There was a time when Lil Wayne could call himself the greatest rapper alive and he had a legitimate argument. Around 2007 and 2008 he was putting out an astounding quantity of music that was often breathtakingly creative. But beyond Wayne, the response to his claim, the arguments, the debates, proved just how much the idea of the "greatest rapper alive" mattered at the time.
Now? It doesn't feel like that title matters as much as it did even a few years ago, and Lil Wayne agrees. As he said in a recent interview with DJ Drama:
They [new rappers] settle for what works. It's works for them. That's why you don't hear me knocking them, you don't hear me hating. I'm just a part of a different culture, a different wave of music. That wave was Jay Z, Nas, Biggie, at that time it was all about being the best. I'm quoted for saying I'm the best rapper alive. Now a days they're not trying to be the best rapper, or the best at anything. They're just trying to do what other people say is ok, and I'm not a part of that culture."
It's interesting that I heard that quote at the same time I was talking to Yoh about if T.I. is still the King of the South. Similarly, it feels like no one's really trying to be a "King" anymore. With some notable exceptions - Drake, Kendrick - it seems like younger artists aren't trying to build empires the way artists of the previous decade were, not competing to the "best." For the most part they seem content to get their slice of the pie and keep it.
Is Wayne right? If people even care enough to answer that question will say a lot about if the Best Rapper Alive crown has died.