A game-changing artist and an impervious celebrity, Lil Wayne began as his career as a near-novelty - a preteen
delivering hardcore hip-hop -- but through years of maturation and reinventing the mixtape game, he developed into a million-selling rapper with a massive body of work, one so inventive and cunning that it makes his famous claim of
being the "best rapper alive" worth considering. Born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. and raised in the infamous New Orleans neighborhood of Hollygrove, he was a straight-A student but never felt his true intelligence was expressed
through any kind of report card. He found music was the best way to express himself, and after taking the name Gangsta D he began writing rhymes. Combining a strong work ethic with aggressive self-promotion, the 11-year-old convinced the Cash Money label to take him on, even if it was just for odd jobs around the office. A year later, in-house producer Mannie Fresh partnered him with the 14-year-old B.G. and dubbed the duo the B.G.'z. Although only B.G.'s name appeared on the cover, the 1995 album True Story has since been accepted as the B.G.'z debut album both by fans and the Cash Money label. The 1997 album Chopper City was supposed to be the follow-up, but when Wayne accidentally shot himself in the chest with a .44, it became a solo B.G. release.
The Carter III was promised for 2007 but didn't arrive until a year later, setting off Wayne's infamous reputation of delayed releases. Part of the problem became unauthorized leaks of the album's tracks, something combated by the official, downloadable EP The Leak released that same year. Preceded by the number one hit "Lollipop," Tha Carter III arrived in May of 2008, selling more than a million copies in its first week of release. An appearance on Saturday Night Live and four Grammy Awards -- including Best Rap Album -- spoke to Wayne's mainstream acceptance. He also performed at that year's Country Music Awards with Kid Rock, but rather than rap, he played guitar. The guitar playing was part of Wayne's new involvement with rock music, including his help in signing Kevin Rudolf to Cash Money plus an appearance on Rudolf's massive hit "Let It Rock." His planned rock album was previewed with the 2009 single "Prom Queen," but when the album failed to meet its promised April release, the music press began to portray the rapper as the king of missed street dates. Unconcerned, Wayne forged ahead with his Young Money crew, releasing the underground mixtape Young Money Is the Army, Better Yet the Navy, the aboveground single "Every Girl," plus the official album We Are Young Money that same year. His rock album, Rebirth, would finally appear in early 2010, which coincided with Wayne being sentenced to a nine-month prison term for criminal possession of a weapon. The rapper may have been behind bars on Riker’s Island, but that didn’t stop his ten-song EP I Am Not a Human Being from seeing the light of day in September 2010. Tha Carter IV was finally released in 2011 along with its lead-off single "6 Foot 7 Foot". The album reached the top spot in Billboard's Top 200.