This story appears in VICE magazine and Noisey's 2017 Music Issue. Click HERE to subscribe to VICE magazine.
In 2007, Lil Wayne, the best and most prolific rapper alive, officially released five songs. You can go to your favorite streaming service or digital music retailer right now and listen to them, on an EP called The Leak, a project that will allow you to tear through the entirety of one of hip-hop's greatest-ever runs in under 20 minutes. Do it; you'll probably never hear anything in a song as entertaining as the moment when Lil Wayne raps, "I'm running this, and I can jump the hurdles / I'm feeling like I'm racing a bunch of little turtles," his voice bouncing over the beat as though each punch of the 808 were indeed a racecourse obstacle to be effortlessly cleared, as if all other rappers alive were in fact helpless baby reptiles.
But so what? Is that really a legacy that Weezy F. Baby can hang his red bandanna on? Anybody paying attention to rap from the years 2004—when Lil Wayne first claimed he was the "best rapper alive since the best rapper retired"—to 2008—when Lil Wayne released Tha Carter III, an album so anticipated it went platinum in its first week—could tell you that, yes, at some point in the mid-to-late 2000s, Weezy transcended. And almost everyone would agree the moment it happened was 2007, the year of the aforementioned five songs, guest appearances on era-defining hits like DJ Khaled's "We Takin' Over" and Playaz Circle's "Duffle Bag Boy," the mixtape Da Drought 3, and a never-ending stream of unwanted but ultimately beneficial leaks.
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