By Brian Brecker
For those of us who grew up in the mid to late 2000s, we remember a time when Lil Wayne was on top of the world.
Wayne first rose to prominence in 1999 with his debut album, “Tha Block is Hot,” featuring his first single of the same name.
With the “Tha Carter” series, starting with the first in 2004, Wayne showed himself to be one of the most important and influential rappers of “the bling era.”
He seemed to be featured on everything, even on what many consider a “fluke” hit by artist Kevin Rudolf on “Let it Rock,” which almost surely wouldn’t have been successful without Wayne’s prominent involvement.
His recent album “Tha Carter V,” released Sept. 28, was actually slated for release all the way back in 2014. It was intended as his last album before retiring for family reasons. So where has the album been all this time?
“Tha Carter V” was supposed to be a return to form for Wayne, as he would be working under Cash Money Records again.
On Oct. 27, 2014, after four singles were released from the album, it was reported delayed, and transformed into a double album.
Two months later, Wayne sent out a series of tweets. One read: “I am a prisoner and so is my creativity. Again, I am truly sorry and I don’t blame you if you’re fed up with waiting for me and this album.”
This seemingly put the blame of the delay on Cash Money Records and its leaders Birdman and Ronald “Slim” Williams. One of the producers of the album, Cortez Bryant, took to Instagram afterward to express his feelings of betrayal.
In 2015, Young Thug, who also works under Cash Money records, released an album called “Barter 6,” intended to mock Wayne’s continually delayed project. It was originally going to be called “Carter 6,” but was changed due to legal disputes.
Wayne then released a mixtape called “Sorry for the Wait 2” in which he dissed Birdman on the song “Coco,” most notably with the line, “Woo, Birdman Jr., more like ugly duckling.”
Birdman in return claimed to TMZ that he felt “disrespected” by the statements on the album. Wayne sued Cash Money Records for $51 million for lack of payment and as a stunt to get the album released.
Amid the turmoil, Wayne released his “Free Weezy Album” in the summer of 2015, on which Wayne continued to attack the Cash Money record label for not releasing “Tha Carter V.”
In April of that year, an incident had occured in which multiple shots were fired at Wayne’s tour bus in Atlanta. During shooter Peewee Roscoe’s trial, it was suggested that Birdman and Young Thug may have been involved in a conspiracy to murder Wayne.
Birdman, however, in an interview emotionally denied any involvement, claiming the allegation was the “craziest s*** I’ve ever heard,” and expressed only love for Wayne.
Birdman and Wayne went to a Miami club in January 2016, where they appeared to finally put a rest to their personal conflict.
Soon after that, however, Wayne sued Universal Music Group, Cash Money’s parent company, over owed payments of $40 million. On Sept. 3, Wayne took Twitter to suggest he may be retiring.
Minor spiffs continued, and Birdman vehemently denied that either Cash Money Records or Universal Music Group owed Wayne any money, claiming that it was only due to his own mentorship that Wayne achieved success at all. Wayne, in an interview with New Orleans Q93 radio station, claimed that he had the power to release “Tha Carter V” on his own.
Finally, on June 7, 2018, Cash Money and Wayne settled for an undisclosed sum of money upwards of 10 million dollars.
From the limited amount of information known, audiences can only come up with two conflicting narratives.
One is Wayne’s version: Cash Money Records refusing him proper payment and conspiring to have him murdered over a petty conflict. In this version of the story, “Tha Carter V” was being witheld by Cash Money because of this conflict.
The second narrative is Cash Money Records’ version, in which Lil Wayne was actually in full control of the album’s release and using it as leverage to garner support for his lawsuits.
Regardless of what the truth is, “Tha Carter V” is now here and, hopefully, the age of messy conflicts between Birdman and Wayne are over.