A Celebration of Lil Wayne's "Way of Life" and His Way of Life

It was the era of peak Nelly and post-Juvenile Cash Money, but Lil Wayne was reeling less than you might think.
June 8, 2017, 9:54pm
Screenshot of Lil Wayne's "Way of Life" via YouTube / Logo by Michael Alcantara

Day 261: "Way of Life" feat. Big Tymers and TQ – 500 Degreez, 2002

The week of August 17, 2002, Lil Wayne landed the biggest solo hit of his career so far when "Way of Life" hit number 71 on the Billboard Hot 100 ("Tha Block Is Hot" had reached 72, while "Shine" had made it to 92). Nelly and Kelly Rowland's "Dilemma" was number one, while Nelly's "Hot in Herre" was number two (Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" was number three). There were five songs with Ashanti on them on the chart as well. I mention all of this to contextualize the facts that Nelly was the biggest rapper in the world and Murder Inc. was thriving, which meant that it was the absolute pinnacle of the early 2000s R&B/rap merger. It was in this world that "Way of Life," featuring Cash Money crooner TQ, made its mark. For the time, this was as standard radio fare as you could get, and Wayne and co. did a pretty impressive job nailing the sound while sticking to their own. So while 500 Degreez is often considered a flop because it was a wan attempt at recreating the magic of 400 Degreez, it wasn't without its successes.

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Frankly, I'd consider it a success based purely off the fact that "Way of Life" involves Wayne getting off this set of lines: "Marijuana scholar / know what I got up in my styrofoam cup? (what) That purple stuff / it was given to me at birth to stunt." Meanwhile, Birdman has such quotables as "It's the Birdman, daddy, with the Gucci and Prada" and "I'm the boss of the gang with the money and fame / all these naked women that pop champagne / and these marble floors stay high as Rick James." Can you argue with that? He is the boss of the gang with the money and fame. People often say that Birdman has no flow, but here he was at the top of his game (it's worth noting that the same week "Way of Life" peaked on the charts, Big Tymers' "Still Fly" was sitting comfortably at number 18).

And certainly, if you were to watch the video, you'd have to conclude that everyone involved was flourishing. As mentioned, this was peak early 2000s rap, which means that you had an enormous house party, lots of cars, and TQ living it the fuck up, singing in a pool for no real reason:

Screenshot via YouTube

Also, the party concludes with Mannie Fresh rocking this incredible American flag du rag on the back of an ATV:

Screenshot via YouTube

Mannie Fresh, as usual, was the hidden star here, Jazze Pha's cameo in the video notwithstanding. He samples Dennis Edwards's and Siedah Garrett's "Don't Look Any Further," which has been used in a fuck ton of the best rap songs of all time, starting with Eric B. and Rakim's "Paid in Full" and continuing with Junior Mafia's "Get Money" remix, which 2Pac then flipped into "Hit Em Up." It's also sampled in Z-Ro's "Mo City Don Freestyle." In 2011, Mannie discussed his choice of sample for the song with Vibe.

I wanted to use Dennis Edward's 'Don't Look Any Further' for Wayne's 'Way of Life' because that record was already proven. Everybody touched that song. I felt like so far nobody has struck out with that song. [Rakim] didn't strike out… and Biggie didn't strike out. So how could we strike out with it? And I was still DJing at the time and I remember that [Junior Mafia] being one of the hottest records whenever I played it during my set. If it was anything we were going to sample it had to be ['Don't Look Any Further']. And it worked out.

He also ends the song by declaring, "oh I forgot about peace: Peace," an allusion to "Paid in Full" ("Yo what happened to peace? Peace!"), which is pretty cool. As we've discussed before, never discount Wayne's ties to the hip-hop canon, even when he's making a song about partying with TQ and the Big Tymers.

"Way of Life," naturally, like many other early Wayne hits, would go on to be a minor chapter in his career, but let's not overlook the fact that it was nonetheless part of his long, inexorable grind to the top.

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