own

I don’t want to say Weezy has lost it because he has showed flashes of the old Wayne after his release from jail. But I hope that he can get out of the funk that he is in somehow and get back to being “the best rapper alive.” Looking at his track record, I wouldn’t put it past the man.

John Dekker