Is Lil Wayne a Pop Star?
Wiz Khalifa, Busta Rhymes, RZA and more weigh in on the rapper’s success and consider how the Young Money founder transitioned from underground artist to mainstream mega star.
Fueled by the pop ballad “How to Love,” Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV has sold 964,000 copies in its first week on the market. The album marks the biggest sales week for a hip-hop album, or by any male artist, since his own Tha Carter III in 2008, continuing the rapper’s reign of crossover commercial success.
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Fans of Lil Wayne vary from the most die-hard of rap savants to teenage pop music lovers, with his tracks receiving airtime across a variety of radio stations. Many would venture to label Weezy as a bona fide pop star, but what is it about him that is so appealing across multiple genres?
The Hollywood Reporter asked fellow musicians including Wiz Khalifa, Flo Rida and Busta Rhymes, as well as a few of Hollywood’s avid fans about what makes the Young Money patriarch such a major force in the music industry.
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“Swag,” was Paul “DJ Pauly D” Delvecchio’s simple answer.
“He just has confidence – swag -- he can just do anything. His metaphors, they’re the best. They draw people in,” added his Jersey Shore co-star Vinny Guadagnino, who ventured to guess that Wayne would deliver the best performance at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.
“He is really creative and not scared to do new things. Be new, be brand new and just shake it up,” explained “Black and Yellow” rapper Wiz Khalifa. As for whether Tunechi’s hits belonged under the pop umbrella, Khalifa needed to clarify: “Meaning popular music? Yeah, for sure,” he said.
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“He's a mega star,” said Grammy winning producer RZA. “He's a star anyway you want to put it. Whether you want to say rap star, pop star, r&b star -- He's a star, yo.”
Warren G suggested that Wayne should fit in a new genre, entirely. “He's just a hip hop artist that loves to go outside of the box and do different things and the things that he does carries him over to the pop area,” he said. “So I guess you can say he's pop. Hip pop.”
Young Money rapper Lil Twist cited Weezy as one of the most influential people in the music industry. “He’s very versatile. He’s not afraid to try different things. He’ll go in the studio and just put his mind to whatever. He could go in there and make a country song if he wanted,” Twist explained, while agreeing without hesitation that Wayne held a coveted place in pop music.
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“I think he’s considered a rock star now,” laughed members of Savvy, the newly signed pop group to Cash Money Records. “It’s really cool how he incorporated it all into rap and rock. That was a huge success for him.”
“I think Lil Wayne is a mega star, man. That's how you classify that type of guy.” said Busta Rhymes. “You can't really limit him.”
Rhymes, who is featured alongside Wayne on the Chris Brown track “Look at me Now,” noted that the success of a rapper in the pop realm isn’t something that hurts credibility any longer.
“Yeah, no. I mean, every artist should really hope for that,” he explained. “That dynamic to be able to switch around and move and people still accept it as you.”
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“Funny I used to have the struggle all the time because I was one of the first producers to make pop music and all the other ones were like we don't want to go pop. That's popular. That means how many people know you, that's all,” added producer Dallas Austin. “Yeah. He's like definitely one of the biggest pop artists in the world.”
“Shout out to my brother Lil Wayne, he’s definitely popular!” Flo Rida gushed of his pal. “He’s everywhere and he’s the most humble guy I know. I just got a lot of love for Lil Wayne and the whole Young Money/Cash Money family.”
Jersey Shore’s Deena Cortese, another avid fan, declared Wayne to be “the best rapper out there right now,” touting his “phenomenal” lyrics, while Ronnie Ortiz-Magro admitted that Weezy is “all I really listen to at this point.”
“He’s a pop icon,” Ortiz-Magro added.
While the sing-songy “How to Love” has earned mixed reviews from critics, gossip blogger and music fanatic Perez Hilton praised the Tupac inspired track.
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“I think its great that he’s able to try new things and have it be received well,” Hilton said of the song. “I appreciate that, and I consider him recently more of a pop artist even though before he was strictly a rapper.”
“After a point you have to grow your art in some capacity so his credibility over this lane has overflowed so much. I don't even know how he comes up with another album,” Austin noted of the song. “He's made so many records it's ridiculous. He probably put out 200 records in a year or been on everybody's records stuff like that. I think when he started singing and started going off into that thing, it was a way to try to expand and be an artist and find another way to be inspired by something, because if you're so good that you get to the point that you're kind of out there by yourself.”
Wayne has said that “How to Love” was influenced by Tupac’s ode to the ladies, “Keep Ya Head Up. ”
“It was a message to women and little girls across the world to just keep your head up even though things are hard. That’s what my song was,” he told MTV. “A lot of women don’t know how to love because there’s deep reasons for them not knowing how to love.”
Despite leaking 5 days prior to its official release, Tha Carter IV outperformed Jay-Z and Kanye West’s highly anticipated Watch the Throne, even shattering their 3-week-old record for single-week album sales on iTunes. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking Wayne’s third No. 1 release behind Tha Carter III and I Am Not A Human Being.