What’s Next for Lil Wayne and His Legacy?

March 20th, 2013

(Photo: WENN)

By Gee King

When Lil Wayne claimed to be “the new Pac” during his All-Star Weekend rant in February, many rolled their eyes. But after last week’s scary seizure episode put Weezy in critical condition and left the hip hop world in fear of losing yet another icon, the weight of his legacy is clearly heavier than some would like to admit.

Kanye West may still believe that Wayne is the best rapper alive, but the hip hop world’s respect for the Cash Money veteran has waned recently. After spending nearly a year away from the game in prison, Tunechi returned to hip hop in 2011 with the same fire that fueled one of the most prolific careers we’ve ever seen. But the emergence of new artists, including protégés Nicki Minaj and Drake, and the creative burdens placed on him by his own mainstream success blunted Wayne’s expression and left many wondering if we were witnessing the beginning of his creative decline.

Wayne still has enough juice to top charts and satisfy his worldwide fanbase, but it’s safe to say that his prime is behind him. That doesn’t take away from the enormous impact he had on hip hop during his reign at the top, however. Love him or hate him, Wayne’s legacy is etched in stone thanks to the artistic and commercial impact his Dedication mixtapes and Tha Carter album series had on a genre that limped through the mid-to-late 2000s. While old heads pronounced hip hop dead and youngins searched for the next soundwave to ride, Weezy stayed true by perfecting a stream-of-consciousness rhyme style that highlighted his talent for innovative flows and cleverly simple metaphors. The peak of his powers came in 2008, when he crossed his erratic rhymes and melodies over to the mainstream with universal hits like “A Milli” and “Lollipop.”

As the youngest member of Cash Money’s Hot Boys crew, Wayne had been bred for his position since adolescence. But few could have imagined his rise to the top when seeing him alongside group mates Juvenile, Turk and B.G. While his peers peaked and hit rock bottom by the turn of the millennium, Weezy remained as the charismatic little spitter that wouldn’t say die. Mannie Fresh helped mold his sound on the first Tha Carter release in 2004 and Wayne continued to show and prove until he had the respect of everyone from OutKast to Jay-Z.

Despite his success and cultural impact, it’s still tough to compare Wayne to 2Pac when considering the revolutionary mindset that motivated even Pac’s most destructive moments. Wayne’s main message has consistently been “be yourself,” but that’s not anything kids couldn’t get from any of the other eccentric artists that inhabit the creative universe. Weezy’s hospitalization was clearly a wake up call for hip hop, reminding us how much he’s meant to the game. But we should also hope that it serves as a wake-up call to Dwayne Carter the man. His influence could be used to free minds and push culture forward for future generations. We’ll know exactly what kind of legacy he wants to leave once we see how he bounces back from this scary episode.

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