How do we classify great artists? Do we judge them in terms of the number of albums sold or based on the personal connection and depth that we discover in their music? The answer is actually very obvious; that human’s measure greatness through their own opinions, not statistics or what is told to them by the media. Soulja Boy is a perfect example of this concept. While his popularity skyrocketed from catchy songs such as “How to Crank That” and “Bammer, Bammer, Bammer,” Most hip-hop experts and casual listeners agree that his simple and repetitive lyrics provide superficial entertainment that will not yield long-term success.
So what makes Lil Wayne so good? With lyrics such as “Got 10 bathrooms I can shit all day” being very common in his music, Wayne has not only transcended bad rap, he has revolutionized the industry. As many individuals between the ages of 16-24 can attest to, whenever the radio was playing from the year 2006 to 2010, Wayne’s voice would be heard. Many rappers, such as Jay-Z and Eminem, keep their lyrics exclusive and rarely appear on other artists’ tracks. They fear becoming overexposed, so they reject Wayne’s narcissistic strategy
If every rap listener were to make a list of his or her favorite rappers of all time, each one would be immensely different due to a number of factors. The most important, and perhaps the most obvious reason, is that people have unique opinions and it is impossible for everyone to agree on such a subjective question. However, if one were to ask who is the most influential hip-hop artist of all time, that is a question that can be answered. Besides the logical choices such as Eminem, a white rapper who changed the demographic outlook of rap, or Jay-Z, the first artist to transform his gift to a global empire, who else but Lil Wayne would have to be mentioned when discussing this subject? Wayne has routinely penned superficial lyrics, has collaborated on every possible song his record label could find, and has created many popular up-tempo verses. He showed the rap world that to become a legend one does not have to talk about deep issues. Wayne has exemplified this truth by rapping about the quintessential pillars of his genre: money, women and physical possessions. In other words, Wayne has proved to us that in unique cases, quantity can prevail over quality. However, Wayne is not only distinct because of the vast amount of music he creates; something in Wayne is simply just different. He has a confidence and swagger unmatched by anyone else.
To understand how Wayne developed his swagger, we must compare his background to that of his counterparts. Like many other rappers, Wayne was born in the ghetto, raised by only his mother. Similarly to other rappers, he began hustling at a young age in order to support his family. The primary difference that separates Wayne from his peers is that he was signed to a record label at the ridiculously young age of 11. Before he even went through puberty, Lil Wayne had proof that he was the best rapper his age.
So what would philosopher Amartya Sen think of Wayne’s success? He would not classify Wayne as being impoverished as a child, because he had the capabilities of every other human and was allowed to show them off. Sen believes that poverty is a “deprivation of basic capabilities”, a circumstance that Wayne was not submerged in. He would view this rapper’s success as a great illustration that poverty is not the result of having a low income. Conversely, it is a horrible situation that is spurred by a suppression of basic human rights.
So, when Wayne constantly boasts that he is “The greatest rapper of all time,” should we doubt that?