A Ranking Of Lil Wayne's 'Tha Carter' Album Series

In celebration of Tha Carter V, VIBE ranked the albums from Lil Wayne's classic album series to determine which reigns supreme.

When you think of rappers who are still relevant and esteemed, few have had careers more turbulent than Lil Wayne. Whether it has been well-publicized substance abuse struggles, jail time or a fight for label freedom against Birdman (who played the greatest role in his career's sprouted wings), he’s been forced to learn the art of resilience through suffering. Through it all, music has taken Wayne from the New Orleans slums to near pop territory as the boss of Young Money in the wake of his initial teammates parting ways with Cash Money Records.

Since releasing Tha Carter in 2004, Wayne’s tireless work ethic has shaken up the game through countless mixtapes and iconic collaborations with everyone from day one producer Mannie Fresh to the likes of Cool & Dre, Bangladesh, Kanye West, and Swizz Beatz. Always looking up to Jay-Z (their rumored 2011 subliminal skirmish aside), Tha Carter series not only potentially borrows inspiration from Hov’s late ‘90s Vol. 1-3 collection of albums, but Wayne’s latest work proves him capable of bouncing back from a slump the same way last year’s well-regarded 4:44 showed his big homie could still make music that resonates after a steep decline.

With next year marking two decades since Lil Wayne’s solo debut Tha Block Is Hot, his latest album Tha Carter V has performed relatively well from critical and commercial standpoints at a time when most considered his career to be in limbo.

In celebration of Tha Carter V, VIBE ranked the albums from this series to determine which reigns supreme.


5. Tha Carter IV

Due to a combination of Lil Wayne’s bad luck and having already set an impossible benchmark dominating with Tha Carter III and the No Ceilings mixtape in back to back years, Tha Carter IV was almost destined to be a failure. Possibly suffering from PTSD, creative rust and a general lack of determination after serving eight months behind bars in New York’s famed Rikers Island jail, his return was full of senseless blunders that only stained his legacy.

Anyone expecting Lil Wayne to deliver greatness this go-around was met with disappointment. Tha Carter IV had little to no redeeming value aside from moments like lead single “6 Foot 7 Foot,” which affiliate DJ Scoob Doo described as “‘A Milli’ on steroids.” The project was utterly mediocre even by the standards of serious fans, as turmoil and the fast life seemed to have finally caught up with him and got in the way of his art. For example, he ran the shortened simile style of punchlines (generally credited to Big Sean and still being abused by Nicki Minaj today, i.e. “Tell them h**s that it’s crunch time, abdomen”) into the ground, and the awkward single “How To Love” was confusing no matter how heartfelt the message was.

History will remember Tha Carter IV as an uninspired debacle sullied by a number of questionable decisions: “She Will” was mostly carried on the strength of Drake being blistering hot at the time, “John” was no more than a rehash of Rick Ross’ “I’m Not A Star,” and aimless guest appearances came from Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes and Shyne (of all people), amongst others, partaking in the reindeer games. When you add the supposed subliminal shots Wayne aimed at his idol Jay-Z on “It’s Good,” this amounted to an embarrassment that came on the heels of him successfully launching his Young Money brand.

4. Tha Carter V

Recently released on Lil Wayne’s 36th birthday, Tha Carter V finally arrived after years of delays stemming from contractual complications with his father figure and one-time boss, Birdman. The album is sporadically narrated by his mother Jacida (similarly to how Master P spoke on Solange’s A Seat At The Table), who sums up her son’s life with prideful tears while also addressing his complexities and overall genius.

On Tha Carter V, Wayne has returned to the winner’s circle after less dedicated (no pun intended), subpar placeholders released between retail albums only damaged his legacy. Refreshed and renewed, his “Best Rapper Alive” claims are at least worthy of discussion again, even if social media curmudgeons would say otherwise. On “Dedicate,” Wayne has the time of his life reminding the world of the trends he set and how much he loves the sport of rapping, and by the same token “Uproar” and “Dope N***az” show love to his generation’s hip-hop classics by sampling G. Dep's “Special Delivery” (there’s already an emerging dance challenge) and Dr. Dre's “Xxplosive,” respectively.

With this latest work, Wayne sticks with vintage formulas that have always worked in his favor while embracing how much the rap game has changed during his relative absence. “Start This Sh*t Off Right” is a nostalgic, woman-friendly reunion with Mannie Fresh, but he only spends a short time looking back to the past as he finds chemistry alongside this generation’s stars like Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott on “Mona Lisa” and “Let It Fly.” No stranger to introspection, “Famous” has Wayne telling the other side of the glory and how it’s more troublesome than it appears, while the Auto-Tune-heavy “Mess” goes in-depth on his dysfunctional nature and predisposal for womanizing.

Evidenced by heartfelt moments like “Dark Side Of The Moon,” an R&B ballad collaboration with Young Money majesty Nicki Minaj, Tha Carter V may be Lil Wayne’s most mature work to date.

Far from a weak effort, its lower ranking only stems from him raising the bar so high before this late point in his career. Clocking in at 23 tracks and 87 minutes (possibly a tactic to take advantage of Billboard streaming metrics, or an attempt to make up for lost time), a fair amount of filler doesn’t take away from the album featuring some of the most enjoyable rappings we’ve heard on a mainstream release in 2018. Much like Tiger Woods’ recent PGA Tour victory, this triumph over adversity is a welcome return that assures fans Wayne still has a worthwhile place within rap.

READ MORE: With Tha Carter V Finally Out, What Will Lil Wayne Do Next?

3. Tha Carter

If there’s one trait Lil Wayne has embodied his whole career (even to the point of a detriment at times), it would be loyalty. Tha Carter found him stepping into uncharted territory as the new backbone of Cash Money at a time when many of the label’s signees jumped ship. The most cohesive of the five album series, since it was nearly fully produced by Mannie Fresh, in 2004 Wayne fought with his back against the wall, left with no choice but to step into bigger shoes as the de facto face of his camp.

Left to his own devices at a crucial point where CMR could have been rendered obsolete without their all-star roster, Wayne established himself as an ultimate team player with the imprint going so far to designate him president and eventually make him CEO of his own offshoot Young Money. “Go DJ” is a boastful call-and-response classic associated with this earlier period of his career and on a more serious note, while “I Miss My Dawgs” was an emotional centerpiece expressed his genuine love for his former Hot Boyz comrades Juvenile, B.G. and Turk, despite the distance that had grown between the crew.

A key component of Tha Carter was the emphasis placed on the familial relationship between Lil Wayne and crew figurehead Brian “Baby” Williams. The album kept true to their musical roots with a number of collaborations that foreshadowed their 2006 joint album Like Father, Like Son and the young half of the duo even going so far as to embrace the nickname “Birdman Jr.” With this being the last time they would work together so closely, half of the album’s magic is owed to Mannie Fresh’s ability to cook up original masterpieces from his keyboard and drum machine.

Given no choice but to develop into his own man, with his fourth, occasionally unpolished solo album, Lil Wayne showed his potential to develop into an act far greater than anyone previously expected.

2. Tha Carter II

With Cash Money putting all of their resources behind Lil Wayne’s career, Tha Carter II gave him an increased sense of freedom and inspiration as he carried the torch. Having set himself ahead of the pack in New Orleans and the South after Juvenile fell short of the world’s expectations, with this late 2005 release he all but made himself a contender for one who could run the rap game altogether.

Perhaps the last time Wayne could be called a “pure” artist who had yet to make creative compromises for popular stardom, Tha Carter II is the release that’s been the most lauded by critics and a fair share of fans. Dipset’s trademark production crew The Heatmakerz brought new soulful energy with “Tha Mobb” as he proceeded to mow over competition for nearly five minutes without hooks, while the frenetic “Fireman” served as a worthy street single. “Hustler Muzik” was one of the first songs to establish Wayne as a solo hitmaker, while many would say the Robin Thicke collab “Shooter” was the moment he arrived as an artist, as live instruments took his sound to another level.

Focused on elevating his skill set, Lil Wayne showed incredible command of the mic during moments like “Lock And Load,” but the most glaring flaw of Tha Carter II is its sonic disparity between tracks. For example, “Money On My Mind” was a trapped out precursor to Rick Ross’ smash “Hustlin’,” and “Best Rapper Alive” toyed with the idea of being a rock anthem while “I’m A D-Boy” paid slight homage to New Orleans staple, “Triggaman.” Clocking in at an ambitious 77 minutes, the album suffered from a slight lack of quality control, but it was yet another step in the right direction as Wayne was still aspiring to be recognized as a self-made boss.

1. Tha Carter III

Tha Carter III, a pinnacle for Lil Wayne’s catalog and hip-hop as a whole over the past decade, was the perfect combination of timing, hits, and determination set towards making a masterpiece. The lead single “Lollipop” was an Auto-Tune-driven number that hit the top of Billboard’s charts, and its follow up “A Milli” (a modern-day cultural staple that left us with classic phrases like, “What’s a goon to a goblin?”) was revolutionary as the backing track was just a bass line, drum and stuttering vocal sample, both simplistic sly misdirections as to what the whole album would sound like.

Looking back in time, Lil Wayne is able to boast a number of feats directly tied to Tha Carter III. For one, it was certified platinum its first week in stores from pure sales before today’s streaming metrics, not to mention being the highest selling album of 2008 across all genres. On “Mr. Carter” Jay-Z officially stamped his student as heir to the throne, no small cosign as the elder statesman had rarely shown signs of willingly relinquishing his spot.

Wasting few moments, Lil Wayne covered all of his bases and hit every demographic, as the bulk of Tha Carter III felt like he had a point to prove. Making the most of his peers and their great platforms, “Got Money” was a fun and rowdy anthem that arrived at the height of T-Pain’s career; meanwhile Kanye West and R&B legend Babyface brought a maturity to the almost adult contemporary “Comfortable” that was missing on the aforementioned woman friendly “Lollipop” and the silly but still effective “Mrs. Officer.”

Tha Carter III’s greatest success lies in the range of ideas he got covered over the course of 16 songs. Highlights include “Dr. Carter” where he put on a literal clinic on the techniques of rapping, and “Tied My Hands” which addressed his beloved city’s devastation from Hurricane Katrina. In a similar vein, “DontGetIt (Misunderstood)” had Wayne taking Al Sharpton to task in defense of hip-hop and freedom of speech amidst commenting on the prison industrial complex, serious matters that were balanced out by “Let The Beat Build,” one of his greatest performances committed to tape. Simply put, this was the magnum opus that completely transitioned Lil Wayne out of his humble beginnings and removed any preconceived limitations on his ability.

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Meet D Smoke, Inglewood And Hip-Hop's Next Hometown Hero

D Smoke is humble. The Inglewood native exudes an aura of maturation, needed for his quick ascension into popular culture as the first winner of Rhythm + Flow, Netflix’s hip-hop reality competition centered on the discovery of hip-hop’s next star. His signature authenticity shone throughout the 10-episode series and international audiences were drawn to his charisma as he proudly rapped about his lived experiences as a young black man in Inglewood.

“There’s such a rich history,” he says about his hometown, the inspiration for his forthcoming EP, over the phone. “I feel like it’s a beautiful but brief journey through my mind, my lived experiences, and the place that I’m extremely fond of.”

His musical confidence was displayed on the three-week series as he incorporated Spanish and live instrumentation to uplift the community-centered messaging embedded within his raps. Inspired by his childhood friends in Inglewood’s Latinx community, Smoke found music as unifier and way to remove barriers between Latinx and Black communities in his hometown. Demographics reflected in his students as a bilingual and music teacher at Inglewood High where he invests in the next generation of leaders.

He’s won an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award with his older brother, Sir Darryl Farris aka SiR, for “Never,” a Billboard-charting song from Jaheim in 2007, and received songwriting credits for Ginuwine and The Pussy Cat Dolls projects.

As the show’s first winner, there’s an added level of pressure for the rapper who has completed three music videos and started work on a 15-track mixtape since the show’s release. In the midst of press runs, D Smoke opened up about his experience on Rhythm + Flow, his Inglewood High EP, and his next steps as an independent artist.


VIBE: Tell me about Inglewood High, your latest EP.

D Smoke: Inglewood High is an EP about my experience coming up on Inglewood, going to Inglewood High, and teaching at the high school after I graduated from UCLA. It’s an important project for me because Inglewood High School holds stories for me as a student and teacher. There are so many youngsters that I had the privilege of teaching that still walk those hallways and are walking the same path I did. I thought it was only right to start with this project first; some of the songs are about my experience, while others are about trends or stories that I often heard growing up in Inglewood. I took a third person approach to tell these stories; some bright, some dark, but they really capture what’s going on in the city.

In a Time interview, you stated Rhythm + Flow’s authenticity around cyphers and battles undid your skepticism. Could you speak about your transition process from being a bilingual teacher into a contestant on the show?

As a teacher, you’re performing every single day, right? Your students are your harshest critics, so performing wasn’t nerve-wracking for me. It was more that I didn’t want to subject myself to the critique of another artist. In the later rounds, I was unsure that their biases would either serve in my favor or to my detriment. So it wasn’t the nerves of performing, but how would they receive and understand my art? Because I believe the audience...before I went on the show, I knew that there’s a large audience for what I do. Submitting to three judges is very different, but by the time we had gotten into the later rounds, I felt like they appreciated what I was doing artistically and creatively. By the end of it, they thought of me as a peer.

Towards the later episodes, you incorporated live instrumentation into your performances which won over Cardi, T.I., and Chance. Is the next direction for your artistry going to implement live band performances?

Going into the show, my goal was to do that before I left. [With] the last round’s challenge of making a live performance, I was like, “Okay, this is the time where we’re going to pull that rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, and show them my musicianship side.” To be honest, I’m a musician first. My first love was playing piano. My mom is a music instructor and minister of music. Since the age of six, I’ve been playing the piano. That’s going to be a huge part of my artistry; to the same extent that playing the drums, singing, and rapping. It speaks to me authenticity as an artist, creative, and musician.

Being on the show has developed your relationship with the audience, in addition to your original support system of Inglewood. How do you feel about having fans around the world who have fallen in love with your music during your time on Rhythm + Flow?

To keep it completely honest, the reception has been amazing. I’m getting messages from all over the world. People love what I did and represented on the show while being entertained by it at the same time. I think when you combine somebody believing in your message, but being thoroughly entertained by your presence, I feel like that’s a true impact on the audience. I’m really overwhelmed by how much love people are pouring out and the messages. I’m trying to read as many as possible, but I’m only one guy. My following grew from 7,000 followers prior to the show to 700,000 and counting, and that’s in less than a month.


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We climbing the Charts!!! Let’s push it to #1 #share #tellafriend #GodisGreat

A post shared by Supa Good (@dsmoke7) on Nov 9, 2019 at 12:31am PST

Some viewers waited until all episodes of Rhythm + Flow were on Netflix to binge-watch. Why do you think people should've watched and witnessed your evolution as an artist to step into confidence?

I think people should watch the entire journey; go back and do their detailed research because we aren’t necessarily doing different things than we were already doing. I speak in “we” because I have a strong team of people that were working with me to prepare for being on the show. When the audience watches my performance, it’s not like this is something that I haven’t already been doing. I look forward to seeing the growth in numbers of my previous works, whether it be Subtitles - the series that I did demonstrating my rapping ability in both languages and having fun over beats that I loved and influenced me. It’s super vital to go back and see the whole story because although I’m new to a lot of people, I’m not new to music by any means.

On Rhythm + Flow, Cardi referenced Kendrick Lamar in relation to your music. You have close affiliations with Top Dawg Entertainment, your brother SiR is Kendrick’s labelmate, and you’ve opened for the Pulitzer Prize winner in 2011 at the Whiskey A Go Go. Do you see yourself continuing your relationship with TDE?


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Today is my younger brother’s birthday. Same mom, same dad, same blood, same schools, same hair, same goals, but @InglewoodSiR is and will always be his OWN MAN. My younger bro opened doors for me that he may not even be aware of. He’s fearless and original. His music is DOPE as Fuck and he’s as real as they come. Go wish my lil bro @inglewoodsir of TDE a happy Birthday! LOVE YOU BRO! 7

A post shared by Supa Good (@dsmoke7) on Nov 5, 2019 at 7:42am PST

I like the way you put it..continuing that relationship. We’re neighbors; they’re less than 10 miles from me. I was my brother’s keyboard player and musical director while he went on tour with Miguel. For a couple of years, Top Dawg Entertainment has been somewhat of a home base in the sense that I’m supporting their works indirectly. What TDE is to my brother or was to my brothers in terms of the platform to allow his following to grow exponentially. It’ll be more of a partnership where there’s an open dialogue about best practices to collaborate with artists, how we can plan community events, and coordinating impactful things. It’s opening the door for me to collaborate with my brother, similar to how we started off, and have the full support of TDE. That’s something I’m excited about and look forward to sharing.

Are you hoping to bring the spotlight to Inglewood similar to TDE’s upliftment of Compton? On Rhythm + Flow, you rapped about the familiarity of victims of fatal police shootings, because everyone in Inglewood knows each other.

I’m certainly looking to put Inglewood on the map. A lot of things are happening on the business development side with the stadium being built and the rise in property values. I’m looking to make investments in property and building connections within the city to continue education and community development work. My background is in mentorship, so being a visible face in the public, championing youth-driven programs is something I look forward to doing.

Do you plan on using your cash prize to start educational programs at Inglewood High and give back to your students who inspired your performances in the competition?

I’m looking forward to doing the scholarship. I’ve initiated the conversations with the city of Inglewood and Inglewood High School. We’re going to have an event to celebrate. I want to see the marching band come out and play the same cadences they played when I was there. I want to drive the energy back towards competitive academics because that’s what Inglewood was for me. It may not have that reputation but I can go back and name all of the teachers who had that impact and pushed me into being an academically competitive student.

Since winning Rhythm + Flow, you’ve gained a greater following and secured a series of upcoming collaborations. Are you aiming to remain independent, reflective of your underground spirit?

I haven’t altered how I move through the world since winning Rhythm + Flow. I’m always seeing my family, eating healthy, getting my workouts in, and connecting with people that I love, admire or respect. Engaging in different texts and conversations that really keep me sharp. Those things aren’t going to change. We also got business endeavors that keep me sharp and very grounded in conversation. I’m not concerned with the about of new publicity, altering how I operate. It’s cool and flattering, but prior to this, I knew exactly what I’m here to do and those things are still in motion.

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Nic Harcourt hands Quincy Jones the AKG Lifetime Achievement Award.
Courtesy of AKG

A Night Of Timeless Moments: AKG Honors Quincy Jones At 'History of Making History' Event

Quincy Jones can hang.

As AKG Audio's special event honoring the legendary composer in Hollywood came to an end just before midnight on Tuesday (Nov. 12), the 86-year-old was in the third hour of meeting guests. Sitting on a piano bench with a wide smile, Jones showed genuine love, laughs and hugs with every fan who had their own special story of how his work changed their lives.

Jones and innovative sound leaders AKG Audio have a lot in common. For the last seven decades, both have commanded the world to open their ears to new styles of technology, music, and production. It's a bond that brought the two to the Capitol Records Tower for "A History of Making History: Celebrating 70 Years of AKG," an event honoring the massive brand while tipping its hat off to one of the most important music composers of all time.

Jones accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award in front of an intimate crowd that included guests like singer-songwriter Daley, Maejor, Bobby Brackins, Jones' protege Jacob Collier, longtime friend and host Nic Harcourt, and many more captivated by the musician.


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Quincy Jones, the legendary composer, producer and founder of @VIBEMagazine, was honored last night in Hollywood by @akgaudio with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to music for over the last 7 decades. Check out our stories for more with Mr. Jones and AKG’s legendary role in the history of headphones! #AKGX70

A post shared by VibeMagazine (@vibemagazine) on Nov 13, 2019 at 8:51am PST

"Thank you from the bottom of my soul," Jones said. "This is as good as it gets for an 86-year-old bald-headed beep bopper (Laughs). Seven kids, eight grandkids; life is great. I hope you all experience a long, long life filled with love to share, health to spare, and most importantly, friends who care."

“Throughout his legendary career, Quincy Jones has created some of the most iconic records in the history of the recording industry and we are honored to present him with a Lifetime Achievement Award,” Erik Tarkiainen, Vice President of Global Marketing, HARMAN Professional Solutions tells VIBE. “For 70 years, AKG has been creating headphones and microphones that empower the spirit of creativity and innovation, and no one embodies that spirit more than Quincy.”

Some of AKG's classic mics were on display like the model Beyonce used for the album 4 and another used by both the late 2Pac and Luther Vandross. Jones even shared how he's used their products over the years.

"For almost seven decades in this business as a musician, composer, arranger, conductor and producer, I have always gone for the music that gives me goosebumps. And whether it was Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra, the Brothers Johnson, Michael Jackson, the artists who contributed to the recordings of "We Are The World", right up until today, without fail that music was delivered through AKG audio products,” Jones said. “As you celebrate your 70th anniversary, I have no doubt in my mind that AKG will continue to be an essential part of the music recording and listening experience for many, many more decades to come."

Collier's covers revealed just how sharp Jones' ears remain over the years. Collier's jazz-tinged covers of Jones' compositions like "Human Nature" (Michael Jackson), "Fly Me To The Moon" (Frank Sinatra) and "Give Me The Night" (George Benson) included jazz and R&B blends with the multi-instrumentalist using his voice as the most powerful card in the deck. The Grammy-winning artist's performance was a gift to the audience and to Jones, as he sat front and center enjoying an icicle and while tapping his shoe to the new-wave rhythms.

Just before Collier united the room, several studios at Capitol Records acted as classrooms. One studio featured a conversation between Harcourt and acoustics expert Dr. Sean Olive where they touched on the history of AKG's role in the headphone industry, dating back to 1949's AKG DYN Series. Another room included the stems of Quincy's most iconic production—Michael Jackson's "Thriller"—available on laptops for guests to mix while AKG's latest releases like the AKG K361 and K371 were on display. In the Crow's Nest studio rested with elation is Ramzoid, who offered his own remix to Jones' music.

One of the main studios featured a DJ set by Austin Millz, one of the creatives behind D’USSE Palooza and admirer of Jones. "It was an honor to play for the Quincy Jones/AKG event," he tells VIBE. "Quincy is one of my biggest influences in music. His path, journey and all his contributions in music is countless and is a great example of setting the tone for what is an extraordinary career. His accolades and what he stands for is exemplary. Last night was a night that I will never forget."

The bubble with Jones and AKG was a music lover's paradise. As the legendary composer continues to receive his flowers, new and old friends are learning more about him each and every day. "It's the left brain and science," he said of the intersection between God-given instrumental talent and technology. "You have to master the rules before you can break them, so you better know what you're doing."

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Duane Prokop

Big Baby DRAM Is Prepping For A Big Comeback

In 2016, music connoisseurs were graced with the introduction of acts who injected fun back into hip-hop . These new rappers like Aminé, Lil Yachty and DRAM steered clear of hardcore trap beats, and instead supplied the industry with exultant, infectious records. DRAM stood out with multiple hits that year, including “Cha Cha,” “Broccoli,” and “Cute.” But as much as the Hampton, Virginia native and his fans hold his debut album Big Baby D.R.A.M in high regard, he is now ready to flip the switch and show a different side of his musicality with his upcoming sophomore album.

“For the whole history of me releasing music ever since my first mixtapes in 2014, I've had a couple of records that were so jubilant, uplifting and uptempo, just automatic feel good,” the 31-year-old shared. “There's no denying that those records in the past have been phenomenal, but that was for that moment.”

Although no physical sit down occurred with DRAM for his conversation with VIBE, it was easy to envision his signature smile on his face through the phone as he shared his album-making process from over the last three years, as well as his endless side hustles. From delving deep into songwriting, to partnering with Sprite and LeBron James, he has kept busy and obviously music has consistently stayed on his mind. But he's taking a new direction musically.

An illustration of this is “The Lay Down.” DRAM's latest single shows him shifting from his jovial, happy-go-lucky persona into a passionate, seductive lover. The bedroom jam shows off his vocal chops as he shares vocal harmonies with H.E.R. over a beautiful, soulful production by WATT that's highlighted by a soaring guitar solo at the song's climax. It's one of the greatest songs of 2019, and it shows just how comfortable DRAM is with his versatility.

Although his sophomore album has no specific release date, nor a title available to the public (he apologized for the vagueness), DRAM is ready to welcome his fans into a new, previously slightly hidden chapter of his music career.

* **

VIBE: I know you're currently working on your second album, but you've also kept yourself busy this past year with things outside the album making process. Last year you worked with LeBron James and Sprite, recently you worked with them again for a remake of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" for the upcoming holiday season. What has it been like to collaborate with King James on your Sprite partnership?

DRAM: It's just really dope how, it places us in the same vicinity. I don't know, it makes me chuckle because he throws me a can of Sprite every time I see it. I got on these glasses, looking happy as hell. It makes me happy to see it.

In working with Lebron and Sprite do you feel like you learned something from him? What did you admire working with him?

I just admired how the whole thing went down to be honest. That everybody agreed to do it. I think what I took from that is that you can rub shoulders with just about anybody as long as you be about yours and do what you came to do.

Getting into your music, it's been a minute since you've released a project, three years to be exact. You recently just celebrated the three-year anniversary of Big Baby D.R.A.M. In these three years how much have you changed artistically and as a person?

I think it's more so about growing up. Growing up into what this has become. I can think about it as me putting out a merch project, like a newborn baby. And now I'm at the age of like a toddler, like preschool. No longer having the spoon or the bottle, maybe even have a sippy cup and a bag of chips. It's just more mature. Things that would excite me and things that I would be eager or nervous about, it's almost second nature now.

You become accustomed to the lifestyle that comes with putting out an album or doing the things of album mode. Going out and doing shows, and now it's no better time. It's so time for the next effort. The question is, what's going to be next for me and it's really just growth. Evolution, a slight change of perspective in a sense.

For sure. And then back in 2016, you were releasing records like “Broccoli” which was more feel good and kind of poppy. Now, you just released “The Lay Down” with H.E.R. and Watt, which is more soulful. Why have you decided to go that route? Was it a smooth process for you to go from making records like “Broccoli” and “Cute” to “The Lay Down?”

For the whole history of me releasing music ever since my first mixtapes in 2014, I've had a couple of records that were so jubilant, uplifting and uptempo, just automatic feel good. But then as a body of work, its majority is sensual, thought-provoking, emotion-provoking records, such as “Caretaker,” “Wi-Fi,” “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” which was centered on the first Sprite campaign that I was on. These records are really what the core, diehard DRAM fanbase, that's where, in the grand scheme of things, the whole scale. As the years went on, you aim to grow towards what you really want. There's no denying that those records in the past have been phenomenal, but that was for that moment. That was what it was.

Now what's leading the way, it's the records that’s still with the substance, that keeps the actual diehard fans here and there. It's like for the outsider, it's such a sudden change because if you haven't really delved into the world of "Big Babes" then you wouldn't get it. To the point where the fans that's been there for quite some time, they're right on key. Anyone else who comes just there for that, the instantaneous party, you might stick around or wanna kick back with a Daiquiri, or go back and drink your drink somewhere else.

Getting more into your track with H.E.R. and WATT, what was it like working on “The Lay Down” with them? Was the process of making that song different from any of your other songs?

Oh no! Like I said, it's second nature. It really just comes. I'd like to say, I can't really think of myself just off of one lane, I know that I concentrate more toward the sensual, what I was saying previously. There's no box to put me in. Just last week I was in a session helping a very prominent rapper. I'm coming up with lines for somebody else in a rap song. This whole campaign, it's really just whatever I put my energy towards, and I'm just very thankful that I have the strength and the feeling that I can do it.

Do you feel like the industry tries to box artists into the specific genre that they first come out with?

I'm not gonna sit here and be the one that's going to give you a huge leftist, huge rightist position. I think it's all on what that person that's there, is the entity, the artist. So no matter who else is behind them, no matter how much shit is going on behind them, it's all on that person and what they choose to do with their craft. Somebody can go into the game and really be in it for the heart and once the money starts, and then it's like all right boom, boom, boom, and then they say they want to change, and they're like "well let me go back to that thing" because the coin is good, everybody wants to get that coin back. Make sure you invest and save, you're not watching them do enough of that, you still want to keep it around. Some people will go into the trash can, before they compromise their brain.

I think it's all about balance and knowing your fan base may be slightly different from your true desires that you want to get out there. The thing is lace up and weather the storm if that's what you want to do or sit back and chill in the breeze if that's what you want to do. Don't be mad when the clouds start coming.

You recently said in a Twitter post that you feel that no one really sings anymore and that there aren't any "true sangers" out there. Why do you think that is?

You know, it's very croonery, very “monotone-y,” it's not daring, it doesn't sound like anyone is willing to jump off of a cliff and see if that parachute thing comes up with hope and a prayer. Trust me, some hope and a prayer gets you down there if you really believe. Nobody's channeling, I feel like in the correct manner. There's some people that are really killing it and making phenomenal music in what they do. What I'm saying is that there's a certain type of energy, a certain type of presence that is no longer being made, being honored. I'm just here to let that continue to live on, and it never die.

Do you feel like there are still singers that are out today that give you goosebumps, that you feel aren't monotone-ish or anything like that?

When I hear that girl named Yebba Smith... it's this girl named Yebba. She's like low-key, but she's probably a lot of people's favorite singers’ favorite singer. She's gonna f**k up a lot of sh*t. Her sh*t is fire. I stumbled across her at a session at my publisher house, we have the same publisher and she was in the other room and I was like damn bro. They played me her sh*t, I had to walk over to the other room and meet her. When I hear her sing that sh*t f***ing....damn! And that's what we need, that's what I'm talking about. All that other sh*t, it's cool, but c'mon now we need that energy.

I know you also mentioned in your tweet that you've also been focusing a lot on songwriting, I wanted to know what your songwriting method is like and if it's always come easy to you?

Anything can inspire to do something musically. I can hear a door shut funny and have a note and be like oh sh*t. Or something like the phrase “gotta be quicker than that” or something. I like to just use the things that I really feel inside. When I hear it and then when I say it, it's gotta match. It's like a secret language that I'm speaking with the beat. I just want to make it feel right.

What more can your fans expect from your second album? What do you hope that they take away from it?

Take away the growth of where I am mentally, where I am musically and to kind of get a better understanding of why I've been in kind of a recluse type of state in these years and the things that I've been going through in regular life.

Why the three-year wait for your sophomore album?

It needed that you know. I don't want to sound like that, by saying I don't want to sound like that of course it's probably going to sound like that, but it takes time for these type of things. I believe that the bodies of work that I've been putting out and more specifically, the first mixtape and then the first album, that really changed a lot of today's music, to be honest. You gotta give them some time to really cycle out so you can really see how much you've influenced music. I promise to God the three-year wait was worth it.

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