How Lil Wayne And Jay-Z Went From Enemies To Allies

One's last name is Carter, he's a billionaire, and is considered one of the greatest rappers alive. The other's last name is Carter, he's a multi-millionaire, and is considered one of the greatest rappers alive.

We're talking about Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter Jr., who's had a very interesting relationship with each other through the years. Why? Because they seemed to exchange an equal amount of praise and insults, so one could say it was hard to tell if they liked each other, despite Wayne calling Jay his idol. Wayne even has a verse of Jay's song "Lucky Me" tattooed on his leg, further proving his admiration for the Brooklyn wordsmith. Then after they bickered, and the years progressed, the rapper's relationship seemed to be completely positive and it looked like they were friends. 

So this is the strange, entertaining, and very convoluted story of how Lil Wayne and Jay-Z went from enemies to allies. Now, if you're ready, get comfy because there's a good deal to sift through here.

Jay-Z didn't offer Lil Wayne enough money

Lil Wayne signed with the Louisiana label Cash Money Records when he was 11 years old, according to The Washington Post, and seemed happy there. So some might've been shocked after learning that he wanted to sign with Jay-Z's label Roc-A-Fella Records in 2005. Years later, Wayne talked about the meeting he had with Jay during an interview on DJ Drama's Shade 45 radio show and said the billionaire mogul tried to lowball him.

"First of all, he was at The 40/40 [Club] in the daytime, and when I got up there he was talking. It was Denzel [Washington], it was Derek Jeter. I was like, 'This is his clique?'" Wayne recalled. "And they up there just laughing at jokes I just don't get. ... He literally sat me down next to him. ... That man offered me $175 [thousand], ... I was looking like, two teeth in my mouth is 175, like two of them. My bottom teeth. So we laugh about that all the time. ... We joke about it all the time."

In the end, Wayne stayed with Cash Money Records, which might've been a decision he later regretted. That's because he claimed Cash Money co-founder, Bryan "Birdman" Williams, owed him tons of back pay and sued him for $51 million in 2015. But Wayne settled with Cash Money three years later for an amount said to be well over $10 million.

Lil Wayne and Jay-Z both called themselves the best rapper alive

Yes, it's true there's heavy competition in many forms of music, but hip-hop is unique in that artists go directly at each other with taunts and insults in their songs. That's something that Lil Wayne and Jay-Z did with each other and one can say their first round of competition began after both called themselves "the best rapper alive." Jay used the title first on the song "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," off his much-celebrated 2003 album "The Black Album." Then two years later, Wayne began calling himself the best rapper alive on his 2005 classic "Tha Carter II."

Now, if Wayne would've made that claim years prior, there's a good chance that he wouldn't be taken seriously. But as his career progressed, he began to be known as a top-tier lyricist — one who delivers inventive punchlines and metaphors. Again, Wayne and Jay both using the "best rapper alive" title was just the start of their years-long back-and-forth. And they'd eventually send direct shots at each other.

Jay-Z offended Lil Wayne by calling himself rap's savior

When Jay-Z was rolling out his 2003 project "The Black Album," he said it would be his last album before retiring. But it turns out, he followed the path of other rappers by canceling his retirement and releasing new music, which was 2006's "Kingdom Come." In the title track, Jay claimed that his return saved hip-hop music, which highly offended Wayne.

"I don't like what Jay-Z's talking about and I'm gonna tell you why, because he's saying it like he had to come back, like hip-hop's dead and all this," Wayne told Complex in 2006. "Like, I'm a hip-hop artist, B. What you mean it's dead? So that means I'm not rapping the whole time? ... I've been in it 13 years, daddy. How can it be dead? ... If anything it's reborn. Nawmean? So he's probably having a problem with that."

Jay seemed to respond on rapper T.I.'s song "Watch What You Say To Me." "I hear you baitin' me lately/ I been doin' my best just to stay hater-free/ Still watch what you say to me/ Sooner or later, I take you up on your offer/ And put you all in your place like I'm replacing your father/ You talkin' to the author, the architect of The Blueprint/ My DNA in your music — motherf***er, you stupid?" rapped Jay-Z.

Lil Wayne and Jay-Z began collaborating

Since Jay-Z and Lil Wayne sent shots at each other, many probably expected a full-on rap war next. That wasn't the case, however, and instead, they collaborated on music, which had to confuse folks. Their first song was "Hello Brooklyn 2.0" in 2007, off of Jay's "American Gangster" album, and the second cut, "Mr. Carter," lives on Wayne's "Tha Carter III" release.

In the latter song, Jay gave Wayne a huge compliment by saying he'd take his place as rap's It guy. "I share mic time with my heir/ Young Carter, go farther, go further, go harder/ Is that not why we came?/ And if not, then why bother?" said Jay in the song, a clear message that he wanted Wayne to surpass his accomplishments.

But what about Wayne blasting him in that 2006 Complex interview and the Brooklyn rapper's witty response on T.I.'s song? It's possible that Wayne and Jay cleared the air through a discussion before collaborating, but that was never reported. Still, one could've easily assumed that it would be smooth sailing between the men going forward. Later, however, dark clouds gathered, the waters got choppy and a storm erupted — meaning Jay and Wayne would eventually rekindle their beef in a major way.

Jay-Z and Lil Wayne got into it again because of Birdman

As we stated, just because Jay-Z and Lil Wayne hopped on each other's songs, it doesn't mean their issues with each other were settled. And there's one person to thank for the rappers beefing again, and that's Cash Money boss Bryan "Birdman" Williams. 

In 2009 Williams spoke with Tropical TV and disagreed that Jay was the best rapper. His comments came after Jay was crowned "Hottest MC in the Game" by MTV. 

"I don't think [Jay-Z] is the No. 1 MC in no kind of way," said Birdman before saying Wayne is a far better lyricist. "He do the most and he make the most money," Williams added, speaking about Wayne.

Jay responded on the song "H.A.M," which is on his joint album with Kanye West, "Watch the Throne," released in 2011. In the cut, Jay scoffed at Baby's claim that Wayne has more money than him, and added that he doesn't have more dough than his wife Beyoncé either. Wayne didn't take the diss lying down, though; instead, he stood up and launched a vicious lyrical attack against Jay.

Lil Wayne responded to Jay-Z with a strange threat

In 2011 Lil Wayne responded to Jay-Z's "H.A.M" on his song "It's Good," featuring Drake and Jadakiss and guess what? Wayne threatened to kidnap Beyoncé of all things. The New Orleans rapper spoke about the kidnapping line during a 2011 interview with Vibe and didn't seem very worried about retaliation. "I know there won't be any repercussions behind what I did," Wayne said. 

But fans would have to wait two years to for Jay's response. It came in the song "La Familia" from his 2013 "Magna Carta... Holy Grail" album. "Wanna kidnap wifey/ Good luck with that bruh/ You must gon' hide your whole family/ What you think we wearing black for/ Ready for that war," spit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

Then later, Jay was asked about Wayne's kidnapping lyric while being interviewed on "The Breakfast Club" and said he wasn't worried about it. "It's a part of the sport and the competition," Jay explained. "I didn't take it serious. I didn't view it as a threat. I thought it was just a flip of a line that I said because I said, 'You' ain't got my wifey money.'"

Lil Wayne and Jay-Z became business partners

By the time 2015 rolled around, the beef between Jay-Z and Lil Wayne included a bevy of disses, a back-and-forth about finances, and a kidnapping threat. So what was next? A chest-bumping face-to-face argument at a celebrity event? Or perhaps a wrestling match on the Grammys red carpet. None of those things happened, though, and the rappers began working together on Jay's then-newly released streaming service, Tidal.

Per Rolling Stone, Wayne became a co-owner of the platform with people like Jack White, Kanye West, and others. Some might remember a bunch of famous artists getting together for the 2015 launch event, where Alicia Keys quoted German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and got ridiculed by the press for it. Plus, besides being a co-owner, Wayne dropped a song exclusively for Tidal subscribers called "Glory." 

So did the partnership mean that Jay and Wayne's days of bickering were done? One could say it sure looked that way, and even more, the men started showing signs that they were actually becoming friends.

Lil Wayne said that he joined Jay-Z's team

Remember when we mentioned that Jay-Z tried to sign Lil Wayne to his Roc-A-Fella record label but didn't offer him enough money? Well, in 2017 it looked like the rappers agreed to financial terms because while performing at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, Wayne made a big announcement to the crowd. "Is it cool if I just say it?" Wayne asked. "It's the Roc. You know I'm a member of that team now. We'll talk about that later, though." 

But after it seemed that every music blog under the sun covered the announcement, it didn't appear that Wayne inked a new deal with Jay after all. Why? Because the label never announced Wayne being on its roster and Wayne said his new dealings with Jay weren't contractual. Still, though, the announcement was far from the aggressive talk the men exchanged years prior, which was another sign their days of being adversaries were over.

"Jay's a good guy, man," said Wayne on "Undisputed." "It was nothing but a simple thing, just friend to friend, 'I just wanna help you.' Simply, that's all it was. 'I just wanna help you, man, in any way I can.' And right now, he's just gonna help me in any way he can. That's just what it is."

Jay-Z helped Lil Wayne with a huge financial issue

Some might say that it's not discussed enough, but Jay-Z is a pretty altruistic guy. For example, when Atlanta rapper 21 Savage, who was born in the United Kingdom, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for overstaying his visa in 2019, Jay secured a lawyer for him. And when Philly rapper Meek Mill was still on probation in his 30s after being arrested when he was 19 years old, Jay helped him pay millions of dollars in legal fees.

Lil Wayne also has a story about Jay helping him. It was in 2018 during a performance in Chicago when Wayne said the Brooklyn artist assisted with a tax issue. NME shows that Wayne owed $7.72 million in back taxes at one point. "There's people like Jay-Z," Wayne told the audience. "He helped me when I was really, really, really down. Really, really, really down. ... Jay don't want me to tell nobody. That man helped me with my tax. He's a real friend, y'all." Wait a minute. What was that? Did Wayne call Jay a friend? He sure did, further proving their relationship hasn't only evolved over the years but blossomed.

Lil Wayne called Jay-Z the greatest ever

Remember how we mentioned that Lil Wayne seemingly challenged Jay-Z by calling himself the "greatest rapper alive" after Jay gave himself that title? Well, in October 2022, it was clear that Wayne changed his position, and he used a sports analogy to make his point. "The greatest rapper of all time is Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter," said Wayne on the "More To It" podcast. "When you do this rapping thing, like football. ... You play hockey, I'm sure they got something that they only know about. ... That thing in rap ... that only thing that only we know in rap, he has that. He's the Tom Brady of that."

And that wasn't the only time Wayne praised Jay's lyrical abilities. He did it in 2019 after being in an ad for Bumbu Rum where Wayne is called the "GOAT," meaning the greatest of all time. "Who's the GOAT to you? I got Jay!" wrote Wayne in the now-deleted Instagram message, shared by HipHopDX. So the way it appears, the beef or rivalry between Jay and Wayne has completely dried up, which could be the result of age and maturity or both men being more established in their careers.