As a genre, hip-hop doesn’t always support its legends once their era of dominance has come and gone. Every now and then, however, an artist strikes a chord with a particular generation that refuses to let their star power dwindle. Our generation has that type of love for Lil Wayne.
His heroic mixtape run between 2005-2012 was an iconic stretch in rap history. He popularized new flows and punchline delivery, sold a million records in a week pre-streaming era, and launched the careers of arguably two of the biggest superstars in music over the last two decades. Those accolades are enough to cement him as one of the best to ever do it, and I’m not even naming a quarter of his accomplishments.
The truth is the culture gets people like Lil Wayne once in a lifetime, and this guy’s been around since he was 12. The superstar rappers of today are lucky to stay relevant for 5 years, but Wayne grew up as a superstar. He didn’t begin to transition out of his tenure as music’s top dog because of any lack in musical impact. His prison stint at the height of Young Money’s success took him out of the public eye, as Drake instinctively and quite appropriately made sure the Young Money ship was never sinking. According to The Undefeated, Wayne was featured on 373 tracks between 2004 and the day he was imprisoned on Rikers Island. Upon his return, Drake was running the show. His post-prison album The Carter IV went double platinum, but the presence wasn’t necessarily the same.
Due to legal battles with his former record label Cash Money, he was unable to drop another album between 2011 and 2018 when he released the heavily anticipated Carter V. An entire seven years without releasing a critically acclaimed album due to circumstances out of your control is enough to put a dent in anyone’s platform as a major figure in music. Still, we understand that if it wouldn’t be. When I say “it”, I mean the culture of hip-hop. Face tats, dreads, the millennial merging of rock and rap, your beloved Drake—it’s all due to Wayne blazing the trail and ushering rap into its new era.
Recently, Wayne announced a joint tour with Blink-182. The tour will reach across North America hitting over 40 cities starting June 27 in Columbus, Ohio. A tour with a rock group is fitting for Wayne, as he always lived life like a rock star and he transcended rap while he did it. Even better news followed the tour announcement, as Wayne confirmed that he’s dropping his long awaited album, Funeral. The title itself is a bit eerie, and lends to the idea that maybe it’s his final release.
Let’s not be too prepared to put Wayne’s rap career to bed regardless of the title. As hip-hop’s elder statesmen have continued to keep their careers alive far past the age of 40, we can expect more from Wayne. At 36 years young, he’s still got experiences to draw from and more to say. We’ll always be ready for more Tunechi.