Since the late ’90s, Lil Wayne has been one of Hip-Hop’s more captivating figures. Born and raised in New Orleans, Wayne began his rap career as a preteen on Cash Money Records, releasing a studio album alongside B.G. as part of the group the B.G.’z. Appearing on subsequent group and solo releases from the label, Weezy was included as a member of Cash Money’s super group, Hot Boys, alongside Juvenile, B.G., and Turk.
Lil Wayne quickly became a fan favorite for his standout performances on hit Hot Boys albums Get It How U Live! and Guerrilla Warfare, creating anticipation for his solo debut. Released in 1999, Tha Block is Hot was a runaway success, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and topping the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album established Wayne as a star in his own right, laying the groundwork for a career that has come with unprecedented peaks and daunting valleys, but never a dull moment. From reaching the heights of his craft with his Tha Carter series to being in musical purgatory, Weezy has seen and done it all, making his historic run all the more impressive.
With thirteen solo studio albums and several collaborative albums, compilations, and mixtapes, Weezy’s accolades make him one of rap’s most accomplished artists of all-time. Breaking ground for himself and other artists under his tutelage—and never cheating the game—he has earned Lil Wayne his place in the pantheon of cultural icons.
Wayne’s latest landmark moment comes as a byproduct of a life lived, as the rapper turns 40 years old this week (Sept. 27). Continuously evolving over the years, Weezy doesn’t appear close to retirement anytime soon, routinely reminding us that his eye remains fixated on greatness. However, with nearly three decades in Hip-Hop under his belt, there’s very little left to prove.
To help him commemorate 40 years of life, VIBE highlights 20 definitive Lil Wayne songs that document his journey from youngest-in-charge to musical icon.