Young Money head honcho Lil Wayne is an enigma to some. Rising from the ghettos of New Orleans as a preteen rapper and aligning himself with one of the most powerful independent record labels ever in Cash Money Records, Weezy’s career trajectory is an astounding one as he now sits alongside a pantheon of great artists such as Jay-Z, Eminem and other big stars in hip hop that he has been compared to. By many accounts, Wayne’s closet contemporary in regards to greatness and productivity would be the late great west coast legend Tupac “2Pac” Shakur.
If any comparison between the two rappers ever rang true, the pair both embodied the same tireless work ethic. At one point in time, it was rumored that 2Pac had recorded several full albums and had up to 800 unreleased songs in his personal vault – which would explain Pac’s posthumous appearances on wax years after his unfortunate 1996 passing. 2Pac’s influence on today’s rappers both young and old is a telling reminder of how much his presence is still felt 15 years later after his death.
Lil Wayne, a workhorse himself, has dozens of unofficial bootleg mixtapes to go along with 9 studio albums, 9 official mixtapes, 2 EPs, and 5 collaborative efforts. Between 2003 and 2009, a Lil Wayne freestyle verse was nearly unavoidable on the southern mixtape scene. If 2Pac were alive during the mixtape era, one could assume that he too would have had just as much material available to the public.
2Pac, an unlikely sex symbol, adorned his lithe but muscular body with tattoos – most infamously the “Thug Life” tat that was strewn across his belly. He also wore a tattoo of Queen Nefertiti and growling black panther on one of his arms – no doubt an homage to his mother Afeni Shakur and her Black Panther Party affiliation. Pac famously went shirtless in public and in concert, much like Lil Wayne does today. However, Lil Wayne’s entire body is nearly covered in tats – including his face and eyelids. With everything from crosses, bible verses, and a similar “M.O.B.” tat that 2Pac also wore, Weezy is definitely one of the most heavily inked rappers of all time. It should be noted that the pair also have links with the notorious Bloods gang.
If one were to factor in Lil Wayne’s humble rap beginnings to where he is now, not many would have predicted that young DeWayne Michael Carter would be the hugely successful superstar he is today. Much like 2Pac who preceded him, Lil Wayne’s legal issues, tough guy image and affiliation with the street elements of hip hop culture could have easily derailed his entire career and robbed him of fame and notoriety much too soon. Both 2Pac and Lil Wayne served time in the infamous Rikers Island prison at the height of their careers and upon their releases from jail, the artists took to their craft with a seriousness that belied their earlier efforts.
With his claims of being the “Greatest Rapper Alive,” Lil Wayne may have alienated some fans with his boasts but he continues to mature as both an artist and performer. It is that quality of self-confidence and genuine talent that has led many to see Lil Wayne as the natural successor to 2Pac’s lasting legacy.
As Lil Wayne prepares for the airing his first MTV Unplugged performance this coming Sunday (June 12), fans will get to witness the star rapper channeling the influential 2Pac by covering part of the fallen rapper’s chilling hit song “Hail Mary” – and even deeming the second verse of the song “perfect” in an interview with MTV News’ Sway.
Tune in to catch Lil Wayne in action on “MTV2 Presents: Lil Wayne Unplugged” on Sunday, June 12 at 9 p.m. E/T on MTV2, MTV and MTV.com