Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. (born September 27, 1982), better known by his stage name Lil Wayne, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record executive, entrepreneur, and actor. He is regarded by many contemporaries as one of the most influential hip hop artists of his generation, and often cited as one of the greatest rappers of all time. His career began in 1995, at the age of 12, when he was signed by Birdman and joined Cash Money Records as the youngest member of the label. He was put in a duo with label-mate B.G., at that time known as Lil Doogie, and they recorded an album, True Story, released that year, although Wayne (who was at that time known as Baby D) only appeared on three tracks. His mother and stepfather later disallowed him from continuing to record with Cash Money as his grades in school were falling and they worried that Birdman and his associates were bad influences, but he eventually persuaded them to let him return and he was again doing so by 1997; by this time he was recording as Lil Wayne. He joined the southern hip hop group Hot Boys, with Cash Money, label-mates Juvenile and Turk, as well as Lil Doogie, who had also by this time changed his stage name, to B.G., in 1997; they released their debut album Get It How U Live! in October that year. Wayne first gained wide attention for appearing with Juvenile on the latter’s 1998 song “Back That Azz Up”, also known by the censored version title “Back That Thang Up”, where he appeared on the song’s outro. The Hot Boys became popular following the release of the album Guerrilla Warfare (1999) and the song “Bling Bling”. For many years, Lil Wayne was the flagship artist of Cash Money Records, before ending his association with the company in June 2018.
Lil Wayne’s solo debut album Tha Block Is Hot (1999) was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). He reached higher popularity with his fourth album Tha Carter (2004), as well as with his appearance on the song “Soldier” with Destiny’s Child that same year. The album was followed by Tha Carter II (2005), as well as several mixtapes and collaborations throughout 2006 and 2007. Lil Wayne gained more prominence with his sixth album Tha Carter III (2008), which became his most successful album to date, with first-week sales of over one million copies in the US. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album and included successful singles “Lollipop”, “A Milli” and “Got Money”.
Following the success of Tha Carter III, Wayne decided to record a rock-influenced album titled Rebirth. In March 2010, Lil Wayne began serving an 8-month jail sentence in New York after being convicted of criminal possession of a weapon stemming from an incident in July 2007. His eighth studio album I Am Not a Human Being (2010) was released during his incarceration, while his 2011 album Tha Carter IV was released following his release. Tha Carter IV sold 964,000 copies in its first week in the United States, and included the singles “6 Foot 7 Foot”, “How to Love” and “She Will”. His twelfth studio album Tha Carter V was released in 2018 after multiple delays. It went on to be certified Platinum by the RIAA. Wayne’s thirteenth album, Funeral, was released in early 2020.
Lil Wayne has sold over 120 million records worldwide, including more than 15 million albums and 37 million digital tracks in the United States, making him one of the world’s best-selling music artists. He has won five Grammy Awards, 11 BET Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, and eight NAACP Image Awards. On September 27, 2012, he became the first male artist to surpass Elvis Presley with the most entries on the Billboard Hot 100, with 109 songs. Lil Wayne also currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of his own label, Young Money Entertainment.