blink-182’s sophomore LP, ‘Dude Ranch,’ was dubbed one of the greatest pop-punk albums ever created by Rolling Stone. On Monday, May 6, blink-182 and Dwayne Carter, best known as Lil Wayne — who sits with twelve studio albums, nine collaborative albums, two EPs, and twenty mixtapes under his belt — announced that they would be co-headlining a North American 2019 Summer Tour. They also released a mashup, in which blink-182 is singing one of their classic hits “What’s My Age Again?” while Wayne raps one of his most successful singles, “A Milli,” over their pop-punk beat.

In recent months, I have been reflecting on Wayne’s influence on the rap industry, particularly in relation to rock-rap and emo-trap artists. With this announcement, there is not a more opportune time to write about Lil Wayne’s legendary status, the long lineage of rap artists he’s helped develop and has influenced along the way, and the ways in which he’s helped shift culture.

On November 2, 1999, Wayne released his debut studio album, Tha Block is Hot; on it were hit singles like the title track and “Respect Us,” as well as songs like “Drop It Like It’s Hot” — a phrase that would eventually be repurposed by Snoop Dogg and join the list of phrases straight out of Hip-Hop that helped to expand the world’s lexicon. This album went on to sell over one million records in the United States, alone, making it certified platinum. He followed up with two more albums after his debut, neither of which became as successful as his debut. But then came the first of his now five-part Carter series, Tha Carter, followed by Tha Carter II. With hits like “Go DJ” on Tha Carter and “Fireman” on Tha Carter II, the two albums went platinum and double platinum.

In 2006, Wayne released a collaborative album with his then-mentor and labelhead, Birdman, titled Like Father, Like Son. The album was an ode to their relationship and their hustle; an album on which Birdman is flowing with lyrics that prove he’s the competent, seasoned, and calm one in the duo, and Wayne is the not-so-mature but incredibly skilled son. This was an album infused with hardcore/gangsta rap lyrics and braggadocious punchlines, which weren’t new for either of the two New Orleans rappers. And while not as impactful of an album, the New Orleans-inspired music arrangements and language from one of their hit singles “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” — which, much like “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” added to the lexicon of popular culture — made this album one of Wayne’s most memorable collaborative albums.

Lil Wayne was making his mark on the industry, but had not yet stamped himself into legendary status. By this point, it was undeniable that he had talent, but he had not yet done anything to set himself apart from his peers.

And then, on June 10, 2008, after a couple years of releasing what felt like endless mixtapes, he dropped Tha Carter III.

Tha Carter III was a sixteen-song album — twenty-three when including the seven additional songs on the deluxe album. Once known, at most, as a regional force, C3 is the album which led Wayne to international superstardom. In the first week, the album went platinum after selling over one million copies in the US alone. To this day, the album has sold well over three million copies. It featured hits like the one Wayne performed with blink-182, “A Milli,” as well as “Lollipop,” “Got Money,” and “Mrs. Officer.” While his music hadn’t completely taken this turn, aesthetically Wayne was a rock star. Perhaps even the biggest rock star of that time.

He went from wearing baggy jeans and tall tees to skinny jeans and vans. He was fusing rap and rock with his fashions in ways unimaginable, and much of the Hip-Hop world was not prepared for it. He started carrying around a guitar and even performed with his guitar at the Country Music Awards with Kid Rock in ‘08. By all accounts, Wayne was the best selling artist of 2008. In many ways, Wayne was not only changing the aesthetic of the rap industry, but was also defining the way artists should navigate the Digital Age to be successful. And with that, he’d officially crossed over into the mainstream.

After having the most successful year of his career, Lil Wayne cemented his position in the industry in 2009 by creating his own label, under Cash Money Records, in which he signed what would become two of the rap industry’s heaviest hitters: Aubrey Graham and Onika Maraj, best known as Drake and Nicki Minaj. In December of that same year, his label introduced themselves to the world with their collaborative album We Are Young Money. The album went gold, having sold over 500,000 copies, and debuted at number nine on the Billboard Hot 200 charts.

With its three hit singles, “Every Girl,” “BedRock,” and “Roger That,” We Are Young Money was the birth — at least in the mainstream — of Young Money, Cash Money Business (YMCMB). While the album received mixed reviews from music critics, what remains true is that Wayne was able to do with this album what many other collaborative rap albums could not: give a platform to emerging or new talent. Stated best in a review written on XXL, “the formula for success here is simple: …Wayne appears prominently on everything. And by doing this, he gives you enough reason to listen as he lets the rest of the label shine, too. …None come close to matching Wayne but they all get opportunities to have their moments.”

By this time, Lil Wayne had done everything imaginable for his rap career. Each of his albums had gone gold or platinum, he’d released an album with his mentor, he’d released critically acclaimed mixtapes, he’d started his own label, signed several artists and released another fairly successful collaborative album. Lil Wayne was at the pinnacle of his career. It was time to take another risk. This is where Wayne’s music catches up with his new aesthetic.

On February 2, 2010, Lil Wayne released his seventh studio album, Rebirth. As the name suggests, this was his remaking; a reincarnation, of sorts. It was almost unheard of for rappers to make rock albums. An attempt to do so would be hailed as a mistake. Wayne was no exception to this rule. After its release, critics raved about his use of auto-tune and ad-libs. And while it did debut at number two on the Billboard Hot 200 charts, many people hated this album. Many wondered why, at the peak of his career, Wayne would choose to record a rock album full of guitar licks, wailing, and auto-tune. And according to Wayne, during an interview with Billboard in 2009 (archived on his fansite, LilWayneHQ), he made Rebirth because it felt liberating for him. At the time when he made this album, he was confined to one role; his spot as “best rapper in the world” left him in a stiff, unalterable position. In his own words:

When I said I was doing a rock album, it was about doing a freedom thing. This album isn’t hip-hop. When I do my “Carter” albums, I know I’ve got to rap…There’s none of those limits on this album. I say what I want, how I want. That’s what this album is: a freedom album. And rock is the avenue that gives you that freedom.

As written in a review for Complex, “in the intervening years since Rebirth, rap’s melodies have gotten better, robotic vocal effects have become the texture of the time, and our understanding of how rock n’ roll both musically and culturally fits into the hip-hop tapestry has become more precise. None of this would be possible if Wayne at the height of his power didn’t hit his Pink Floydian wall headfirst.” This is the perfect summation. Wayne transcended and bent genres, not as an attempt to influence multiple generations to follow, but as a way to break away from the constraints placed on him by the Hip-Hop world. And what was once meant to just be liberating for him ended up liberating the industry itself. This would not have happened if Wayne were not the biggest rap artist in the world at the time.

Following Rebirth, Wayne would release I Am Not A Human Being, Tha Carter IV, I Am Not A Human Being II, and the fifth part to his Carter series, Tha Carter V. Each album, in their own way, continue to influence and shift the music industry today.

In many ways, Lil Wayne helped to turn a tide in southern rap that eventually made waves. So much so that even Rihanna, who topped the charts at the time, went from Good Girl Gone Bad to Rated R — a heavily punk-infused pop album. Without Tha Carter III, specifically, but the whole of Tha Carter series, we would never have rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, Chief Keef, or Big Sean. Without Wayne’s marketing of mixtapes to build his fanbase before the release of Tha Carter III, “SoundCloud rappers,” or rappers who understood how to navigate the digital age, like Chance the Rapper, would have never really had a blueprint. 

Without the aesthetic of Tha Carter III and IV, and the music of Rebirth and I Am Not A Human Being (II), there would be no rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, The Migos, or Travis Scott. If not for his earlier works, coupled with the aesthetics of C3 and Rebirth, we may have even missed out on Waka Flocka, Roscoe Dash, Travis Porter, and many others. His auto tuned cries over R&B and trap rock-infused beats gave way to newer talents like Bryson Tiller and 6LACK. This is his lineage and his influence. This is not to say, of course, that Lil Wayne is the only influence for the aforementioned artists — Kanye West, Gucci Mane, T.I. and many others also play a significant role in their development — but is rather to make clear just how important Wayne has been to each of their careers and to draw attention to the influence of his that is so often overlooked.

At the start of this year, Lil Wayne remixed “Believer,” a song by alternative pop-punk band, Imagine Dragons. More recently, he has collaborated with PnB Rock, a newer rock-rap artist to the industry. With this, along with the announcement of the tour with blink-182, it is clear that Wayne is nowhere near finished bending genres and leading new generations to different sounds all under Hip-Hop.

If none of this makes clear to you the influence Wayne has had over the last two decades, I’ll leave you with these words from the King, Jay Z, on the song “Mr. Carter” from C3:

“I’m right here in my chair with my crown and my dear, Queen B, as I share mic time with my heir / Young Carter, go farther, go further, go harder.”