To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop this year, The New York Times asked 50 influential rappers to share their own stories about the genre.
One of the rappers they asked was none other than Lil Wayne, who talked about the New Orleans hip-hop scene when he was growing up and how he fell in love with New York rap.
Tunechi also opened up about how he was “scared” to get on a song with Eminem and playing Pictionary on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon“. You can read exactly what Weezy said for his hip-hop story below!
The New Orleans hip-hop scene was way more captivating than the worldwide hip-hop scene, because it was more in your face. Our local radio stations, they favored our artists, so our Top 10 songs would always be full of New Orleans. You’d probably get a Billboard No. 1 hip-hop song thrown in there at, like, No. 8.
Our block parties were a bit different; they were more like a concert. There’s a big crowd, there’s a D.J. and there’s a microphone, but it’s not for the D.J. The D.J. would introduce the artist coming on, and it was up to that artist to keep the party going.
All these names are a chain link to me getting a deal: This first artist, his name was Roni. Roni was one of the best. He reminded me of Juvenile a lot. His niche was finding a way to tell you exactly what he’s doing every day — walking to the damn corner store — and he found a way to make you love it, feel like you could relate to it, like you just took that same walk. He’d go through his day and people would love it.
You could get a recorded tape of that whole block party, sold after it was over. I would only want to hear Roni’s part, backwards and forwards, over and over and over. He was from my hood, but he was a grown-ass man, so he didn’t know too much about me.
From the other side of my hood, there was another guy named Lil Slim and he was a bit different. He talked about the hood, and the hood only. I meshed those two guys together, and I couldn’t wait to get my opportunity.
I was every bit of 9, 8 years old. Thank God I was always a smart kid in school, so I was interested in words, always interested in words. Never knew why; I still don’t. I always was the main person in the play. Whatever it was, from “Les Miserables” to “Wizard of Oz.” I want the main role. I couldn’t wait till the day that damn D.J. gave me the mic. It was over.
I was probably around 10, 11 when they had the station called the Box. People were ordering videos, so you had to watch 1,000 videos you don’t want to watch, but once or twice you’ll see something on there that you didn’t know too much about. That was my real introduction to being actually interested in other music other than New Orleans music.
I fell in love with New York artists, anybody from the East Coast. They was making more of their words to me. You had people like Q-Tip and Busta, way before the “Gimme Some More” swag — just a backpack, big old jacket on, spitting. I was interested in artists that took on a character. The reason why I don’t read comic books or watch cartoons or believe in superheroes like my other friends was because I’m getting the same thrill out of hip-hop.
I fell in love with Onyx, because I believed they woke up in the morning screaming at each other. And still my favorite artist, Missy Elliott. You know when you’re watching a sport and you’re like, this person is just too cold, too damn good and they can do whatever they want? She was that person to me.
Before there was Drake and people who were rapping and singing, Missy was doing that. That captivated me, and I was moved by that. It made me want to do it. That’s why I loved Drake when I met Drake. If you’re around me, you know for a fact that if you’ve got a little harmony, a little melody in your voice, I’m about to make you sing.
To me, Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, was the god of words. He could’ve rewritten English books. I was introduced to Jay by listening to Biggie. “Lucky Me,” from “In My Lifetime, Vol. 1,” I learned backward and forward. I put it in songs, and I actually start off every show, still, saying words from that song: “And I swear to everything when I leave this earth/it’s gon’ be on both feet, never knees in the dirt/you could try me, [expletive]/but when I squeeze it hurts/fine …” And what’s crazy is we stop the music on that part and the crowd sings the rest of it with me as if I wrote that. But that’s all Jay.
When it comes to B.G., he’s very significant, very specific, because we put songs together-together. That was back when I actually put words on paper. I know exactly his writing style, his technique. It’s impossible for some of that not to rub off on you. But I don’t write anymore.
I was probably about 16, 17 — this is before internet and all that — when I heard a nugget that Jay wasn’t writing. And I didn’t want to ever see a pen or paper again in my life. Jay was my Bible.
Back then, whoever the star was, they would always take on this young protégé. I would always look to that person. When Jay did it, I would look to Bleek. If I’m listening to Puff, I would look to Mase, or I would look for Jada. It was the humility of the big dog to set up a path for the next person to be bigger. And so that’s why I made sure when I got the chance, I was going to run with it.
Nicki Minaj was always into my wording technique, the way I come up with the verse. “Why?” “But why?” “OK, but why?” She’s that kid. She was set on, “I’m the female Weezy.” Nick would change her voice like me, she would actually sound like me sometimes.
Drizzy’s just Drizzy. That “good boy, bad boy, I was on the TV show, but I wish you would play with me” type of stuff.
I was scared, actually, when I called Eminem for a song. That is a monster. He must have the same thing I have with words. Like, we can’t get them out of our heads. Every meaning, every aspect of them. Things that rhyme, we hear it. I already know the gift and the curse that he has. And I love to hear the way he puts it together.
When I was on “The Tonight Show,” I was playing Pictionary. And my thing was Harry Potter. So I drew a pot, and they got that. I drew a man with a face, and I put a bunch of hair around him. They were like, “Wait, he’s hairy.” I’m, like, Harry Potter. We plan our words. At all times.