Across Lil Wayne?s discography, his mixtapes and studio albums have always been treated as separate entities: the former featuring Wayne?s most creative work, and the latter home to his more polished material. Of course, there?s an additional divide within his commercial catalogue, with Tha Carter series representing the highest tier his studio offerings, the blockbuster releases responsible for making Wayne a superstar.
The Carter series provides an accurate roadmap of Wayne?s career, with each of the five installments tracking his position in the rap game at the time of its release: 2004?s Tha Carter saw Wayne escape the Hot Boys? shadow and establish himself as a potential star; 2005?s C2 tapped him as the favorite to usurp JAY-Z as the Best Rapper Alive; 2008?s C3 was the official coronation, cementing Wayne as the defining rapper of his generation; 2011?s C4 kick-started his decline; and, finally, the 2018?s C5, the long-awaited return, and a reminder as to why we fell in love with Wayne in the first place.
In honor of Lil Wayne?s recent 36th birthday, and the overwhelming praise Tha Carter V has received from critics and fans alike, we have ranked the 36 best songs from Tha Carter series.
Album Representation: Tha Carter (7), Tha Carter II (10), Tha Carter III (11), Tha Carter IV (4), Tha Carter V (4)
In March 2010, Lil Wayne began serving an eight-month jail sentence at Rikers, leaving the fate of his Young Money empire to the label?s rising star, Drake. Up until that point, their relationship followed an established hierarchy, with Wayne, the Best Rapper Alive, doubling as the clear alpha-dog to his YMCB protege Drizzy. That all changed during Wayne?s prison stint, however, as Drake leveled up with a Platinum debut and established himself as the rap game?s top dog. The following year, the pair linked up on ?She Will,? their first collaboration since Wayne?s return home, and the third single from Wayne?s post-prison release, C4. The track served as a reminder that Young Money?s co-kings were moving in opposite directions, with Drake fixated on the throne and Wayne intent on proving he was still at his apex. Though Drizzy only handles the hook, ?She Will? felt like the prophecy that laid out by Wayne on 2010?s ?Money to Blow? ? ?We gon? be alright if we put Drake on every hook.? ? had been fulfilled.
35. ?Dope New Gospel? (Tha Carter V, 2018)
Overshadowed by the unprecedented greatness of Lil Wayne?s magical mid-2000s run is his chemistry with producer Streetrunner. From 2006 and 2007, leading up to Tha Carter III, the go-to Florida producer was responsible for a handful of tracks that exist in the canon of Wayne classics ? songs like ?Cry Out (Amen),? ?Let?s Talk It Over,? ?Pray to the Lord,? and ?Trouble? ? with his sped-up, soulful beats serving as the backdrop for some of Wayne?s most emotional moments. ?Dope New Gospel,? the 20th track on Tha Carter V, might as well be called ?Streetrunner?s Interlude,? as Wayne raps over the type of soul-laden production that the producer would be proud of.
34. ?Receipt? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
Lil Wayne has never shied away from revealing his emotions, but when speaking on current or ex lovers, he?s always tip-toed the line between lust and love, known to prefer the former. An exception, of course, is ?Receipt,? an underrated deep cut from C2, built on a Heatmakerz joint that samples the Isley Brothers? ?Lay-Away. Arguably one of the most underrated songs in his discography, it serves as an ode to his then-girlfriend Trina, and is the closest Wayne?s ever come to actually sounding romantic, showering her with lines like, ?My daughter want another/ Sister or brother/ And you looking like a mother.?
33. ?Grown Man? ft. Curren$y (Tha Carter II, 2005)
Lil Wayne earned a reputation as the perfect R&B-Pop rapper by building a resume made up of stellar guest spots on bubble-gum R&B hits (?Soldier,? ?Gimme That,? and ?You,?) and smooth deep cuts off his own projects (?Comfortable,? ?Shooter,? and ?Tie My Hands.?) Rarely, though, does ?Grown Man? come up in this conversation. I suppose it is, admittedly, out of place on Tha Carter II,
and is swallowed up by the project?s overarching swagger. Still, there?s no denying that the track is pure ear candy, and backed by a T-Mix beat plucked straight out of the Nelly-Ja Rule era of the early-2000s, Wayne couldn?t sound more at home.
32. ?How to Love? (Tha Carter IV, 2011)
?How to Love? was released as the third single from Tha Carter IV in May 2011, a time when Lil Wayne?s unsuccessful pivot into Rock ? with 2010?s Rebirth ? was still fresh in our minds. As such, ?How to Love? felt like a misguided, stripped down attempt by Wayne to prove he could not only crossover into mainstream Pop ? as he?d already successfully done with 2008?s ?Lollipop? ? but catapult into a new genre entirely. On some level, he did, as the single became his first entry on hot adult contemporary stations. Only in hindsight, though, has the song?s true impact been fully realized, with it influencing the sound of a collection of R&B/Rap hybrid stars who?ve dominated in recent years, a la Future and Post Malone.
31. ?You Ain?t Got Nuthin? ft. Fabulous and Juelz Santana (Tha Carter III, 2008)
You could argue that Lil Wayne is on cruise control for much of Tha Carter III, bringing his A-game to only a handful of songs, particularly, rappity-rap tracks ?3 Peat,? ?Mr. Carter,? ?A Milli,? ?Let the Beat Build,? and ?Shoot Me Down.? But when the penultimate track, ?You Ain?t Got Nuthin,? rolls around, Wayne flips a switch. Exceptional, punch-line-laden verses from Fab and Juelz leaves Wayne no choice but to bring out the big guns. And boy, did he ever. Batting clean-up, he wastes no time reminding us why he?s the best rapper alive, wiping the floor with his guests before ending his verse with a picture-perfect mic-drop ? ?Weezy, I?m at the top, foot up in your bottom/Huh, damn I mean, foot up in your ass/I kick that shit now gon? put it in the trash.?
30. ?Bring It Back? ft. Mannie Fresh (Tha Carter, 2004)
In an alternate universe, ?Bring It Back,? the first single released off Tha Carter, catapults Lil Wayne into the mainstream, enough that its second single, ?Go DJ,? is nothing but gravy. Of course, the opposite happened. After the former failed to make noise in the summer of 2004, the latter hit airwaves that October, giving Wayne his first hit, and in turn, making him borderline pop-star. Nevertheless, it?s fair to argue that ?Bring It Back? is, in fact, still superior, a true ode to New Orleans bounce music that rings out like pure Southern party rap.
29. ?Walk In? (Tha Carter, 2004)
If Tha Carter is the project that foreshadowed the career-defining run that Lil Wayne would go on during the mid-to-late 2000s, then its opening track, ?Walk In,? is the moment he hit the launch button. On it, Wayne is cocky, but still vulnerable, using the hookless intro to escape the spotlight of fellow Hot Boy Juvenile and re-introduce himself as his own entity ? the new face of Cash Money and the soon-to-be Best Rapper Alive.
28. ?John? ft. Rick Ross (Tha Carter IV, 2011)
On Tha Carter IV, Lil Wayne sounded dispirited, and rightfully so, considering that the album was recorded after his eight-month stint in Rikers, following a run of seven straight years in which he?d operated at the peak of his powers, flooding the market with an endless supply of classic material . Granted, he still did pick his spots, which amounted to flashes of brilliance peppered throughout the album. ?John,? released as its second single four months after he returned home from prison, is one of these, with Wayne sounding refreshed, energetic, and hungry, intent on re-affirming his place as the Best Rapper Alive.
27. ?Open Letter? (Tha Carter V, 2018)
For a rapper who?s built his entire reputation on swagger, there?s nothing quite like vulnerable Lil Wayne, the rare moments when he lowers his guard and lets listeners into his psyche. ?Open Letter,? the tenth track from Tha Carter V, finds Wayne questioning his purpose and contemplating suicide, writing an open letter to his family and friends, while rapping to his kids, ?I hope I leave more of an impression on my kids/To be destined to have blessings to believe in, Lord.? As is usually the case when he battles his demons on wax, his blessings come out on top.
26. ?Hit Em Up? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
If you?re going to name a song after the most brutally aggressive diss in hip-hop history, you?d better bring your A-game. ?Hit Em Up,? which serves as the unofficial opener to the back half of Tha Carter II, doesn?t disappoint. Sure, it?s not one of the five best songs on the project, nor is it remembered as fondly as a handful of inferior tracks, but it hardly matters. It succeeds by doing more with less, as Wayne effortlessly handles hook duties, and wastes not one pocket of space with some of his best bars on the album.
25. ?Dr. Carter? (Tha Carter III, 2008)
Backed by a stripped down Swizz Beatz track, Lil Wayne put his own spin on a concept as old as the genre itself: making hip-hop the leading character in a song. Only, this time, instead of playing the rapper?s love interest, as so many rappers had done before, Wayne treats the genre as his patient. As Dr. Carter, he addresses hip-hop?s depreciating gamesmanship which, masterfully, helps props him up in the process ? a GOAT among mere men.
24. ?Bm J.R.? (Tha Carter, 2004)
In the early-2000s, Cash Money was at a crossroads. After establishing itself as the Bad Boy of the South during the late-?90s, internal fighting led to the departures of the label?s then-biggest stars, Juvenille and B.G., while the young up-start tasked with leading the company into the next generation, Lil Wayne, had, on his first three albums, struggled to answer the bell. And so, by 2004, Birdman put all his energy behind Wayne and Tha Carter, with ?BM J.R.,? the fourth track on the album, serving as the first time the father-son relationship was mentioned on wax.
23. ?3 Peat? (Tha Carter III, 2008)
By the time Tha Carter III rolled around, Lil Wayne had released eleven mixtapes and two albums in the previous 36 months. The break-neck speed at which he was working was felt in every inch of space on the album?s opener, ?3 Peat.? Wayne begins his verse sounding as if he was already in the middle of rapping when the producer pressed record, as he perfectly setts the tone for the rest of the album with just one 40-bar verse.
22. ?Mona Lisa? ft. Kendrick Lamar (Tha Carter V, 2018)
As soon as he ascended into hip-hop?s upper echelon in the first half of the decade, rap fans labeled Kendrick the heir apparent to Lil Wayne, a lyrical genius worthy of capturing the throne once occupied by his idol. Unfortunately, their peaks never overlapped ? with Kendrick hitting his stride right as Wayne began his decline ? forcing us to accept the fact that a potential collaboration would likely feature an in-his-prime Kendrick rapping circles around a washed Wayne. Alas, four years after the track was first teased, the two best rappers alive let loose on ?Mona Lisa,? the standout from Tha Carter V, as the GOAT more than holds his own in the same ring as rap?s current King.
21. ?Ain?t That a Bitch? (Tha Carter, 2004)
If you pretend that the Tha Carter?s tracks were recorded in the order in which they are sequenced, then Track 20, ?Ain?t That a Bitch,? points in the direction Lil Wayne was already heading in at the time of its release, in June 2004. The song is four minutes of pure energy, as a breathless Wayne performs at full capacity. In hindsight, it?s a snapshot of what was on the horizon, with the 22-year-old rapper set to begin a three-year run comprised of dizzying highs and consistent output.
20. ?Fly Out? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
Lil Wayne wouldn?t have been faulted for taking his foot off the gas on ?Fly Out,? the closing statement off Tha Carter II. By that point, over twenty-one tracks, mind you, along with blessing us with the best album of his career, Wayne gave us a career-defining intro (?Tha Mobb?), his then-biggest single (?Fireman?), an earth-shattering proclamation (?Best Rapper Alive?), the then-best song in his catalog (?Hustler Musik?), and his first crossover hit (?Shooter?). Nevertheless, he ended the project with arguably the greatest closing statement in hip-hop history, cementing his claim as the new King, rapping, ?Chaperone of the South I got my coast/Yeah, and until I die I?m tha/Tha tha, tha tha ? tha best rapper alive.?
19. ?Tie My Hands? ft. Robin Thicke (Tha Carter III, 2008)
Lil Wayne released his magnum opus, 2006?s Dedication 2, less than a year after Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans in shambles. On the tape?s closing track, ?Georgia?Bush,? Wayne submits his own Public Service Announcement on the tragedy, emasculating the then-POTUS for neglecting his hometown. ?Tie My Hands,? released two years later, serves as the unofficial sequel. This time, though, he attempts to inspire, rapping, ?Take away the football team, the basketball team/And all we got is me to represent New Orleans.?
18. ?This Is the Carter? ft. Mannie Fresh (Tha Carter, 2004)
By 2004, the Cash Money sound had long since been established by Mannie Fresh, who was responsible for crafting the label?s biggest hits, including Lil Wayne?s breakout single, 1999?s ?The Block Is Hot.? While ?This Is the Carter? doesn?t even crack the top-three Mannie Fresh beats on Tha Carter, let alone approach the heights of his greatest offerings (?Ha,? ?Back That Ass Up,? ?#1 Stunna,? ?Still Fly,? and ?This Is How We Do?), it exists as one of the best representations of his sound, with his signature lush, synthesized strings creating one of the most fun environments Wayne?s ever rapped alongside.
17. ?Fireman? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
On paper, ?Fireman? shouldn?t have worked. At first glance, everything ? from its corny title to a forgettable chorus and on-the-nose beat ? seems mawkish, until Lil Wayne starts rapping and the sheer force of his personality is enough to make it a hit. Released as the first single from Tha Carter II, ?Fireman? became Wayne?s first Platinum hit, proving that the success of ?Go DJ? was no fluke, while putting the rest of the rap game on notice ? a new superstar was waiting in the wings.
16. ?Comfortable? ft. Babyface (Tha Carter III, 2008)
?Comfortable,? released as the fifth and final single from Tha Carter III, was a victim of circumstance: Following on the heels of the album?s four Platinum singles (?Lollipop,? ?A Milli,? ?Got Money,? and ?Mrs. Officer?), it never had a chance to stand out on the radio; and, among die-hards, it was, though maybe unfairly, overshadowed by fan favorites ?Mr. Carter,? ?Let the Beat Build,? ?3 Peat,? and ?Shoot Me Down.? Still, there?s no denying that ?Comfortable? is one of the smoothest rap songs ever recorded, with Kanye?s production, Wayne?s bars, and Babyface?s crooning combining to create a pop masterpiece.
15. ?Let It All Work Out? (Tha Carter V, 2018)
Being able to keep the listener?s attention over twenty-three tracks is a lot to ask of any rapper, much less one as weathered as Lil Wayne who, leading up to Tha Carter V, let?s not forget, had struggled to do on each of the twelve projects he released after 2009?s ?No Ceilings.? Somehow, though, in Year 19, and 90 minutes and 22 tracks into his 13th solo album, 36-year-old Wayne sounds as fresh as ever on Tha Carter V?s dramatic finale, ?Let It All Work Out.? Over a haunting Sampha sample, Wayne crafts one of the most heartbreaking songs in his entire catalog, admitting that his much-referenced accidental shooting when he was 12 was actually a suicide attempt. In-of-itself, the closing statement feels like a rebirth for Lil Wayne who, after four years of delays, lawsuits, and attempts on his life, finally sounds at ease.
14. ?Shoot Me Down? ft. D. Smith (Tha Carter III, 2008)
Sandwiched between the triumphant ?Let It Beat Build? and hypnotic ?Lollipop,? ?Shoot Me Down? initially felt out of place. It didn?t match the album?s overarching energy, had Wayne rapping at a snails-pace, and featured a lumbering beat made up of a guitar riff and kick-drum. With each listen, though, all of this helped make the track more of a fan favorite; It represented a refreshing heel-turn, kick-starting the back half of C3 with some of Wayne?s best lyrics on the project (?My picture should be in the dictionary/Next to the definition of definition/Because repetiton is the father of learning/And son I know your barrell burnin? but/Please don?t shoot me down?).
13. ?Shooter? ft. Robin Thicke (Tha Carter II, 2005)
By the time Tha Carter II dropped, Lil Wayne had already catapulted into the mainstream with club bangers ?Go DJ? and ?Fireman,? along with guest spots on R&B hits like ?Solider? and ?Gimme That.? Still, neither of these attempts prepared us for what he buried fifteen tracks into his sophomore album.The genius of ?Shooter? is two-fold: 1) The song proved that Wayne could rap over anything, even a blusey, piano-laden beat that sounded unlike anything he?d ever been part of, and 2) No artist, not even Robin Thicke, was safe from Wayne sweeping a song out from under them.
12. ?Best Rapper Alive? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
Never one to remain quiet about his intention to take over the rap game, Lil Wayne took matters into his own hands on Tha Carter II, proclaiming himself the Best Rapper Alive on the album?s seventh track. At the time, Jay-Z was two years into his retirement, Eminem was beginning to decline, and the then-biggest rapper out, 50 Cent, seemed content with dominating commercially, leaving the throne up for grabs. Wayne, though, had always seen it as his for the taking. And, as you already know, he was good on his word.
11. ?Money On My Mind? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
?Money On My Mind,? Track 3 on Tha Carter II, is neither the best, catchiest, most recognizable, or most successful song in Lil Wayne?s discography; in fact, it may not even crack the top-ten in any of those categories. Instead, it?s achieved a much higher honor, becoming the track that best represents everything ? from his unmatched swagger to his obsession with chasing paper and claiming to be ?the shit,? by way of poop-soaked lyrics, of course ? that makes Lil Wayne Wayne. In short, if he were to reincarnate in song form, Lil Wayne would come back as ?Money on My Mind.?
10. ?Mr. Carter? ft. Jay-Z (Tha Carter III, 2008)
Every battle for hip-hop?s throne consists of a power struggle, as the incumbent King fights to keep his crown from a hungry successor. Sometimes, though, this transition of power can happen smoothly, as was the case in the mid-2000s when the GOAT, Jay-Z, tossed the keys to the rap kingdom to hip-hop?s new King, Lil Wayne. Of course, the lack of animosity between them had much to do with the fact that Wayne?s Best Rapper Alive claims, while boastful, always respected Jay?s legacy. Consider: on 2004?s ?Bring It Back,? Wayne only claims to be ?the best rapper alive since the best rapper retired;? while on 2007?s ?Dough Is What I Got,? he defers his own greatness again, calling himself the LeBron to Jay?s Jordan. And so, by the time the two linked up on ?Mr. Carter,? in 2008, an official coronation was in the air. In just over five minutes, the baton was passed, Jay?s reign was over, and Wayne?s had begun.
9. ?Tha Mobb? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
Lil Wayne?s artistic growth, from Tha Carter to Tha Carter II, is obvious just by comparing the project?s opening-statements. On C1?s ?Walk In,? a calmly confident Wayne raps for four hookless minutes over a laid-back Mannie Fresh beat; but on Tha Carter II?s intro, ?Tha Mobb,? Wayne is done playing around, coming across as a more developed, polished, and brash version of his former self, rapping for five straight minutes over the Heatmakerz? frenetic production. Sounding as though it was plucked straight from one of Wayne?s classic mixtapes, ?Tha Mobb? is the greatest and most important intro in his discography, one that signaled his transition from potential star to rap?s new King.
8. ?Hustler Musik? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
If you told me ?Hustler Musik? was a demo for 50 Cent, I?d believe it wholeheartedly. Along with the fact that the title and subject matter is straight out of 50?s wheelhouse, the T-Mix beat sounds like it was crafted in the same lab as 50?s ?Window Shopper? ? which, coincidentally, came out one month before ?Hustler Musik? ? and Wayne?s delivery on the hook draws comparisons to 50?s sing-song flow. If it was 50?s single, there?s no question it would?ve gone Platinum multiple times over, just like everything else he touched from 2003 to 2005, but it?s fair to argue that it wouldn?t have had as good of a legacy as it?s earned in Wayne?s canon of classics. Released as the second single from Tha Carter II, it failed to approach the commercial heights reached by its predecessor (?Fireman?) yet has aged better, considered one of the few Wayne songs with a 100 percent approval rating.
7. ?I Miss My Dawgs? (Tha Carter, 2004)
Given the raw emotion Lil Wayne harnesses while bearing his soul on ?I Miss My Dawgs,? it?s easy to forget that the track isn?t an ode to his dead homies; instead, it?s a tribute to the ex-Hot Boys ? Turk, B.G., and Juvenile ? who, by 2003, had all departed from Cash Money over financial issues, leaving Wayne as the group?s only member still under Birdman?s watchful eye. Wayne uses each of his three verses to address each member of the group, officially deading the internal fighting that splintered their relationships, while proving that their bond was stronger than their label?s pettiness.
6. ?Go DJ? (Tha Carter, 2004)
By 2004, the fate of Cash Money rested in the hands of the label?s most prominent star, Lil Wayne, and its in-house producer, Mannie Fresh, both of whom needed a hit, badly. At the time, Wayne was one flop away from being washed at 22, having recently followed-up his Platinum debut, 1999?s ?The Block Is Hot,? with back-to-back commercial failures (2000?s ?Lights Out? and 2002?s ?500 Degreez?). Mannie Fresh, too, saw his stock fall at the turn of the century, failing to approach the dizzying highs set by the handful of classics he crafted during 1998 and 1999, a la ?Ha,? ?Back That Ass Up,? ?The Block Is Hot,? ?Bling Bling,? and ?#1 Stunna.? Together, though, they resurrected in October 2004 on?Go DJ,? the second single off Tha Carter. The song went on to become Wayne?s first solo hit ? reaching the top three on the US Rap Charts and becoming a top 20 single ? making him hip-hop?s unequivocal rising star.
5. ?Lollipop? (Tha Carter III, 2008)
In the spring of 2007, an abundance of leaked tracks ? recorded with intentions of being on Tha Carter III ? flooded the market, with 20 of them compiled into an infamous unofficial mixtape, The Drought is Over 2 (The Carter 3 Sessions), released that June, and a handful forming The Leak, a five-song EP that dropped in December. By the start of 2008, as scheduled release dates were pushed back by each new batch of leaks, rap fans had no idea when to expect the project, let alone what it would sound like. Finally, that March, we got our first taste, when Wayne dropped its first single, ?Lollipop.? At that time, although he?d been experimenting with auto-tune on mixtapes and guest spots, it was foolish to think he?d ever spend an entire song using it, much less on the first offering from the biggest album of his career. But then he did, daring us to fall in love with one of the weirdest songs ever recorded by a rapper, which, of course, we did. For a rapper as lyrically-dependent and vocally raw as Wayne, to make the best auto-tune song of all-time is what makes ?Lollipop? the most impressive performance in catalog. Accordingly, the charts took notice, as Wayne earned his first number-one song, becoming an absolute pop-star in the process.
4. ?6 Foot 7 Foot? ft. Cory Gunz (Tha Carter IV, 2011)
On November 16, 2010, just eleven days since returning home from Rikers, Wayne gave rap fans their first dose of post-prison Weezy in the form of two guest verses on Birdman?s ?Fire Flame.? Predictably, his rusty performance failed to match our impossible expectations, forcing us to consider the possibility that the former King died in his prison cell. Concerns that apex Wayne was gone for good were, however, laid to rest exactly one month later, when he released the first single from Tha Carter IV, ?6 Foot 7 Foot.? It felt like a direct shot at those who?d prematurely written him off, as Wayne delivered a performance that was, arguably, as good as the greatest of his career ? ?A Milli? ? if not better, highlighted by one of his most quotable lines (?Real Gs move in silence like lasagna.?). More than anything, though, the Best Rapper Alive was back to re-claim his place atop Mount Olympus, and all was right again in the world.
3. ?Fly In? (Tha Carter II, 2005)
?Tha Mobb? is the first song we hear on Tha Carter II, but the real intro is Track 2, ?Fly In.? While the former is loose, with Wayne sounding like he entered the booth already rapping, the latter is calculated, as Wayne spends its opening seconds contemplating the stakes attached to C2 (?So they ask me, ?Young boy, what you gonna do the second time around??), before launching into a never-ending verse over the next two minutes, coming up for air only after he delivers 40-bars of straight fire. As soon as Wayne?s finished, the song cuts abruptly and bleeds right into ?Money On My Mind,? leaving listeners no time to digest WTF just happened. Then again, you didn?t really have to; on energy alone, Wayne set the stage for the entire album, while giving us a glimpse of what was in store in the coming years: In short, Wayne wouldn?t stop rapping (literally) until the throne was his.
2. ?Let the Beat Build? (Tha Carter III, 2008)
When discussing the best start-to-finish rapping performances in Lil Wayne?s catalog, rap fans generally circle back to a handful of usual suspects, songs like ?A Milli,? ?I?m Me,? ?Sky?s the Limit,? and ?Dough Is What I Got.? While impossible to knock any of these choices, the problem with this line of thinking is that it conforms to the notion that Wayne?s greatest performance must be from a song in which he raps lights out, relentlessly, confrontationally, and energetically. On the flip side, you could make a case that ?Let the Beat Build? features the best rapping clinic in Wayne?s catalog. Sure, it might not match the energy and hunger of ?I?m Me? and ?Dough Is What I Got,? nor is it a tour-de-force like both ?A Milli? and ?Sky?s the Limit? are; the beauty of ?Let the Beat Build? is that it doesn?t have to be any of those things. Instead, it serves as Wayne?s defining victory lap, the most fun and joyous five minutes in his entire discography.
1. ?A Milli? (Tha Carter III, 2008)
Unless your brain wasn?t developed enough to store long-term memories, you were in a medically-induced coma (God forbid), you were living in your kidnapper?s basement with no access to the outside world (ditto), or you were, literally, living under a rock (because, believe me, even the homeless population didn?t miss this), then I?ll bet you remember hearing ?A Milli? for the first time. Released as the second single from C3 in the spring of 2008, it was a perfectly-calculated follow up to ?Lollipop,? an absolute lyrical assault in which Wayne reminded everyone that he was the Best Rapper Alive. Ten years on, it still slaps, and is the go-to answer to any question concerning ?the greatest Lil Wayne (blank)?? It?s the best, most recognizable, and most important track of his career, featuring the best lyrics, lines, and performance he?s ever laid on wax. More than anything, though, it captured him at the exact moment when he?d entered rarefied air, the Best Rapper Alive, now and forever.