Mostly recognized by his tattooed body and thick dreadlocks, Lil Wayne needs no introduction given his self-proclaimed ‘best rapper alive’ status. Starting out his career at the age of 11, Weezy has managed to record twelve successful studio albums. With most of his tracks having topped the Billboard charts, the Grammy Award winner is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated American hip-hop artists. Nonetheless, Weezy’s life hasn’t been all smooth but has been characterized by difficult childhood and drug addiction in his later life.
Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., mostly nicknamed Weezy, was born in Hollygrove, Louisiana. His father was Dwayne Michael Turner while his mother Jacida Carter, also known as Cita, was a cook. Jacida gave birth to Wayne when she was 19-years old and an immediate graduate from high school. Her family pressured her to marry Dwayne, the child’s biological father, but the man turned out to be quite abusive towards Jacida and little Wayne. Dwayne later abandoned his family and life became very difficult for mother and son. The marriage was never meant to be as the two divorced a short while later. Lil Wayne was very disappointed in his father and he therefore dropped the letter ‘D’ from his surname making his name hence forth to be Wayne.
After the divorce with Dwayne, Jacida was lucky enough to give Lil Wayne several other dads. She first met Terry and married him but the two divorced later. Next on line was Reginald McDonald popularly known as ‘Rabbit’ but their relationship was cut short by his cruel murder. In April 2012, Ms Carter then married Avery Goff with whom they are still together to date.
From an early age, Wayne had an interest in performing arts and that explains why he enrolled in the gifted program of Lafayette Elementary School. Thereafter, he joined Eleanor McMain Secondary School where he was a member of the drama club. However, Wayne transferred from McMain after two years of study and instead enrolled in Marion Abramson Senior High School. Although Wayne later dropped out of school at the age of 14, he obtained his GED and went ahead to pursue a psychology major in the University of Houston. However, he quit the busy full time classes and enrolled for online courses in the same field at the University of Phoenix.
Wayne always had deep interest in rap music and at the age of 8, he wrote his first rap song. His then step father, Rabbit, was impressed and he convinced Cita to allow Wayne to sign a contract with Cash Money Records. He then met the label’s founders, Bryan Williams – popularly known as Birdman – and Ronald William nicknamed Slim.
For some time, Wayne was forbidden by his mother to meet the Cash Money brothers after he accidentally shot himself in the chest with Rabbit’s handgun. The wound was quite severe and two inches away from his heart. He calls it a miracle that he survived the incident. According to Cita, her son’s collaboration with Birdman wasn’t something she supported, considering she had attended school with Birdman and was aware that he had spent some years in jail. She also wanted her son to concentrate on his studies as he had started neglecting education. However, the ban was later let go after the death of Rabbit.
Carter has confessed to have been a spoilt child and lived a dangerous life as early as the age of 11. He not only smoked and sold marijuana, cocaine and other drugs but also started having sex around that age. In fact, he links the self-shooting incidence to him being high on drugs.
Wayne started recording freestyle raps on Birdman’s answering machine and he instantly became Carter’s mentor. At the age of 11, Wayne recorded his first collaboration album with fellow child rapper B.G. Carter was similarly doing fine in his drama class and at the age of 12, he was featured in the drama club production titled The Wiz.
Officially, Wayne’s career in music kicked off after he became part of the Hot Boys group. Other teen rappers who joined the hip-hop group at that time included Juvenile, B.G and Turk, all of whom were part of Cash Money’s rising stars. Carter was only 15 years old and hence the youngest among all the four members of the group. The crew released its first album in 1997 titled Get it How U Live which became a great hit after selling more than 400,000 copies.
The group went ahead to release the second album Guerrila Warfare which equally performed exceptionally well and reached number one on Billboard Charts.
The third album titled Let ‘Em Burn was released in 2003 and comprised of a compilation of unreleased tracks the group had recorded over the years. It was also a commercial success and peaked at No.3 on the Top R&B Hip-Hop albums chart.
Following the Hot Boys disbandment in 2001, Carter had no option but to record his songs as a solo artist. However, this was not new to him as he had already released his debut solo album Tha Block Is Hot when he was only 17 years old. The album was an impressive hit after it peaked at No. 3 on Billboard 200 before getting a platinum certification by RIAA. The album also earned Wayne an award nomination for Best New Artist by Source Magazine in 1999.
Following the success the debut album earned him, he released another album in 2000 titled Lights Up. Although the album was certified gold by RIAA, its performance was a failure compared to his former. According to critics, the second album lacked coherence in verses, hence the poor performance.
Undeterred, the talented boy released his third album 500 Degreez in 2002 which was a better success compared to its predecessor but still not as good as his debut album.
Wayne was doing well in his career and drastically gaining recognition in the hip-hop world. In 2004, he released Tha Carter album which was reviewed as an improvement to his rapping technique and lyrics. The album was an instant success and sold 116,000 copies in the first week of release in the US alone. Ultimately, the album sold 878,000 copies across the US and received gold certification from RIAA. Its singles were an equal success, with the track Go DJ leading the Top 5 Hit on the R&B and Hiphop charts.
He went ahead to release The Carter II in December 2005, as a follow up to the previous album. It became a big hit and sold more than 280,000 copies in the first week after release, while worldwide sales went up to 2,000,000 copies. Some of the tracks in the album included the lead songs, Fireman, Currensy, Hustler Musik and Shooter.
By this time, Lil Wayne had become a notable name in the music industry and the success was followed by an appointment to become Cash Money’s president. He also founded Young Money Entertainment as an imprint of Cash Money Records. However, after serving the two labels for barely two years, he stepped down from both companies and Young Money’s management was handed over to Cortez Bryant.
In 2006, Wayne joined hands with his Cash Money mentor Birdman to create the album Like Father, Like Son. The album included guest appearances from Fat Joe, T-Pain and Rick Ross who further made it a success. Although the album had several tracks to back it up, the most notable was Stunin Like My Daddy which peaked at number 21 on Hot 100 charts.
In the next two years, Lil Wayne made guest appearances in several tracks that included Fat Joe’s Make it Rain, Gimme That by Chris Brown and We Takin Over by DJ Khaled. Wayne also released several mixtapes such as Dedication 2 and Da Drought 3 and they instantly became a hit.
Wayne’s most anticipated studio album Tha Carter III was released in 2008 and besides topping the R&B and HipHop charts, it sold more than 1 million copies in just the first week of release, becoming the first at the time to hit the record. Ultimately, Tha Carter III made another record, selling more than 3 million copies and becoming 2008’s best-selling album. The album comprised of hit singles that include A Milli, Lollipop, Got Money and Mr. Carter. Tha Carter III further earned Wayne the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. He also received a Grammy for Best Rap Song for the track Lollipop and one for Best Rap Solo performance for the track A Milli. However, a lawsuit was filed against Weezy by Abkco Music Inc who accused Wayne for copyright infringement. According to Abkco, Weezy’s song Playing with Fire had been derived from Rolling Stone’s Play With Fire to which he owned the rights. As a result, the track Playing with Fire was removed from the album Tha Carter III.
In 2009, Carter released a collaboration album titled We Are Young Money with artist Young Money. The album was a success and certified gold by RIAA after more than 500,000 copies were sold. Other songs he featured in around that time include Revolver by Madonna in her album Celebration and Can’t Stop Partying in Weezer’s album Ratitude.
Wayne’s sixth album Rebirth was released in April 2009 and to support it, he appeared on the Rolling Stone cover and also promoted it through the Young Money Presents: America Most Wanted Music Festival. The album’s tracks, that included Prom Queen, On Fire and Drop the World, were an instant hit.
In September 2010 during his 28th birthday, he released another studio album I Am Not a Human Being. It was well received and sold more than 953,000 copies in US only. Although Wayne was imprisoned shortly after the release of the album, it performed quite well in his absence with the track Right Above It ranking No.6 on Hot 100 Charts.
Upon his prison release, he started working on the album The Carter IV which set record after more than 300,000 copies were downloaded on iTunes in just four days after the release. Some of the hit singles in Tha Carter IV included Mirror featuring Bruno Mar’s vocals and It’s Good which was collaboration with rappers Drake and Jadakiss.
In March 2013, he released the album I Am Not a Human Being II. Like its predecessors, the album was a hit and debuted No.2 on Billboard 200. However, some critics negatively reviewed it citing declining quality in his lyrics.
In 2015, Wayne released his 11th studio album Free Weezy Album abbreviated as FWA through the label TIDAL. Generally, the album received positive reviews and was a modest commercial success.
Wayne has announced several upcoming projects that include a collaborative album titled I Can’t Feel My Face with rapper Juelz Santana.
After a long delay and unending issues with Cash Money Records, Wayne is set to release his 12th album in 2017 through Young Money Entertainment and Republic Records. In an interview with HOT 97 in 2011, Lil Wayne announced that Carter V would be his last studio album as he intends to retire at the age of 35.
Wayne’s image in the public has been both controversial and good rated. On the good side, he is a philanthropist but gives out funds for charity only when necessary. In 2008, he founded One Family Foundation whose main aim is to empower and encourage the urban youth to make use of their skills and talents. Wayne also donated $250,000 after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. This cash was directed towards rebuilding a park he played in as a kid.
On the negative side, Weezy is fond of smoking marijuana even in public. While it might be addiction to him, some of his fans often feel that he is not an upright role model. As a result of this habit, he has found himself on the wrong side of the law on several occasions. In July 2007, Wayne was arrested for smoking crack just after a performance at the Beacon Theatre. In October the same year, he was arrested after a performance in Qwest Arena in Boise, Idaho after the authorities accused him of possessing a controlled substance. However, the charges were dropped a while later after the incident was described as a mix up.
On a different occasion, Wayne was arrested in 2008 after an assortment of marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy were recovered in his tour bus. Again in 2009, he was detained at Texas border patrol checkpoint after a large amount of marijuana was found in his tour buses.
As a result of the various arrests, Weezy has served a one year jail sentence at Rikers Island. While in prison, he wrote a diary which was later published into a book titled Gone Til November: A Journal of Rikers Island. Even then, he does not seem to have reformed as he terms marijuana a good dose to keep him high.
In May 2013, Wayne lost a deal he had earlier made with PepsiCo to promote its soda brand, Mountain Dew. This was after Weezy released a controversial song that contained derogatory lyrics referencing Emmett Till, a civil rights icon.
The most interesting part about Lil Wayne’s private life is that he has four children, all from different moms. It comes as no surprise considering he lost his virginity at the age of 11.
Wayne’s first love was Antonia Carter who he met when in high school. The resultant was the birth of their daughter Reginae, named after Wayne’s step father Rabbit. When Reginae was born, Wayne was only 16 years of age. Although Antonia and Weezy lived separately for a while, they got married on February 14, 2004. Sadly, the relationship did not last and the two divorced two years later.
His second born was Dwayne III born in 2008 after a brief relationship with radio broadcaster Sarah Vivan.
Wayne then got involved with actress Lauren London. Again, the affair did not last long but the two had a child together whom they named Cameron Carter born in September 2009. In respect to Lauren, he received a tattoo bearing her name. Next on the line up was singer Nivea – they actually got engaged in 2002 but never got married. Nivea, however, bore Wayne his fourth child named Nael born in November 2009. Interestingly, Wayne impregnated Nivea and Lauren at around the same time.
Wayne has also been said to have had many other relationships that never lasted. For instance, he dated rapper Trina who he made pregnant but she later suffered a miscarriage. In 2014, rumors circulated that he was dating singer Christina Milan and the two confirmed the relationship in mid 2015. Again, as with all his past love affairs, the two broke up a while later.
Weezy has been battling health complications lately that have seen him check in and out of hospital. He has suffered several seizures especially when aboard his private jet causing an emergency landing to save his life. Although there are claims that the seizures are drug induced, Wayne has refuted all that as mere rumors.
The hit maker is an avid tattoo lover – the number of tattoos he has is actually hard to ascertain. He keeps adding new ink and covering old tattoos to enhance the body art. The tattoos, which are all over his body including eyelids, face, neck and arms, reflect his love for music, God, names of his mentors Baby, Slim and rabbit among other things.
Gone Til November: A Journal of Rikers Island by Lil Wayne
Written by: Peris Ngaruiya