While contemporary teen phenoms like Britney Spears and Christina Aquilera perform light-hearted dance songs, 17-year-old rapper Lil’ Wayne offers a darker depiction of adolescent life on his Cash Money/Universal Records debut solo album, Tha Block Is Hot. Awash in harsh urban imagery, the album finds Lil’ Wayne delivering boastful rhymes laced with caustic social commentary. With its Jeep-rocking rhythms and gritty imagery, Tha Block Is Hot is about as close to Britney Spears as Dorothy and Toto were to Kansas.
Yet despite his penchant for unflinchingly realism, Lil’ Wayne does share something in common with his milder pop peers. Unlike most hardcore rappers, Lil’ Wayne rarely resorts to vulgarity - a unique feat for a contemporary hip-hop act.
Though his rhymes are relatively clean, no one has accused Lil’ Wayne of being a lightweight. His 1999 album entered the charts at #3, demonstrating his appeal with hardcore rap fans. Wayne says his rhymes reflect his tough upbringing in the impoverished New Orleans community of Hollygrove. “I look at life an older person,” the rapper says. “I think five or 10 years older because of who I’ve been with all my life.”
What Lil’ Wayne has been most his young life is an impressionable kid seduced by the gangsta lifestyle. In fact, the teenager was so fascinated with the streets he left school to take up hustling fulltime. A fan of Louisiana hip-hop acts like UNLV and Pimp Daddy, Wayne was introduced to Cash Money CEOs and founders Bryan “Baby” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams through a mutual friend. Wayne pursued the hip-hop impresarios until they finally gave him a recording deal.
Now Lil’ Wayne is reaping the benefits of a two-tiered career: Aside from his solo work, he’s also a member of the phenomenally successful Hot Boys. As for his solo efforts, Lil’ Wayne vows to continue delivering his crowd-pleasing hip-hop. Says the rapper: “Basically, I’m giving fans more of what they want . . . so they can get an idea of what I’m about.”