In 1997

Lil Wayne was a 15-year-old honors student-cum-rap prodigy about to redefine the parameters of Southern rap with the Hot Boyz. ("So you say you ready to hustle, scuffle over a dollar, rumble over a bundle / Ready to bust over two dollars, ready to die for five, ready to ride on nine, better be bout your change" — "Get It How You Live!!")

In 2007

Lil Wayne was a 25-year-old rap savant in the heart of his prime. By now, he had developed a highly original, creative, and associative approach to his craft; this year, he released Da Drought 3, the greatest mixtape of all-time, and was soon to follow it with the equally magnificent Tha Carter III, the album that would propel him to superstardom and formal Best Rapper Alive status. (I'm probably in the sky, flying with the fishes / Or maybe in the ocean, swimming with the pigeons / See my world is different" - "The Sky is the Limit") ("My flow is nasty / like C Y Phyllis - "The Sky is the Limit").

It is 2017.

Today is Lil Wayne's 35th birthday. To be fair, the last decade has been a turbulent one for our hero, defined by an eight-month stint in jail, recurring seizures, the fallout with Birdman and ensuing legal saga, number one hits, show-stopping guest verses, and the occasional evaporation of his musical powers. Since Tha Carter III, he has released 13 mixtapes, album, and joint projects of wildly variable quality, but he is still worshipped by millions. Somewhere beyond the horizon lies sacred Tha Carter V, in all its infinite possibilities. 

Happy birthday, Weezy. Scroll onward to listen to his best work from each year since 2008.