Lil Wayne Versus The World

Even while locked in a bitter feud with his label, the hardest-working rapper alive won’t stop putting out music.

Miami Music Week had already given way to ULTRA, but the Red Bull Party House in South Beach wasn’t in a very EDM mood. Instead of another promotion for a house DJ’s next Vegas club residency, representatives from Young Money were handing out t-shirts emblazoned with the enigmatic “FWA” on the front. The “FW” could be easily divined – “Free Weezy” has long been a chant among Lil Wayne fans since Wayne’s 2010 stay at Rikers Island. Now, Weezy is engaged in another type of confinement – a protracted battle with his label president, Birdman, over the release of his new album Tha Carter V.

As Lil Wayne bounced on stage in the fading Miami afternoon sun in front of a crowd that included celebrities and star athletes, lighting up the massive blunt that accompanies him almost everywhere, Wayne revealed that the appended “A” stood for album – he was releasing yet another mixtape. Rattling off hit after hit, as well as some deep cuts, Lil Wayne took the time between songs to berate his label.

Young Money is now cleaved from its Cash Money brethren, but only in a spiritual sense. Its still an imprint of Cash Money and Cash Money still controls the most important Young Money releases, including Tha Carter V. Cash Money is claiming that Tha Carter V is not up to its standards for release, which is somewhat believable – Lil Wayne’s output has become erratic and no longer matches the urgency and heat of his first several stellar albums.

But that hasn’t stopped Weezy from producing. If the Free Weezy Album does indeed drop next month like promised, it would be his second album of the year. And his first mixtape of the year, Sorry For The Wait 2, was his best collection in years. Following a stellar tour with Drake over the summer (where he consistently out-performed his young protégé), Wayne seems to have re-found his flow. After a few years of health problems, probation issues, and general malaise, Lil Wayne actually seems hungry again. Maybe the beef with his label is exactly what was needed to restart a career that had seemingly reached its pinnacle.

If that’s the case, maybe it’s best that “Tha Carter V” never sees the light of day. Maybe Weezy is always better with a chip on his shoulder, a swagger of the slighted, where mixtapes act as confessional as his older albums were.

After beaming at the crowd, his bejeweled grill on full display, Weezy told the Miami party “I love you all. I feel you.” And with each new mixtape, we’re beginning to feel Lil Wayne again a little more. We’re feeling a little less sorry for the wait.

Photos by Nora Hirozawa