Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.4.07

Jump Start Maturity
Hot Boy grows up, makes it rain cash money

When I think of what it was like to be 13 years old, my mind becomes a slideshow of awkward vignettes from the ’90s. Goofy clothes, bowl cuts and unwanted erections are among this amalgam of face-flushing memories that I can’t seem to shake from that time. In those days, between eking my way through school and hanging out with my friends, I didn’t really have time for much else — let alone any kind of career path — and I didn’t think anybody else my age did either. I have come to realize now that I was very misinformed. At just 13, Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. — better known as Lil’ Wayne — signed to Cash Money Records in 1992, jump-starting his rap career and making a name for himself in his hometown of New Orleans. Now 24, with more than eleven years of rhyming under his belt, Weezy seems to have reached his hip-hopotheosis.

Under the watchful eye of Cash Money label owner/co-founder Brian “Baby” Williams, Wayne’s solo career launched with his platinum selling debut, Tha Block Is Hot, in 1999 after he left his former group, the Hot Boys. Lights Out and 500 Degreez would follow during the next few years — both going gold — but it wasn’t until Tha Carter was released in the summer of 2004 that Wayne found notability as a talented artist outside of the South. Tracks like the Mannie Fresh-powered “Go DJ” and “Bring It Back” gave bumptious Southern beats to Wayne’s dynamic 16, pricking the ears of critics and audiences across the nation. In 2005, Wayne’s fifth effort, Tha Carter II, dwarfed the success of its younger brother, debuting at number two on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and selling more than 238,000 copies the first week.

At this point, I imagine fans are salivating just thinking about the release of Tha Carter III (slated for December), especially since the lyricist hasn’t given anyone time to forget his name. Between solo albums, Lil’ Weezy-ana has become a ubiquitous presence in the hip hop game, laying down hooks and verses for other artists, producing mixtapes and working on collaboration projects. The dude doesn’t sleep. And with nods from rapper/producer/self-proclaimed genius Kanye West and others, it’s no wonder that Wayne recently earned the title of MTV’s “hottest MC in the game.”

“When I heard there was a [hottest MCs] list, I said, ‘You going to start with Wayne then work your way down,'” says West. “I sat with Wayne working on his album and was like, ‘Do you go on vacations?’ He said, ‘Nah, this is what I do. I dedicate my life to this … I think a lot of people don’t take being a pop star or rap star serious enough.'”

One of Wayne’s most successful collabos was with tourmate and Terror Squad CEO Fat Joe on the double-platinum single “Make it Rain.” Produced by Scott Storch and featured on Joe’s Me, Myself and I, “Make It Rain” soon garnered widespread popularity, sparking a national craze and giving rappers another reason to throw money at people. Joe Crack’s eighth solo album, Elephant In The Room, is expected to drop in early 2008 with appearances from Rick Ross, Fabolous, Diddy, Junior Reed, Danjahandz and the Runners as well as the usual Florida beat-builders Cool and Dre, Storch and T-Squad fam member DJ Khaled.

Lil’ Wayne, Fat Joe, Sean Kingston & Charlie Murphy. 7 pm Saturday, Oct. 6. McArthur Court. $64.