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Time waits for no man, but Lil Wayne has proved to be the exception of the rule, as rap fans have weathered an innumerable amount of false starts and delays while anticipating the liberation of the rapper’s long-awaited album, Tha Carter V. First announced in 2012, a lengthy legal battle between Lil Wayne and Cash Money CEO/mentor Birdman has put the project on ice for the better part of five years, resulting in a campaign by artists and fans alike to extricate the former Hot Boy from his contract with the label and be able to move forward, in control of his own destiny.
Well, earlier this year, Lil Wayne and Birdman finally buried the hatchet and ended their legal battle, leaving Weezy to become a free agent, with one of his first orders of business being to put the world on notice that Tha Carter V would be arriving sooner than later. The news, which caused longtime fans of the Young Money boss to rejoice, was one of the more feel-good headlines of 2018 and has left fans salivating at the prospect of hearing one of the mythical albums of the past decade.
With today (September 27) marking Lil Wayne’s 36th birthday and Tha Carter V‘s release date being right around the corner (today, possibly!), we’re celebrating both occasions by revisiting the 10 best songs from Tha Carter series that have become definitive classics. Did your favorite make the cut?
1 | “Go D.J.”
One of Lil Wayne’s first steps toward rap supremacy came in 2004 when Cash Money Records’ last man standing unleashed “Go D.J.,” the second single from his fourth studio album, Tha Carter. Produced by Mannie Fresh, “Go D.J.” finds Weezy employing a flow more intricate than those spat on previous offerings, while turning in what can be considered a comeback after struggling to find traction with a string of pedestrian singles. Peaking at No. 14 on the Hot 100, “Go D.J.” earned Lil Wayne newfound respect among fans and peers alike and marks a turning point in his evolution.
2 | “I Miss My Dawgs” ft. Reel
One of the more heartfelt selections in Lil Wayne’s discography is “I Miss My Dawgs,” a standout deep cut from Tunechi’s Tha Carter album on which the rapper pens an open letter to his former Hot Boys brethren. Addressing all three members throughout the track’s three verses, Lil Wayne bares his soul over production by DJ Raj Smoove—a reminder that even though the relationship between the former partners-in-rhyme may be splintered, the love fostered between the four still remains.
3 | “BM Jr.”
Lil Wayne takes listeners deep into the streets of New Orleans on “BM Jr.,” a bruising selection on which the Young Money boss flexes his improved lyrical abilities over a track produced by Batman The Producer. Featuring additional commentary from Birdman, “BM Jr.” is one of the superior offerings on the first installment of Tha Carter and served as a precursor of the electric rhyme spills that were to come.
4 | “Tha Mobb”
With all eyes on him ahead of Tha Carter II‘s release, Lil Wayne made sure to open the proceedings with a big bang once the album arrived in the form of “Tha Mobb,” an introductory track that finds Weezy delivering a succession of bars, sans a hook. Produced by The Heatmakerz, “Tha Mobb” continued the Cash Money franchise player’s ascent up the rap food chain as one of the game’s most formidable spitters and may be the strongest intro in the entirety of Tha Carter series.
5 | “Money On My Mind”
“Fireman” may have been the lead single from Tha Carter II and was a hit in its own right, but the most impactful hit from the album was “Money On My Mind,” a deep cut that was such a fan favorite, it was serviced to radio. Produced by The Runners, DJ Nasty and LVM, “Money On My Mind” would help propel Tha Carter II past the double-platinum mark, making it Lil Wayne’s highest-selling solo album at that point in his career.
6 | “Hustler Musik”
Marques Houston and T-Mix hook up a soulful backdrop with “Hustler Musik,” which Lil Wayne saunters over while speaking from the vantage point of a street entrepreneur on his grind struggling to balance the pressures of his lifestyle and his personal life. Released as the second single from Tha Carter II, despite failing to match the commercial success as other songs from the album, “Hustler Musik” is considered one of the definitive moments of Lil Wayne’s takeover of the rap world and a classic record among his fans.
7 | “Best Rapper Alive”
It’s one thing to think you’re the best rapper alive, but it’s another to actually believe it so strongly that you release a song with a title proclaiming yourself as such, but that’s just how confident Lil Wayne was in his status as a top contender in the wake of JAY-Z’s retirement. Produced by Bigg D, who litters the track with haunting wails amid frantic 808 drums, “Best Rapper Alive” symbolized Weezy throwing down the gauntlet and putting the rap world on notice that the crown was his for the taking, a sentiment he would follow through on in the subsequent years—if he hadn’t already.
8 | “A Milli”
More than two years removed from the multi-platinum success of Tha Carter II and in the midst of an otherworldly mixtape run unlike any before it, Lil Wayne was one of the hottest stars not only in rap, but the entire planet heading into the release of Tha Carter III. While the lead single “Lollipop” was the bigger Billboard hit and topped the pop charts, the song that really ramped up anticipation for Tha Carter III was “A Milli,” a freestyle that was revamped into a full song and serviced as a street single ahead of the album’s release. Produced by Bangladesh, “A Milli” peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100, spawned a succession of remakes from the top rappers in the game, and captured Tunechi’s ingenuity and brilliance as a wordsmith, making it a landmark selection in Tha Carter anthology.
9 | “Let The Beat Build”
One example of Lil Wayne’s mastery of emceeing lives on Tha Carter III song “Let The Beat Build,” on which the Young Money general rhymes over a simple drum pattern until it gradually builds into an expansive production without missing a step. Produced by Deezle and Kanye West, “Let The Beat Build” instantly stood out from other conceptual tracks on the album and makes for one of the seminal moments on Lil Wayne’s biggest release to date.
10 | “6 Foot 7 Foot”
After being released from prison upon serving a one-year sentence on weapon possession charges, Lil Wayne returned to the streets and hit the ground running in a big way, releasing “6 Foot 7 Foot,” the lead single from the fourth installment of his Tha Carter series. Produced by Bangladesh and powered by a sample of Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” “6 Foot 7 Foot” features an appearance from former Young Money firebrand Cory Gunz, who goes bar for bar with Weezy on Tha Carter IV‘s most potent offering.
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