Born on September 27, 1982, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lil Wayne worked with hip-hop group the Hot Boys before forging a solo career with albums Tha Carter and its hit follow ups II, III and IV. He won four Grammy Awards in 2009 for singles like “A Milli” and “Lollipop,” and has worked with artists ranging from Robin Thicke to Nicki Minaj. He was jailed in 2010 for weapon’s possession.
Rapper Lil Wayne was born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. on September 27, 1982, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lil Wayne has been creating music since he was a child, and is considered among today’s most talented rappers. He grew up in Hollygrove, one of New Orleans’ poorest neighborhoods.
Lil Wayne started rapping at the age of 8. He later met brothers Bryan and Slim Williams, the founders of Cash Money Records, who were impressed enough with his skills to give him one of their business cards. Ambitious, Wayne continued to call them until they took him under their wing and let him hang around the label’s offices.
Lil Wayne’s first recording for Cash Money Records was True Stories (1993), performing with another skilled rapper, B.G., under the name the BGs. Away from the studios, he was living dangerously. He sold crack for a time, and accidentally shot himself in the chest, according to an article in Rolling Stone. “It was my mom’s gun,” Wayne told the magazine in 2008. “It was like a chopper hit me. But the bullet went straight through, and I bounced back in two weeks.” Wayne later revealed in a 2018 interview with Billboard that the shot was actually a suicide attempt that he did after his mother told him that he was not allowed to rap anymore.
As part of the Hot Boys, Lil Wayne got his first taste of success. The group was made up of several of Cash Money’s rising stars—B.G., Juvenile, Turk and Wayne. Their debut album, Get It How U Live (1997), sold more than 400,000 copies. Their next effort, Guerilla Warfare (1999), did even better, eventually selling more than 1 million copies. At the age of 16, Lil Wayne was on his way to music stardom.
That same year, Lil Wayne launched his solo career with Tha Block Is Hot (1999). The title track was a big hit, and the album reached the top of the hip-hop charts. Featuring appearances by members of the Hot Boys as well as the Big Tymers (Brian Williams and Mannie Fresh), the recording went double platinum. Fresh also served as Wayne’s producer on the recording.
The rapper’s next two albums, Lights Out (2000) and 500 Degreez (2002), sold modestly compared to his debut. Then, in a career-changing move, Lil Wayne took a break from creating a traditional style album and released his first collection from his underground mixtapes: Da Drought (2003). His mixtape tracks usually feature beats borrowed from other artists with new lyrics that he creates.
In 2004, Lil Wayne released Tha Carter, a hugely popular album that helped cement his reputation as one of rap’s leading performers. The single, “Go D.J.” did well on the rap, hip-hop, and pop charts. Rolling Stone critic Christian Hoard said that “Wayne’s syrupy drawl sounds more dextrous than ever” on the album.
Quickly following up this latest wave of success, Wayne released Tha Carter II in December 2005. The album debuted at the No. 2 spot on the Billboard pop charts and brought more critical praise for Wayne. A cameo appearance on the Destiny’s Child smash hit “Soldier” only further enhanced Wayne’s popularity.
Over the next few years, Lil Wayne released several more popular mixtape recordings, including the critically adored Dedication, Vol. 2 (2006), which he made with DJ Drama. Around the same time, Wayne teamed up with Cash Money mentor Bryan William (also known as “Baby” and “Birdman”) to create the album Like Father, Like Son (2006), which spawned the hit “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy.”
Grammy Award Winner
In response to several unreleased tracks being made public over the internet, Lil Wayne released the download-only EP The Leak in 2007. The songs came from his work on his anxiously anticipated next studio album, which was finally released in 2008: Tha Carter III hit the top of the rap, hip-hop and pop charts, selling more than 1 million copies in its first week of release.
Tha Carter III features several successful singles, including the No. 1 hits “A Milli” and “Lollipop,” a track that he recorded with Static Major. Jay-Z appeared on the track “Mr. Carter,” and T-Pain was featured on “Got Money.” Babyface, Robin Thicke, Busta Rhymes and Juelz Santana also made cameos. The project netted the Grammy Award for best rap album, and Lil Wayne picked up three more honors at the February 2009 awards ceremony. He won the Grammy for best rap song for “Lollipop,” earned the Grammy for best rap solo performance for “A Milli” and shared the award for best rap performance by a duo or group with Jay-Z, T.I. and Kanye West, for “Swagga Like Us.”
During the summer of 2009, Lil Wayne spent much of his time on the road with the Young Money Presents: America’s Most Wanted Music Festival, which also featured Young Jeezy, Soulja Boy and Drake. In August 2009, Wayne signed rapper Bow Wow to his label. That same year, the rapper performed with Jay Sean on his hit song “Down,” from Sean’s 2009 album All of Nothing.
Lil Wayne released his seventh studio album, the rock-influenced Rebirth, in February 2010. His eighth studio project, I Am Not a Human Being, was released that same year. Both projects were well-received.
In August 2011, Wayne released his fourth installment of Tha Carter series, Tha Carter IV, which quickly met with success. In its first four days online, the album saw 300,000 song downloads on iTunes—setting a new record on the media-downloading application. Hits from the album include “Mirror,” featuring the smooth vocals of R&B singer-songwriter Bruno Mars, and “It’s Good,” featuring fellow rappers Drake and Jadakiss.
Not one to rest on his laurels, in March 2013, Lil Wayne put out his 10th studio album, I Am Not a Human Being II, to great acclaim. The recording sold 217,000 copies in its first week and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart.
In the meantime, Lil Wayne has been busy building up his Cash Money record label, working with other recording artists and even helping underprivileged kids. The rapper established a charitable organization to help urban youth, the One Family Foundation, through which he worked to rebuild the athletic fields at his old school, Eleanor McMain Secondary School, after they were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Despite all of his success, Wayne has never forgotten his roots.
Known to be fond of smoking marijuana, Lil Wayne has found himself in trouble with the law on several occasions in recent years. He was arrested in Georgia for drug possession in 2006, and again in Arizona on drug-related charges in January 2008.
After making a deal with PepsiCo to promote its Moutain Dew soda brand, Lil Wayne was dropped by the company in May 2013 after releasing a song containing derogatory lyrics referencing civil rights icon Emmett Till. Both Pepsi and Wayne garnered negative publicity due to the song lyrics.
Wayne was previously married to a high school girlfriend, with whom he has a daughter named Reginae.
(Profile photo of Lil Wayne by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images)
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