Also Credited As:Lil' Wayne, Dwayne Michael Carter
|Dwayne Michael Carter on September 27, 1982 in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA|
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He was born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. on Sept. 27, 1982 in New Orleans, LA, and grew up in Hollygrove, one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. Like many of his peers who needed an outlet away from their less-than-stellar environment, Lil' Wayne began rapping at age eight. In 1991, he met Bryan and Slim Williams, the founders of Cash Money Records, who took the aspiring MC under their wings after hearing his freestyle raps. Taking the name Gangsta D, Lil' Wayne continued writing rhymes while working odd jobs around the office at Cash Money. A year later, the recording company partnered him with another young rapper named B.G., and together they recorded the album True Stories (1993). Life was tough for Lil' Wayne when he was away from the studios; he sold cocaine for some time, and when he was just 13 years old, he shot himself accidentally with a 9mm pistol, missing his heart by a centimeter. In spite of his rough upbringing, Lil' Wayne was an honor student at Eleanor McMain Magnet School, but he dropped out at age 14 to chase his musical dream.
In 1997, he officially took the name Lil' Wayne and joined B.G., Juvenile, and Young Turk, the other members of the teen hardcore rap group the Hot Boys. The group released two albums, including Guerrilla Warfare(1999), which reached the No.1 spot on that year's Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Fresh off the success of i>Guerrilla Warfare, Lil' Wayne launched his solo career with the album Tha Block is Hot (2000), featuring contributions from the other members of the Hot Boys. Ironically, while Tha Block is Hot bore a standard "explicit lyrics" sticker, Lil' Wayne was not allowed to curse on the album due to his status as a minor. Tha Block is Hot went double platinum, but Lil' Wayne's hardcore rhymes and rough sound had yet to cross over. Lil' Wayne's next two albums, Lights Out (2000) and 500 Degreez (2002), enjoyed modest sales compared to his debut, with critics pointing to the lack of coherent narratives in his verses. Not one to give up, Lil' Wayne came out with the underground mixtape Da Drought (2003). It gained rave reviews from the hip-hop press, prompting Lil' Wayne to release more underground mixtapes to create buzz for his upcoming breakthrough album Tha Carter.
Bolstered by the hit single "Go D.J.," Tha Carter topped the charts and signaled a dreadlocked Lil' Wayne's ascent into the world of legitimate rap. Critics heaped praises on his rhymes and album sales proved that Lil' Wayne had finally crossed over. In addition, Lil' Wayne's cameo appearance on Destiny Child's hit single "Soldier" (2004) further enhanced his mainstream popularity. Riding on the popularity of Tha Carter, Lil' Wayne - who also went by the names Lil' Weezy or Birdman Jr., among others - released Tha Carter II in December 2004. Like its predecessor, Vol. 2 showcased him taking risks with his lyricism and featured an impressive dose of hookless, freestyle tracks punctuated by his syrupy drawl. Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, Tha Carter II sold more than two million copies worldwide, thanks to hit singles like "Fireman," "Grown Man and "Shooter." For the next couple of years, Lil' Wayne produced several mixtape recordings, including the critically acclaimed Dedication 2 (2006), which he made with DJ Drama and featured "Georgia Bush," the socially conscious track in which Lil' Wayne lambasted former U.S. President George W. Bush's response to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on his hometown of New Orleans.
He also appeared in numerous singles as a featured performer, including "Make it Rain" (2006) by Fat Joe, and the remix to "I'm So Hood" (2007) by DJ Khaled, among many others. He teamed up with Cash Money mentor William for the album Like Father, Like Son (2006), which spawned the hit "Stuntin Like My Daddy." Lil' Wayne released new material incessantly during this period, culminating with the 2008 album Tha Carter III, which sold a million copies in a week. The album generated several hit singles, including "Lollipop," which he recorded with Static Major, "Got Money" featuring T-Pain, and "Mr. Carter" with Jay-Z. In 2009, Lil' Wayne won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Song ("Lollipop") as well as the Best Rap Album for Tha Carter III. That same year, he performed at the Country Music Awards with Kid Rock; instead of rapping, Lil' Wayne played guitar, a surprising move that signaled his growing involvement with other forms of music.
Yet, as his popularity soared, so did Lil' Wayne's reputation for drug use. He was reportedly addicted to promethazine-codeine syrup, or "drank," which had drastic effects on his personality. At the height of his career, Lil' Wayne also faced several legal issues, including felony charges for possession of narcotics found on his tour buses in 2008 and 2009. He made headlines in July 2007 after he was arrested for weapons possession in New York City following a concert at the Beacon Theatre. He was charged with gun possession, but after fighting it for two years, he reached a plea on charges of second-degree attempted criminal possession of a weapon and was sentenced to one-year in prison. In 2010, Lil' Wayne began serving his sentence in New York's Rikers Island, where he worked as an SPA (suicide prevention aide). He was released from his sentence eight months later.
In addition to his run-ins with the law, Lil' Wayne maintained his share of public feuds with fellow hip-hop artists like Young Buck, 50 Cent, and Jay-Z who, at different times, all reportedly dissed Lil' Wayne on their records. Coincidentally, while he was serving time in 2010, Lil' Wayne's rock album Rebirth was released; the album generally received negative reviews from critics who lambasted his style change and lyrics as "crushingly banal" and this particular work as "an over-the-top parody of a rock album." Lil' Wayne bounced back with the highly-anticipated release of the 2011 album Tha Carter IV, featuring the smash hits "6 Foot 7 Foot," "John," and "How to Love," a ballad based largely around the sounds of an acoustic guitar and drums, about women who put up emotional walls due to "deep and dark reasons." The following year, Lil' Wayne earned another coup by surpassing music icon Elvis Presley's record as the male artist with the most entries on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as of September 2012. Shortly after, he made headlines again when he lost his lawsuit against music producer Quincy Jones III, son of legendary producer Quincy Jones, and was ordered by a judge to pay more than $2.2 million to the producer. Lil' Wayne originally filed the suit against Jones for allegedly using unlicensed music from his 2008 album Tha Carter III.
Meanwhile, Wayne suffered a series of medical issues that were widely publicized. In October 2012, it was reported that his private jet bound for Los Angeles made an emergency landing in Texas for reported seizures that required a visit to a local hospital. The next day, his plane landed in Louisiana where he suffered a second seizure that again required hospitalization. On March 14, 2013, Wayne reportedly suffered more seizures while making a music video with rapper Nicki Minaj, leading to a six-day stay at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and wild speculation from the tabloid media that he was on his deathbed. Further rumors spread that he was in critical condition and that his seizures were drug-induced, leading employees of his record label, Young Money Entertainment, to publicly criticize the media storm while declaring that his seizures were an ongoing problem that doctors were unable to diagnose.
By Candy Cuenco