Lil Wayne celebrates his release from prison, MTV News decided to take look at Weezy's career, and as we sorted through vintage footage of the young MC, we realized that MTV and Wayne go way back.
MTV News caught up with Cash Money in 1999, at the very beginning, and correspondent Chris Connelly was so surprised that Wayne was the youngest member of the crew that he had to confirm that he was indeed 14 years old.
"Yeah, but that's on the hush," Lil Wayne responded.
"I used to always be in the neighborhood and they had a former artist named Lil Slim," said Wayne explaining how he came to join Cash Money and the Hot Boys foursome. "He was from the same neighborhood as me and he saw me rapping and so he was like, 'I'mma put you on.' "
1997: Cash Money's Hot Boys group, composed of rappers Turk, Juvenile, B.G. and Wayne himself, released their first album, Get It How U Live!, followed by 1999's Guerrilla Warfare.
2000: Lil Wayne joined his label family for a tour with New York's Ruff Ryders rap camp. The tour, which mashed New Orleans hip-hop and their dashes of bounce music (a musical style native to the Big Easy) with brash East Coast MCs like DMX and the Lox, was one of hip-hop's hottest tickets. And according to Wayne at the time, it wasn't family-friendly.
"I can't have my family around ... these dudes nasty man!" Lil Wayne laughed to MTV News' John Norris.
2003: That year, the Hot Boys put out their final LP, Let 'Em Burn, but Lil Wayne had made strides away from the group in 1999 with his first solo album, Tha Block Is Hot. Lights Out followed in 2000, and then 500 Degreez in 2002. The MC began his highly successful Tha Carter series with his first installment in 2004. By 2005, Wayne had released Tha Carter II and was working hard with, well, everyone — from Fat Joe to Bobby Valentino.
"I done became a little virus now, you know, everybody have me on they song," Wayne said of his ubiquitous presence both on the rap radio and mixtape scenes.
"That'd be my goal," Wayne said when asked about his then-wild claims that he was the best rapper alive. "Right now, they be like, 'Lil Wayne, he say he's the best.' "
2007: The MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust argued his rank on the Hottest MCs in the Game list and staff members Joseph Patel and Andrea Duncan-Mao laid out Wayne's talents.
"Wayne talking about his jewelry, 'Looking like I have a diamond disease on my neck,' " Patel said. "His imagery is off the charts."
"Wayne takes chances and he's kinda scary," MTV.com's Andrea Duncan-Mao said.
"I don't know how I do what I do, but I did it," Wayne told MTV News during a studio session in 2007.
Ultimately, Lil Wayne was crowned the Hottest MC in the Game that year. "Don't mean to sound vain but, they say I'm the Hottest MC in the Game and if I am, it's only because of [the fans]," Weezy told the MTV cameras.
Not long after reacting to his coronation, Lil Wayne was arrested on weapons charges by New York City police after authorities found a firearm on his tour bus.
2008: The next year, the MC dropped Tha Carter III and sold more than a million copies in its first week. But the glory was marred by his legal troubles including the weapons charges, which would ultimately result in his incarceration.
"This is my bus, I don't blame nobody but myself. I can't blame nobody for not taking my charge, for not taking this that or the third," he told MTV News of his reaction to his jail sentence. "I can't blame nobody."
2010: Before turning himself in, in March 2010, Lil Wayne made sure to film a bevy of videos, including pop hits like "Knockout" featuring Nicki Minaj, as well as record a slew of features to tide over his fans until his release from Rikers Island.
On Thursday, November 4, the MC was discharged around 8:30 a.m. and driven in a Maybach to a New York hotel. There, Lil Wayne visited with family and friends who flew in from all over the country to be with their Cash Money/ Young Money captain.
Stick with MTV News throughout the weekend for up-to-the-minute reports on Lil Wayne's prison release as we follow him from Rikers Island to his celebrations at home and beyond. Follow us on Twitter @MTVNews for instant updates and bookmark weezywatch.mtv.com for complete, round-the-clock coverage.