Since 2005, Lil Wayne has been arguably the most influential figure in hip hop. His reinvention of the mixtape game burgeoned his relevance and credibility, a myriad of featured appearances for artists from Jay-Z to Madonna increased his mainstream appeal, and quality full-length album releases were appreciated by even the most stubborn hip hop heads. However, his rise would have never been as distinct without the leader-less, ambiguous identity of mid 2000′s hip hop. His claim of “Greatest Rapper Alive” was embraced during the crunk rap era. Lil Wayne’s popularity was so enormous it allowed him to relax his efforts, attempt genre crossing, and release bad music without any effect on his fame. Fast-forward to the present and it is obvious that he is a shadow of his past self.
The mixtape industry he created became over-populated
Lil Wayne’s greatest influence on late 2000′s hip hop was exponentially increasing the relevance of the mixtape. Before Tunechi dropped one seemingly every other week, mixtapes were primarly used by up-and-coming unknown artists attempting to get signed. But once other rappers, famous or not and all with less ability than Wayne, saw how effective mixtapes were for promotion, the mixtape game became flooded with so much new music per week and diluted with no easy way to decipher the quality releases from the 2-hour studio efforts. Sure, Lil Wayne makes noise every time he releases a new mixtape, but with his decreasing effort it is unlikely we will see the same hype that was over Da Drought 3 any time soon.
Jail Actually Made His Lyrics Worse
Many rappers who have done time (T.I., Tupac to name a few) credited going to jail in helping developing their creativity and skill. But Lil Wayne’s style has always disregarded introspection and concentration and instead embraced pop culture and off-the-head creativity, so being out of the real world actually limits his capability.
He Let His Protégés Take Over
Even though Lil Wayne was in jail, his effect on the game was still felt through his label Young Money signees Drake and Nicki Minaj, who all but ran mainstream rap music during his prison stint. They have diluted Weezy’s brand and delegated his star power. Young Money is full of hugely similar label-mates who’s songs feature the same old orgy of artists all dependent on each other to releasing simply what’s popular now.
What does the future hold for Lil Wayne?
We have seen Jay-Z and Eminem recover their rap careers from irrelevance in the past couple of years, but can the rapper who has been famous since he was 16 do the same? Well, while we never can really predict the future, we should find out soon
Lil Wayne has left a huge, and largely positive, imprint in hip hop, and it will be interesting to see who can successfully fill his shoes. Maybe Wiz Khalifa?