Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” rapper Lil Wayne makes his debut and chops it up with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN about his illustrious career, and his influence on the young entertainers of today. Born and bred in New Orleans, the precocious spitter was scooped up by Birdman, who took him under his wing as a pre-teen and helped develop him into a seasoned artist. Making his introduction to the masses with his appearances alongside his Hot Boys group-mates, as well as his 1999 solo debut, Tha Block Is Hot, Weezy was considered one of the label’s most popular members and one of the youngest stars in rap. However, the departure of his Hot Boys brethren from the Cash Money during the early aughts forced Wayne too take control of the wheel, quickly evolving into a beast of a lyricist with a swagger admired by peers, critics and fans alike.
Putting together a historic run that included multiple chart-topping singles, millions of records sold, and comparisons to the greatest rappers of all time, the self-proclaimed “Best Rapper Alive” cemented his place in the annals of hip hop history while earning icon status in the process. After enduring label drama for the better part of the decade before bouncing back with Tha Carter V, Wayne looks to continue to add to his legacy with his latest album, Funeral, which proves that after a quarter century in the game, he remains one of the most formidable wordsmiths to ever pick up a mic.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Lil Wayne episode of “Drink Champs.” Take a look at them below.
1. What Inspired Him To Start Playing The Guitar
When asked about his deep dive into the world of rock music, which included him famously picking up a guitar and releasing the rock-inspired album Rebirth, Wayne reveals that the turning point came when he decided to own who he was as a creative and let go of his inhibitions. “I damn sure went after it,” he tells the “Drink Champs” about his evolution. “I damn sure went after that title. There was a point where I had to tell myself, ‘It’s time to stop saying you look like and stop trying to make sounds that sound like it. Just go for it.’ Picked up a guitar, went and hollered at Mrs. Betty Wright, hollered at her, she gave me a few vocal lessons and she’s the one who actually taught me the strings… She actually taught me the strings for ‘My Leather So Soft.’”
2. Andre 3000’s Influence On Him Embracing His Rock Star Persona
Outkast member Andre 3000 is the poster-child for supreme lyricists with an eclectic twist to their flair. Weezy acknowledges 3 Stacks’ influence on his willingness to push the envelope, but in his own unique way. “I definitely looked at Andre and what he did…,” he says. “But Dre went all the way there. It’s impossible for me to go all the way somewhere when I am who I am, so what I wanted to do is make sure that I go there and I bring Lil Wayne to that. I ain’t bout to go there and be such and such. I’m just gonna bring Lil Wayne over to your world, take over for a little minute, do what I do for a second, [and] end up all on the Country Music Awards with Kid Rock with a guitar in my hand, singing ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’”
3. His Relationship With JAY-Z
JAY-Z’s relationship with Lil Wayne dates back two decades. But, in recent years, the two have grown closer than ever with Hov even offering to sign Wayne and Young Money under his Roc Nation umbrella. The deal, which would allow Tunechi to retain his masters, was ultimately declined. But, he made sure to emphasize Hov’s benevolence during his visit with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN. “First of all, like you said about me, I can’t let another single word go without saying how genuine and how much of a man that guy is,” Wayne says. “That’s a real man right there.” He goes on to reveal how JAY-Z reached out to personally offer his assistance during his feud with Cash Money. “First of all, it was more than a privilege, I think he already knew,” Wayne says of Hov’s proposition. “This was when I was going through a whole bunch of things [with Cash Money]. What he was doing was he just was trying to help in any form and fashion. ‘So, if I gotta sign your mom, man, whatever I got to do to help you out in your situation you’re going through right now. I know it’s embarrassing, they got shit all public, but what I wanna do is make sure you’re straight as a man. Make sure your personal things [are straight]. The rap shit, you’re gonna always be good with that. Eyes closed you got that, I just wanna make sure you’re good, your family, your parents. I know you got kids, I wanna make sure they’re eating and this stuff everybody hearing out here, it doesn’t affect them.’ That’s what I mean, he’s a genuine guy.
4. JAY-Z’s Reaction To Lil Wayne’s “Show Me What You Got” Freestyle
According to JAY-Z, who personally sent in questions for Wayne to answer live on “Drink Champs,” Weezy’s epic “Show Me What You Got” freestyle, which saw the brazen spitter set his sights directly at Hov’s throne, made JAY question whether he was up to the task of sparring with his brazen counterpart. “When he rapped on ‘Show Me What You Got,’ I had to take a long walk and look at myself in the mirror and I said, ‘Are you sure that you still got this?” Hov admitted in his personal message. While Weezy shows his graciousness for his contemporaries’ words, he reveals it’s the first time he’s every heard that remark, but does confirm that JAY did reach out to him to extend a tip of the hat. “He ain’t say that part,” Wayne says of Hov’s admission. “He just let me know, like, ‘Boy… you coming for me, Boy.’ It’s just a privilege, man.”
5. His Historic Run of Guest Appearances
Being a rapper whose services are in demand by other artists is the ultimate show of respect, which Weezy was showered with throughout the latter half of the aughts. He explains the method to his madness. “The features thing, plain and simple; goes back to you very, very authentically explaining about how I am,” he says. “I don’t say ‘no,’ so I think that it became a thing, [like] ‘Send it to him.’ You know, whoever send it, I’ma go my hardest on it, I ain’t gonna give you some verse I had in the closet. I’ma make it like it was my single with that said, that got around. ‘Homie don’t say no, he ain’t got no color blind and he gonna kill it. He in there, you ain’t gotta worry about waiting to send it to him, he’ll probably send it right back to us.’ So that got out. That was my formula and I think it ended up being 77 features or something in that one year.”
6. What Led To His Decision To Stay With Cash Money
When fellow Hot Boys members Juvenile, B.G. and Turk all defected from Cash Money amid financial disputes and other differences, Wayne was the lone artist to stay put in spite of the controversy in turmoil. According to Weezy, his naivety and youthful exuberance for music clouded his vision, and impacted his decision. “Me being the youngest played a big role,” he explains of his undying loyalty to Baby and Cash Money. “What I mean by that, the effects it had, I was waiting for my turn. I didn’t want everybody to go, I would’ve loved for my turn to be while everybody was [there], but shit, if that was how I got my turn, this is my turn. Also what that means is my immaturity, as far as age. I didn’t have any worries about the business side of it like that, I wasn’t really worried about what I’m not getting or what I’m supposed to be getting. It was [about] the music. These guys are giving me the [opportunity] to chase my dream, I don’t gotta go to school, I don’t gotta do what my friends doing. Then when I do go to school, I’m the talk of the class, I was on TV and this, that and the third. That was enough for me as [a kid].”
7. The Story Behind What Birthed His Dominant Mixtape Run
Already a household name among rap fans, Wayne’s appeal and the public’s perception of him was elevated by his dominant mixtape run, which saw him lending credence to his claims of being the undisputed best rapper on the planet. According to the Young Money general, his decision to navigate the mixtape circuit came as a byproduct of feeling creatively stifled by his environment. “In New Orleans, we had a way of rap,” he explains. “We had a way of rapping, still to this day. They got bounce music, but it wasn’t bounce, I’m talking bout just rap. We had a way of rapping, meaning we talk about a certain thing, we say it in a certain way, we use certain slang to almost where it was the Cali and how the east cost/west coast thing, and it was almost forbidden for them to say ‘son’ or ‘kid’ or something like that. So at that time, I was a Nore fan, I was a JAY fan. Baby ain’t know who them people was. So in school, when I’m with my homies and we in the circle and someone wanna hear Lil Wayne rap, I’m coming with that [style]. When I get to the studio and Baby and ‘em wanna hear what you got, it’s bout to be that, ‘Head buss off top, grab the chopper and chop, at the top is my spot, bling bling’ and all that. It’s bout to be ‘Whoadie I got twenty-inch rims on my… ‘So now, I had an outlet to do it.’”
8. Why He Decided To Sign Nicki Minaj
One of the flagship artists of Young Money, Nicki Minaj is regarded as one of the greatest female rappers in history. When asked what prompted him to place her at the forefront of Young Money, Tunechi accredits her Big Apple roots, as well as her sheer lyrical skill. “It wasn’t a risk at all,” he says in regards to inking to Harajuku Barbie to a deal. “Again, that goes back to the confidence I have in the person… Also, her being from New York. The female rappers from New York — regardless of the names we named — the female rappers from New York, they’re a different breed when it comes to rap. And she cut from that same cloth and what I mean by that, they got clips. I work with a bunch of female artists and a lot of female artists work how females should work. Very particular about what they do, very specific about what they say, very particular about how they work. And Nicki started, shit, in the trenches like anybody, but that’s a New York female artist. That’s how that cloth is out there. If you’re cut from that cloth, that’s how it is. They’re ready to go… She ain’t about to come in here talking about, ‘I’m bout to fuck this guy, I’m ‘bout to do this, I want my hair this way’ and that right there was always the confidence I had in her. I always told her, ‘You’re gonna probably have to start talking about more general things people [relate to]. When they see you, people gonna wanna hear certain things from you other than what you’re dishing out, but don’t start dishing it out cause it’s you. So once they accept you, you ain’t got no problem with [saying] ‘I’ve always been who I am anyway and if y’all accepted me, then I ain’t got no problem with longevity ‘cause I’m gonna be me forever.’”
9. The Impact of “How To Love”
Lil Wayne’s list of hit singles is quite extensive. But, one that holds a special place in his heart is the Carter IV hit “How to Love,” which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. “When I first got it, I thought that, ‘Man, this might be a little too positive for me,’” he remembers. I put a lot of my own words in there. So, once I did that and seen what the outcome was, this works and that’s how that came about. Shout out that song, man. I meet people that… I don’t judge, but you can clearly see that person is not a Lil Wayne fan. It’s not about them being a fan. What I mean by that is they’re not [regularly] going to their playlist and checking out some Lil Wayne, but they have real genuine stories about what that song did for them and sometimes they’ll be like, ‘I’ve been a [fan] ever since that song.’ The people that come up to me and tell me what that song [meant], it’s people that obviously you can look at ‘em and see that, ‘You ain’t checking me out,’ but they tell me what they were going through at some point in their lives and what that song did for them. That song helped them look in the mirror and things like that and helped them be able to see the person that was there… and stop worrying or caring about [it]. Kids that were being bullied tell me about that song, I’ve had people that were overweight tell me about what that song did for them and how great they feel about themselves now… Good song.”