By the release of “Tha Carter IV” in 2011, Lil Wayne needed a breakthrough to keep his hype wave going. Following a short prison stint in 2010 for illegal possession of a firearm and the rock album blunder “Rebirth,” Wayne had fallen out of mainstream favor and critics were starting to think the prodigy turned pop sensation had finally washed out. “Tha Carter IV” wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it showed he wasn’t done yet and released at a time when hip-hop was becoming increasingly harder to distinguish from pop music. His contribution to the pop-ification of hip-hop shouldn’t be understated. This album’s hit tracks continued this trend. Songs like “6 Foot 7 Foot,” “She Will,” “How To Love” and “Mirror” proved he had something left in him but Wayne was passing the torch, whether he wanted to or not.
One of the most interesting stories in rap, Lil Wayne started as a child prodigy in New Orleans, worked his way to the top of Cash Money Records before helping usher in a new era of hip-hop. He made rap mainstream and brought it to the digital age before crashing his career with mediocre music, foolish decisions and a legal battle with Cash Money while rising stars he mentored replaced his relevance like Drake and Nicki Minaj. But much like a prodigal son, Lil Wayne returned to his roots and made one of the greatest comeback records in rap history.