It’s hard to argue that Lil Wayne isn’t the most influential rapper of all time. Throughout the decades, Weezy F. Baby has continued to beef up his G.O.A.T. status over the years. In the midst of what’s been a legendary run, he's simultaneously impacted a generation of rappers that have drawn from his arsenal of attributes.
One thing in particular that has inspired other rappers is Wayne’s consistency. Starting his career as a 12-year-old in 1993, Weezy went on to unleash over 45 albums, mixtapes and compilations in his career thus far. Having an unwavering battery in his back is something that other productive melodists like Young Thug and Future also applied to their own hip-hop paths. Both Pluto and Thugger have named Weezy as one of their favorite rappers ever.
Another one of Tunechi’s most obvious contributions to the game is his heavy use of Auto-Tune, which is all over music these days through the voices of new school superstars like Travis Scott and Lil Baby. Back in the 2000s, Wayne and his platinum-selling collaborator T-Pain helped popularize the pitch alternator. It became a cheat code when making hits and has remained one since.
Even down to his look, Wayne’s character has been equipped with face accessories, locs, diamond grills and fashion that meets at the intersection of being a trapper, rockstar and skateboarder all in one. Trippie Redd named Tune as his idol, and the founder of all that swag in music. Similarly, Lil Uzi Vert has said that he wanted to be like Lil Wayne growing up, even copping a fake piercing from Amazon to match the image.
Through the various layers of it all, Mr. Carter knows how important he is to the game as it stands today. When speaking about his influence with Brett Berish, CEO of Sovereign Brands, back in 2020, Lil Wayne said, "Before I stepped into music, everyone looked a certain way and everyone did a certain thin. Look at me. Now look at music. They all look like me." Before sealing it with his approval, he declared, "I love it."
Still, he was quick to note that the game isn’t full of Lil Waynes as it may seem. Shutting down the notion of being copied, he expressed, "None of them trying to be like me. Maybe they go get some tattoos on their face or a grill or something, but they ain’t trying to be like me. Or they might put Lil on the front of their name or Baby after it, but they don’t sound nothing like me. They’re totally them."
Elaborating even more, he added, “Nine times out of 10, I hope that I’m the reason they’re doing music. That alone right there is a blessing and that alone right there lets you know that they’re not trying to be like me, but actually paying homage and saying you are the reason I am someone.”
Lil Wayne’s contributions to the game have been applauded across multiple generations, from hip-hop founding fathers like DJ Kool Herc to his Young Money successor and new king of the land Drake. So, it’s no surprise that there’s an even longer list to be expounded on when it comes to the weight of Tunechi’s impact. In honor of his 40th birthday (Sept. 27), XXL highlights it all. Take a look inside the world of Lil Wayne's influence below.
Revolutionizing the Mixtape Game
Lil Wayne’s mixtape catalog is illustrious. Over the last two decades, between his group and solo joints, Wayne has released a whacking 28 free projects. Among his string of classics are records like the Gangsta Grillz project Dedication 2 (2006), Da Drought 3 (2007), No Ceilings (2009) and Sorry 4 the Wait (2011). Wayne’s formula of putting his own spin on records and putting them out as appetizers has surely contributed to his boss-level character in rap. Plus, it also inspired a generation of artists under him to go on similar runs.
Wiz Khalifa is one of those people with a flush of mixtape joints like Kush & Orange Juice (2010), Cabin Fever (2011) and Taylor Allderdice (2012), which are all considered to be DatPiff royalty. Speaking to Lil Wayne on the Self Made Tastes Better podcast in 2022, Wiz said, "My story is super crazy because, I’m a product of all of y’all. Your mixtape era.” Rick Ross and DJ Khaled were also in attendance.
Popularizing the Heavy Use of Auto-Tune
In the late 2000s, T-Pain and Lil Wayne, known as the duo T-Wayne, were two of the hottest things that hip-hop had to offer. They both used Auto-Tune, heavily heard on platinum-selling collaborations like "Got Money" from Tha Carter III (2008) and "Can’t Believe It," off Three Ringz (2009). With Auto-Tune starting to become a definitive sound in rap in the late 2000s, other legends like Jay-Z tried to shut that down by releasing tracks like "D.O.A.," which stands for Death of Auto-Tune.
Tunechi addressed the backlash from Hov in an interview with Tim Westwood in 2009 months after "D.O.A." came out. "There’s no such thing as Death of Auto-Tune," Wayne said. "I love it. Keep your Auto-Tune popping. Auto-Tune ain’t dead, you got the whole game using that." Nearly 15 years later, that sentiment still rings true. Even truer, actually.
Hip-hop is heavier on melodic approaches more now than it’s ever been, essentially blurring the lines between rap and R&B. The switch-hitters of this now prominent subgenre are people like Young Thug, who has called Wayne his "idol" in the past. Roddy Ricch who said that he "listened to Lil Wayne a lot" as a kid. Also, Lil Baby, who called Weezy the "best rapper of all time" in a 2020 interview with Complex.
Having a Peerless Knack for Punchlines
Mr. Carter’s knack for double-taking punchlines have bled onto the younger generation. While speaking with HotNewHipHop in 2021, Yung Bleu admitted how he was impacted by Wayne's lyrics: "He used to go so hard with the punchlines. And everybody just wanted to do them punchlines and see how creative they could get with the punchlines."
Tyler, The Creator’s "Special," featured on his Cherry Bomb album, was made with the imprint of Weezy and his punchlines as well. In an interview for 2015 publication of Golf Wang Cherry Bomb magazine, Tyler affirmed, "Believe it or not, Wayne was a big influence on the way I rapped on this album [Cherry Bomb]. 'Special' is a prime example. 'Stack is sitting in my pocket folded like a papaya/and you know I’m golf bitch, like I’ve been sleeping with Tiger.' That’s me listening to mixtape Wayne for a couple of hours."
KenTheMan’s lethal pen also falls under the tree of Wayne’s punchlines. In a 2020 interview with HipHopDX, she broke it all down, saying, "At the time, I was a real metaphorical rapper because Wayne was and still is my favorite rapper and I just admire and love him so much." She added, "I was listening to nothing but Wayne! Listening back I can even tell I was listening to him because I had way more punchlines. And then as I elevated, I realized people like punchlines."
Normalizing Face Tattoos
Weezy’s passion for body art started off at a young age with a dedication to his fallen father. "I knew that I could get my first tattoo at age 14 if I asked my mom, 'Can I go get my dad’s name? She’s not gonna be against that,'" he explained in a 2011 interview with VladTV. Wayne never stopped adding tattoos after that, with plenty of notable ink being right on his face.
Out of what looks like dozens, there are teardrops, crosses, stars and phrases like "Fear God," among countless others that have been inked on his forehead, eyelids, eyebrows, chin and everywhere else. As Wayne’s profile continued to rise in rap, his face art became more recognizable and eventually inspired other talents to color their own faces.
Shy Glizzy is also one of those folks to have been influenced by Wayne. Speaking with Pigeons & Planes in 2018, he admitted, “I had a face tat when I was young because of Wayne." Wifisfuneral can relate, too. For the same story, he explained, “He’s the reason why I tatted my face to begin with."
Talking with Noisey in 2017, 2 Chainz noted Wayne's impact on the now common idea of rappers with facial ink. "I remember when people were looking at him like he was crazy. Now you almost don't look right without a tattoo on your face and you a rapper,” he said. "It's a lot of stuff though that he did that everybody wouldn't necessarily agree with, but it worked for him, and it worked for the impact he made."
Utilizing an Infinite Amount of Vocal Deliveries
Lil Wayne always finds a way to float on any beat. His deliveries range from punchy to slurred, sonorous to piping, thunderous to tranquil. When it comes to style, he’s the true definition of a musical chameleon who is both a jack of all trades and a master of many. "Man, I got so many styles, I am a group," Weezy flexed on Drake’s platinum-selling hit "Miss Me."
Over the years, artists like Kendrick Lamar have been touched by Tunechi’s high level of versatility. "He influenced a lot of styles and a lot of sounds. I would say I was influenced by a certain sound and flow and cadence that he brung to the game," K-Dot said when speaking to Karen Civil in 2012.
Young Thug had something to say about Wayne's archive of deliveries as well. During a 2021 Complex interview, Thugger, who has always been outspoken about Wayne’s impact on him (despite them once beefing), doubled down on his sentiments of Tune’s influence. "He gave me different types of swags with rap, and he made me want to be like him when I rap,” Thug explained of Wayne's impact.
Nicki Minaj was moved by Wayne in this regard, too. In fact, her many voices and flows were inspired by him. "He has always been really carefree when he raps and I was like, ‘I don’t have to stay in one cadence or stay in one tone when I rap—I can just do what I want," she divulged in a 2010 interview with Complex.
Motivating Others to Create a Rap Dynasty Like Young Money
In the late 2010s, Tunechi birthed one of the best rap imprints of all time with the Young Money militia. He signed two G.O.A.T.s in Drake and Nicki Minaj. Both of their contributions to rap are herculean. And by picking them up, among other artists like Tyga and Gudda Gudda, YM became one of the most memorable record labels in hip-hop history. Together, they set the bar in terms of what individual and collective success looked like.
That motion inspired people like Rich The Kid, who has his own imprint Rich Forever. When speaking about Wayne’s Tha Carter III, Rich reflected on what it was like to watch Young Money rise up the ranks and how Wayne affected Rich's future business venture: "Right after the album, he started breaking acts like Nicki, Drake and Tyga. It made me want to not only put myself on but put my whole team on and help them eat too. Start my own label dynasty.”
Donning Locs and Influencing Artists to Do the Same
It seems as if half the rappers in the game these days have locs. Sometimes they’re dyed various colors like blond and red and, in other situations, natural hues of black and brown. Since he was a teenager, Lil Wayne has been known for wearing his hair in that way. Shedding his braids from the Hot Boys era, Weezy's hair has grown with his career.
According to Lil Durk, Wayne is the reason that other rappers rock that style as well.
"Wayne is the muhfuckin’ reason niggas got dreads, dye, all types of shit. That’s who really started this whole everything. Niggas ain’t gonna say it, but…," Durkio said while being interview by Genius in 2019, right after referring to Wayne as the "real G.O.A.T."
Freestyling Instead of Writing
Lil Wayne stopped writing lyrics when he was a teenager. In a 2022 interview with the I Am Athlete podcast, he explained why he started freestyling everything: "At like 16 or 17, I made a choice that I’m about to stop writing. Like, I’m about to stop writing my shit out. That’s when that really started happening.” Furthermore, he added, “I deal with that. The words keep popping up in my damn head, and that’s when it really started happening. [It started] becoming a headache, a real problem. That’s when I said, I’m not about to write no more."
Playboi Carti isn’t the type to use a pen and a pad either. Speaking with Kid Cudi via Interview Magazine in 2021, Carti let it be known that Lil Wayne is the reason for that. "I’m right there in the moment. Everything is freestyle. Shout out Lil Wayne. I use whatever I bring with me that day," he said.
Leading the Rappers Going Rock Route
One of the earliest examples of the rapper to rocker pipeline was back in the 1980s when Run-DMC collaborated with Aerosmith for "Walk This Way." But in the late 2000s to early 2010s, Weezy took things up a notch and went all in. In 2010, he released the rock-inspired album Rebirth, led by the smashing singles "Prom Queen" with Shanell, "Knockout" featuring Nicki Minaj and the Eminem-assisted "Drop The World."
A young Trippie Redd was watching it all unfold, as explained in a 2019 interview with OKLM. After naming Wayne as one of his idols, Trippie explained how he took note when the culture was shifted when the platinum-selling Rebirth project dropped. "It was actual real rock. It wasn’t no hip-hop crossover. I mean, it was hip-hop crossover, but it was Wayne. It wasn’t really like anyone else could do it. It was some Wayne shit. So, yeah, he definitely was the founder of that," Trippie said. "I look up to Wayne." Trippie went on to drop his own rap-rock album Pegasus: Neon Shark vs Pegasus in 2021, in tandem with famed drummer Travis Barker.
In a similar vein, a few years back, Young Thug compared Juice Wrld to Lil Wayne. And when asked about that in a 2019 interview with Complex, Juice didn't shy away from Mr. Carter's impact on him: "On a day-to-day, I know I make a lot of harmonies and my music is very rock-influenced. Wayne is one of my favorite rappers. I have a very big appreciation and admiration of Lil Wayne."
Impacting With Consistency and Work Ethic
If there's one thing Lil Wayne is respected for in the game it's his consistency and output when it comes to making music. Explaining his work ethic to Rolling Stone in 2020, Wayne said, "I got it straight from Birdman and Ronald 'Slim' Williams. And Mannie Fresh. That’s what they embedded in us. They went to the studio Monday through Sunday." He added, "They put in my head that you must work, no matter what. I was still in school. I was 13, 14, and they had no problem with knowing that I had exams or whatever. [They would say] 'You need to be in the studio. We need that verse.' So it was embedded.'
One of Birdman Jr.’s early Young Money signees was Curren$y, who has almost 100 projects in his catalog and was passed along that diligent energy from his OG in Lil Wayne. "Dude lived in the studio because his business was music. So there’s really nowhere else for me to be except for in the studio because that’s really how I make it," Spitta said when being interviewed by HipHopDX in 2021. "I don’t even know how often he would be on the yacht with bad bitches doing drug-dealing shit, because there’s no down time when you can create the drugs that you’re making the money off of. So, with me, I might as well just always be in the lab and just push it out," he continued.
Drake has been at the top of the rap game for a decade now, and that status wasn’t achieved by slowing things down. Keeping his foot on the gas is something that he learned from his mentor. "I don’t think that anybody ever in music from now and before and the future, I don’t know if there will ever be anyone that will work harder than that guy. So that was a big thing that I paid attention to as well. He has the most insane work ethic," Drizzy said to Rap Radar in 2019. "And I see a lot of glimpses of that in guys like Future and [Young] Thug."
Inspiring Other MCs’ Mixtapes
Evident by his immense catalog, Lil Wayne has one of the coldest, if not thee coldest, mixtape catalogs of all time. Taking some game from 50 Cent, Tune helped revolutionize the mixtape game by re-rocking tracks by borrowing beats and doing them better than the original.
Kendrick Lamar’s 2009 mixtape, C4, is a testament to that foundation that Wayne laid down. For it, K-Dot flips a whole bunch of beats from Tha Carter III. There’s even a Weezy verse on the track "Mr. Carter."
Additionally, Chief Keef has gone on record to reveal that Lil Wayne is one of his influences in two since-deleted tweets. Keef teased a mixtape called Dedication in 2017, which pays homage to Wayne’s series of the same name from the 2000s. The Chicago rapper also has a 2015 project named after Lil Wayne's 2011 tape Sorry 4 the Wait, extending the homage even more. UnoTheActivist also paid tribute to Weezy by releasing a project called Dedication in 2019. He has also named Wayne as one of his biggest influences.