The Transformation Of Lil Wayne From 8 To 38 Years Old

The following article references drugs and suicide.

Some considerer Lil Wayne the father of modern rap. Others consider him one of the greatest rappers of all times (including Billboard). Regardless of his unofficial title, the New Orleans star, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., is also a controversial figure in and outside of music circles.

Wayne has sold more than 120 million records and won five Grammy Awards, according to NBC News. His raw talent, rebellious nature, and unapologetic personality come together in a powerful combination that continues to influence the generations of artists who have followed him.

"I think we are all clones of Lil Wayne," rapper Kid Buu said in 2019 in his XXL Freshman pitch. "At the end of the day, we're all Lil Wayne. Every last one of us is Lil Wayne. Every rapper is influenced by Lil Wayne."

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Wayne is worth $150 million, which makes him the 12th richest rapper in the world. But the hip-hop artist has led a difficult life and fame has not always made things easier on him. Wayne has a lengthy criminal record, which includes several arrests, and he has been involved in a series of controversies that have divided his fans.

Having started his career as a child, Wayne has been in the limelight most of his life. Keep scrolling to see his transformation over the years.

Lil Wayne started rapping when he was 8

Lil Wayne proved he was a force to be reckoned with when he was only 8 years old. As The Undefeated noted, that is how old Wayne was when he began rapping. 

He grew up in Hollygrove, an impoverished neighborhood in New Orleans, which he mentions in "Hollyweezy" as he sings about being "too Hollygrove to go Hollywood." His father abandoned the family when he was a toddler. In a February 2009 CBS News interview, he explained that he opted to drop the D in Dwayne because he didn't want to carry his father's name.

"I'm a junior and my father is livin'... he's never been in my life, so I don't wanna be Dwayne," Wayne said.

His early years were not any less tempestuous than his adult life. At age 11, Wayne met Bryan "Birdman" Williams, co-founder of the successful New Orleans hip-hop label Cash Money Records, who included him on several tracks, according to The New YorkerJust a year after meeting Birdman and launching his professional career, Wayne attempted suicide, he said in 2018. He had previously contended the self-inflicted gun wound was accidental, as Billboard reported.

"He just told me one day that he was ready to address it now," said Mack Maine, Wayne's righthand man, per the report. "Just being an adult, reaching a level of maturity and comfort where it's like, 'I want to talk about this because I know a lot of people out here might be going through that.'" 

Lil Wayne shot to stardom as a teenager

Lil Wayne never wanted to do anything else but rap. According to Billboarda 12-year-old Wayne wanted to end his life after his mother told him was not allowed to continue with his hip-hop associations.

But he persevered and, in 1997, he joined the Hot Boys, becoming its youngest member at 14. At 17, Wayne launched his solo career with the album Tha Block Is Hot, released by Cash Money Records, per The New YorkerThe album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold more than 229,500 units in its first week, according to Y105immediately bringing Wayne's Southern rapping style to the mainstream. 

Alongside his budding career, his teenage years also saw Wayne become a father. He and his high school girlfriend, Toya Wright, whom he later married, welcomed Reginae Carter in November 1998, with whom he has a tight relationship. Wayne went on to have three more children with three different woman.

Reginae, an actor and model with more than 5.7 million followers on Instagram, often thanks her dad for his love and support. "Happy birthday to my father! I love you so much! You know it and the world (hehe) but imma forever ride for you!! Your biggest fan and that's on gang! Enjoy your day! Geesh what's the age now? Like 25?" Reginae wrote on her Instagram page for his 38th birthday on Sept. 27, 2020.

Lil Wayne sold one million records in a week in 2008

By the mid-2000s, Lil Wayne was boasting about being the best rapper alive, per Billboard.

Instead of releasing a follow-up solo album on the heels of the success of Tha Block Is Hot, Wayne proved he was not afraid to innovate when he solidified his career through a series of mixtapes — particularly Dedication 2 (2006) and Da Drought 3 (2007), which Spin characterized as "legendary" and The Guardianas "the stuff of lore."

His career peaked in 2008 with the release of Tha Carter III, which sold one million copies in its first week, per Spin. His overconfidence from prior years did not seem so silly at this point.

A search for "Lil Wayne awards" on Google results in a long, scrollable list at the top of the page that includes five Grammys, 11 BET Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, and two MTV Video Music Awards. 

Wayne was on the vanguard not only because of his music, but also through his style and attitude. "Wayne been tattooing his face for, what, 20 years now?" 2 Chainz said told Vice in July 2017. "I remember when people were looking at him like he was crazy. Now you almost don't look right without a tattoo on your face and you a rapper. It's a lot of stuff though that he did that everybody wouldn't necessarily agree with, but it worked for him, and it worked for the impact he made."

Lil Wayne's complicated relationship with the law

Lil Wayne's first serious brushes with the law happened at the height of his career. In July 2007, he was arrested in New York after headlining a concert. Police searched his tour bus after reportedly smelling marijuana where they, in addition to the recreational drug, also found a .40-caliber gun, according to Rolling StoneHe was charged with criminal weapons possession and criminal possession of a loaded weapon, for which he served eight months in jail in 2010, the report detailed.

Just months later, in October 2007, he was arrested again in Boise, Idaho on charges that were later dropped and deemed a "mix-up" with Georgia authorities, according to MTV News. Three months after that, he was arrested in Arizona when border patrol agents searched his tour bus, finding marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy, as described by The GuardianA similar event happened in December 2009, this time in Texas near the border with Mexico.

As The Undefeated noted, Wayne spent 242 days in jail as part of his one-year sentence stemming from the New York arrest in 2007 — a sentence that was reduced for good behavior. He described his experience in the 2016 memoir Gone Til' November: A Journal of Rikers Island, in which he discussed being on suicide watch and learning he could still create without external influences, like drugs, cars, or women, according to USA Today.

Lil Wayne divided fans over Donald Trump

Just days ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Lil Wayne took to his Twitter account to share a photo of himself next to then-President Donald Trump in what looked like an endorsement. In the caption, the rapper praised what the former president had done "so far with criminal reform" and showed enthusiasm for his proposed Platinum Plan for Black Americans, which included prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan and Antifa as terrorist organizations and making Juneteenth a federal holiday, as CNN detailed.

"Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus besides what he's done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership," Wayne wrote in the caption on Oct. 29, 2020. "He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done."

His post was penned 10 months after Wayne was arrested when police found a gun and bullets on his private plane in Miami, for which he was facing 10 years in prison, per the BBC. On Jan. 19, 2021, his last day as president, Trump pardoned the rapper.

His seeming endorsement of Trump divided his fans. While the post received more than 422,000 likes, its comments section was flooded with messages from disappointed admirers. 

"hi Dwayne (...) it is still very sad to see you actually stand with a president who is a white supremacist less than a week before elections. this is so very harmful," one wrote. Ouch!

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and mental health, please contact SAMHSA's 24-hour National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).