Lil Wayne's "The Carter III" era did not only mark the pinnacle of his career but the beginning of Young Money's reign at the top of the game.
In the 10th grade, I made a two-hour trek to go see Lil Wayne in Montreal on his “I Am Music” tour, during the peak of his post Tha Carter III career. The tour was incredible. Wayne came out to “Mr. Carter,” performing hits from not only his most recent opus, but highlights off Tha Carter II and more. While the tour was in support of Tha Carter III, it served a bigger purpose. Wayne made sure to give a short time-slot to several of his Young Money roster, before the label had its reign in hip-hop. Two of the most notable artists he introduced were none other than Drake and Nicki Minaj, thus marking the beginning of the Young Money reign that ultimately shifted hip-hop.
The era of Tha Carter III was the product of Wayne’s relentless hustle and quest to become the best rapper alive. However, there was clearly a part of him that knew he wouldn’t be able to hold that title forever. In light of this revelation, Wayne used his platform to shine light on both Nicki Minaj and Drake in whatever way he could. With years of experience behind him, as well as access to the Young Money/Cash Money infrastructure, Wayne's guidance and resources helped evolve Drake and Nicki Minaj from promising up-and-comers to modern day pop culture icons.
It should be noted that both Drake and Nicki Minaj were putting in work, years before Wayne ever discovered them. Drake had released numerous mixtapes and became the first unsigned Canadian rapper to have a music video featured on an American television network, after “Replacement Girl” ft. Trey Songz aired on BET’s 106 & Park. Nicki Minaj gained attention off of her debut mixtape, Playtime Is Over, and continued to prove that she could hold her own among rap giants through subsequent efforts Sucka Free and cult-favorite Beam Me Up Scotty.
Wayne was already plotting for Drake and Nicki Minaj’s takeover before we even realized. Following the release of Tha Carter III, Wayne performed his song “Misunderstood," but instead of performing his own verse, he recited a future Drake verse that would one day land on Birdman’s single “Money To Blow.” The song ultimately came out three years later, but the decision to perform Drake’s verse before Drake was a star was clearly a salute to the Canadian rapper’s pen game.
As most big homies do, Wayne made three appearances of Drake’s Young Money debut, the So Far Gone EP, which was essentially a shortened version of the mixtape Drizzy had released earlier that year. While the Lil Wayne co-sign went a long way, Young Money's head honcho wisely positioned Nicki Minaj and Drake at the forefront of the label campaign when they released their compilation project We Are Young Money. Nicki didn’t even have her debut album out yet, but she still outshined several of her labelmates, quickly becoming a fan favorite.
We Are Young Money marked the beginning of the end of Wayne’s reign atop the rap game, while shining light on three of Weezy’s most notable signees, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. Weezy had set things up perfectly for the trifecta to take the reigns. Before the release of her debut, Nicki Minaj was showing budding signs of stardom, made all the more apparent by her turn on Kanye West's "Monster." Drake was already a star in his own right, and Tyga had already built a following from his seminal days in the rap game.
Wayne began to take a step back from the game as they blew up; not entirely by choice, but rather due to his incarceration. As we await the arrival of Tha Carter V tonight, take a moment to revisit some of the classic bangers that emerged during Tha Carter III era where Wayne was not only at his peak, but helped bring attention to future stars in the game.
"Bedrock" was the most notable collaboration of the Young Money compilation project and one of the most pivotal in the label’s reign. As the second single off the project, it served to showcase the talents of Drake, Nicki Minaj, Tyga, Gudda Gudda and Jae Millz. However, we’re still wondering what Nicki Minaj meant by rapping that she’ll put her pussy on one’s sideburns.
Another staple in the Young Money era. The track served as the first single off the compilation project and put an even bigger spotlight on Drake, who undeniably stole the show on the record.
FUCK THE BULLSHIT
Another heavy banger from We Are Young Money. The song also featured appearances from Birdman and Gudda Gudda. Nicki Minaj and Drake both seized the spotlight, further confirmation they were destined for greatness.
Drake and Lil Wayne worked on numerous tunes before the release of Thank Me Later, but this one marked a moment when Drake was inching towards being regarded as an equal to his mentor.
There was no way that Lil Wayne wouldn’t have a feature on Nicki Minaj’s debut album, even if it meant coming through for a bonus track. The track was re-issued a few months after Wayne was released from Rikers. Who killed it more, Weezy or Em?