“Who am I?” —Lil Wayne, “Best Rapper Alive”
A child’s ambition can either lead to fleeting passions or lifelong obsessions. Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Carter Jr., is a child cut from the latter cloth. At the age of eight, without outside encouragement, he chose to be a rapper. “I was [an] only child, so whenever anybody came to the house, it was showtime,” the New Orleans-born hip-hop superstar told Rolling Stone in a 2009 profile.
Mark Binelli, who interviewed Wayne for Rolling Stone, explained the mathematics behind Wayne’s mischievous lyricism. “He liked the reactions he’d get from people when they’d hear unexpected things coming out of a little kid’s mouth,” he wrote. Wayne knew instinctively that a rap performance had to entertain not just children, but adults. This was before he signed to New Orleans record label Cash Money Records as the youngest member of the Hot Boys, a teenage rap group. Wayne’s shock mentality made him the perfect addition to a team where the lines between adolescence and adulthood were unidentifiable.
Ahead of his present-day immortality, Hot Boy Wayne wasn’t just any kid. He shot himself at the age of 13 and signed his first record deal by 15. Before Wayne was 21, he’d put out hit records, made a child and lost his stepfather. Because his life was so extreme, it was easy to forget Wayne’s age. Although he had the face of a boy, fans never wondered, How could one child go through so much?