Lil Wayne was already on rap's radar back when he was a member of Cash Money Records' Hot Boyz crew. But when the collective — featuring Juvenile, BG, Young Turk and Wayne — disbanded, the New Orleans native's solo career sputtered despite showing promise on his major-label debut, Tha Block Is Hot.
In the rapper's upcoming "Behind the Music" special, set to air September 10 on VH1, he talks openly about scrapping his rhyme books during a furious recording session, where he transformed from Cash Money's young sidekick to the label's heavyweight superstar.
"The only way I won't be able to rap anything I've written again is to record everything I've ever written before once," he explained of what led to his now notebook-free style.
The result was a 35-minute freestyle called "10,000 Bars," on which Wayne's disjointed rhymes, parts of various working songs, become a cathartic release and set the tone for his memorable mixtape run and a series of Carter albums.
"That changed Wayne as an artist," his longtime manager, Cortez Bryant, said.
In the wake of that recording session, Wayne developed a spastic, flowing, free-association style. Songs like "A Milli" and "I Feel Like Dying," along with his Dedication 3 mixtape, cemented his prowess. The real confirmation came with his first-week sales of 1 million copies of Tha Carter III and his Grammy win for Best Rap Album this year.
The hour-long "Behind the Music" also looks at Lil Wayne's rise to pop stardom and features a number of familiar faces from his past: Juvenile, BG and producer Mannie Fresh offer insight in the MC's prolific ascendance; Turk, the fourth Hot Boyz member, is currently incarcerated.
Lil Wayne's still-pending court case in New York for allegedly carrying a weapon is examined. He also opens up about his 2004 marriage to his high school sweetheart and the mother of his first child. Throughout the show, the rapper's drug use and the shooting that almost took his life as a child are also detailed.
"I just slid to the door in my own blood," Wayne said of his self-inflicted gunshot wound and the aftermath.
The rapper's New York gun case stems from 2007 arrest following his first headlining show in Manhattan. Wayne's tour bus was stopped moments after his show and the rapper was arrested and later released. Wayne is due back in a New York court later this month.