Creators of music often draw their inspiration from different aspects in their lives and that of society in general. This influential aspects range from the composer’s upbringing, their neighborhood, as well as general societal aspects such as racism, corruption, and governance. For the famous hip hop rapper, Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Michael Carter on the 27th of September 1982, this was no different. The rapper, born in a poor neighborhood in New Orleans, Louisiana (Birchmeier), has composed hundreds of songs whose themes highly betray what influenced his music.
Lil Wayne has performed exemplarily both in a group and as a solo artist. He started his career in a hip-hop group known as the Hot Boys, which he joined in 1996 (Dupriest). He would later go solo, producing Grammy Winning hits. The albums Tha Carter, followed by Tha Carter II, III, and IV mark the rapper's success in the hip hop industry (Biography.com). Lil Wayne started creating music since he was a child. Therefore, many factors around his life influenced how he crafted his music and even the lyrics of his songs. This paper aims at an examination into what influenced Lil Wayne to become a rapper and, in fact, to rap as he did. Some of these factors are discussed in the next sections of this paper.
Lil Wayne’s Father Figure
The absence of a constantly available father figure in most of the rapper’s life highly influenced his music. Lil Wayne’s life was rocky from the time that he was born. His mother, who was a cook at the time, gave birth to him when she was just nineteen years old. Two years into Lil Wayne’s life and their parents divorced. His biological dad would then abandon the family totally, leaving them to their own devices. Dwayne Michael Turner, Lil Wayne’s dad, was abusive to Jacida Carter, Lil’s mother. After the abusive relationship between Michael Turner and Jacida and the eventual abandoning of the family, Lil Wayne did not want anything to do with his biological father. This, in fact, led to him dropping the ‘D’ in Dwayne, to retain Wayne as his name.
After the divorce between Michael and Cita, as Lil Wayne’s mother is shortly referred to, she would meet Terry and marry him. Terry, too, had abusive tendencies towards Cita, if Lil Wayne’s lyrics are anything to go by. In Playing With Fire, Lil Wayne raps:
Mama named Cita, I love you Cita; Remember when your pussy second husband tried to beat ya?
Remember when I went into the kitchen, got the cleaver;
He ain’t give a fuck, I ain’t give a fuck neither. (Genius Media Group)
Despite these negative portrayal of Terry in Lil’s lyrics and Terry eventually leaving Cita, Lil Wayne indicated that Terry is ‘a good dude’, meaning that he is still ‘cool’ with this stepfather (Daniel).
Next, Cita would meet the famous Rabbit, real name Reginald McDonald, who would play a pivotal role in Weezy’s rapping career. Weezy is one of the many nicknames that Lil Wayne goes by. It is Rabbit who convinced Cita to let Lil Wayne join the Cash Money Records (Daniel). Reginald moved Wayne and his mother from Hollygrove and relocated them to East New Orleans. At the age of twelve, Lil Wayne would accidentally shoot himself in the chest using one of his parents’ revolvers. This incident also contributed to the rapper’s lyrics as can be seen in the following excerpt from Don’t Cry .He raps ‘I got shot when I was 12, Lost my pop when I was 14’ (Musixmatch). This incident made her mother refrain him from the Cash Money Records group, preventing him from seeing Bryan Williams, alias Birdman, and Ronald ‘Sim’ Williams, who were the co-founders of the group. She was of the idea that Lil Wayne needs to concentrate on her studies. However, a year later, Rabbit would be fatally shot while in the ‘hood,' an incident that would soften Cita’s stand on Lil Wayne and the Cash Money Records. She let him get back to the group and, in addition, get his first tattoo, in honor of Rabbit. The tattoo reads ‘In Memory Of Rabbit: It’s Up To Me’ and is on the Rapper’s arm. The rapper has often referred to Rabbit as his biological father and has on many occasions incorporated lyrics about him in his raps. In Up To Me, he raps
Look, where I go from here?
Just lost my father last year
But I still, remain to keep it real like dollar bills
I drop tears, can't believe my daddy's gone
Rabbit come home, why ya left us all alone? (Azlyrics)
Furthermore, Lil Wayne alludes to Rabbit’s death in Fuck the World. His lyrics go:
Dear Rabbit, why they have to kill Rabbit?
But I'ma keep you alive, nigga, I'm Lil' Rabbit (Azlyrics)
Lil Wayne uses the song Everything as a dedication to his father Rabbit. Below is an excerpt from the song.
What it be like up there baby boy, ay this here ya son hollerin at ya
I miss the shit out ya, it's hard to be without ya
But I know you watchin, peepin down on how I'm livin
Ay, tell Jesus I said thanks for the blessings he sendin
Please ask him to forgive me for the sins I commit
Just let him know I'm still young and at risk
Say, I'll never forget the time that you caught me smokin herb in the house
I was dead wrong, I deserved to get out
But you just talked it over with my mom and got it situated in due time
Told me get the paper instead of high
So now I take that advice and shed light over my whole life dog
I wanted to be just like you my whole life dog
I can't believe them niggas stole ya, that shit's pain to me
But don't trip, I hold you down, you still remain through me
And dog I know I can't see you but I bet that you smilin
And I'm a make you even happier, I promise
After the death of Rabbit, Lil once more found himself without a father figure to look up to. This is what led to the father-son relationship that the rapper adopted with Birdman. Lil Wayne would often rap about his daddy, Birdman, in several of his songs. In the song My Daddy, Lil raps
Damn right, I kissed my Daddy
I think they pissed at how rich my Daddy is
And I'm his kid, I stunt with my Daddy
Call Ms Lee, she with my Daddy
So diss me, and don't diss my Daddy
'Cause who was there when no one wasn't
Just my Daddy
Who was there when I needed money
Just my Daddy
So who be there when I see the money
Just my Daddy
Who said that I'd be the one
Just my Daddy
Hello Hip-Hop, I'm home
It's your Daddy (Genius Media Group)
By Daddy, Lil Wayne is referring to Birdman, one of the co-founders of the Cash Money Records. The lyrics above portray what was going on in the rapper’s life in terms of the availability of a dad. Moreover, they strongly identify the aspect of Lil Wayne’s lack of a constant father figure as a significant influencer to his music composition.
Lil Wayne’s Mother, Cita
Cita, Lil Wayne’s mother, influenced his music greatly, with Lil Wayne mentioning Cita in his lyrics often. The relationship between Lil Wayne and his mother has been a stable one, a fact that cannot be said of the father-son relationship in Lil Wayne’s life. The verse above, from Playing With Fire, involves Lil Wayne rapping about a time when his second stepfather, Terry, had tried to physically assault his mother.
Lil Wayne’s Daughter
Lil Wayne had his first child, Reginae, with Antonia Carter. He would later have three other kids with three different women. Lil Wayne is particularly fond of his first child, and in fact, she has influenced some of the music that the rapper has composed. Lil Wayne, in Everything, refers to the entire family in verse 2. The lyrics go as follows.
I know you see my daughter growin up and bad as ever
But she cool 'cause she do whatever daddy tell her
And your wife, she's still the most wonderful woman
I just built her a new house, she ain't runnin from nothing
B and Slim, them niggas still love me like they own child (Metrolyrics)
Lil refers to Reginae in the first line of this excerpt. Furthermore, he refers to Cita in lines 3 and 4 of this song. Moreover, it is evident that the Cash Money Records cofounders Birdman and Slim, who Lil Wayne refers to as B and Slim in line 5 above, influenced Lil Wayne’s music.
Lil Wayne’s Neighborhood
In the introduction, it was mentioned that Lil Wayne grew up in very poor neighborhoods in New Orleans. These environments also significantly influenced the rapper’s music. Lil Wayne complains about where he grew up and blames the government for not caring about the residents of these ghettos in Cry Out. He rants about police brutality on the residents in these neighborhoods. A section of the song is as below
I grew up where them people called them people on us
Think we slangin, but we just got beepers on us
Grindin' all day like we got sleep insomnia
Livin' like the videos write a treatment on us
Stuck in the hood like they put cement on us
Ghetto birds still shittin on us, government still quittin' on us
Lost a few homies and the grief still sittin on us
So we got the names writtin on us
And them bitch ass police canines, teeth still grittin' on us (Metrolyrics)
Racism, Police Brutality and Bad Governance
Even though Lil Wayne has on several occasions refuted claims that racism has affected him, some of his lyrics indicate the contrary. Racism in America definitely affected the rapper’s music career. His remarks that he has never been affected by racism may be in an effort to protect his relationship with his fans, who he claims to be predominantly white. The line “White folks still spittin' on us” in Cry Out cements the extent to which racism against blacks in America affected Lil Wayne. In My Heart Races On, the rapper openly acknowledges the existence of racism, he raps:
Oh Lord, what are we runnin from?
The police cause they already killed enough of us
Stay out them streets cause they don’t fuck with us, they huntin us
We in a race against racists, that’s a color run (Genius Media Group)
The above lines also reiterate on the rapper’s concerns on police brutality. In line 2 he laments that the police have already killed enough of them (black people from his neighborhood).
In months following Hurricane Katrina, which highly affected his hometown (New Orleans), the rapper was quick to point out the social issues that the predominantly black population was going through. He points out to the slow government reaction to alleviate the suffering brought about by the catastrophe. Some of the lyrics in Georgia… Bush goes:
Then they telling y'all lies on the news
The white people smiling like everything cool
But I know people that died in that pool
I know people that died in them schools (Genius Media Group)
Racism, police brutality and bad governance have been proven to affect Lil Wayne’s music, courtesy of the excerpts above from his music.
Lil Wayne is not the typical love song rapper. However, he has on several occasions rapped about love. Often, though, the rapper often contradicts himself about his love life, in one song proclaiming his love for some girl, and yet in another song, or even in another line within the same song, indicating that he is incapable of loving. In Haterz by Glasses Malone featuring Birdman and Lil Wayne, he asserts:
Love is in the air I put on a gas mask (Metrolyrics)
The above lyrics clearly demonstrate on the musician’s unattractiveness to love. This part of his music indicates that even when love is affecting all the people around him, he chooses to intentionally avoid it.
In We be Steady Mobbin’ , Lil Wayne raps as follows.
This rap game, I got my hand around this motherfucker
Yeah I said game, but I ain’t playing around this (Metrolyrics)
In 2011, Lil Wayne composed How to Love, a song that he says is about women who don’t know how to love. Lil Wayne, in his lyrics, intends to communicate on the problem of a lot of people having hardships in terms of opening up to their significant other. Lil Wayne says that the song serves as an encouragement for women and girls the world over to be optimistic and keep their heads up regardless of what is happening in their lives.
Therefore, Lil Wayne may on several occasions deny his ability to love, but love has to a large extend influenced his music, as can be evidenced by the lyrics above.
Lil Wayne’s music is interesting due to his wordplay and deep meaning of most of his lyrics. Most of Lil Wayne’s music is not straightforward and is often subject to the audience interpretation. This, in essence, is one of the factors that have influenced his fanbase, apart from his voice and charisma. Many factors have influenced Lil Wayne’s music. This paper was an examination of some of these factors. Lil Wayne’s father figure, Lil Wayne’s mother, Cita, and his daughter are some of the main people in Wayne’s life that have influenced his music. The musician’s neighborhood in New Orleans and racism, including police brutality, also influenced Lil Wayne’s music. Bad governance is also a theme that would affect the rapper’s lyrics. Even though Lil Wayne does not often do love songs, love, as a general subject as well the rapper’s love to others, has influenced some of the music that he has done, with some music proclaiming his love whereas some others indicate his inability to love.