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Lil Wayne's Individual Evolution

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Ice in My Veins, Blood in My Eyes

And if you come up from under that water and there’s fresh air,/ just breathe baby. G-d’s got a blessin’ to spare./ I know the process is so much stress/ but it’s the progress that feels the best./ I came from the projects straight to success/ and you’re next, just try, they can’t steal your pride, it’s inside./ Then find it and keep on grindin’/ cause in every dark cloud there’s a silver linin’; I know.

Dwayne Carter, or “Lil Wayne” as he is best known by his millions of fans worldwide, sang the above lyrics in his tribute to his hometown, New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina. In the song Tie my Hands, from his album “The Carter III” (2008), he speaks of, not only, the value of progress but also of his own progress, “from the projects straight to success”. Though Darwin once said, “Individuals do not evolve, populations do”, it can be said a certain level of individual evolution occurs in all of us. Whether we allow it to happen to us due to circumstances or we harness the change in ourselves ultimately makes all the difference. In Mr. Carter’s case, his determination and sense of need to be in control of his own change allowed him to rise to success.

 Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 27, 1982. He was deserted by his father at age two and raised by his mother in one of the worst parts of New Orleans, Hollygrove. Despite the hard living circumstances, Dwayne was a straight-A student in the honors program. However, he turned to writing raps at eight years old because he felt no report card could express his true intelligence. By age eleven, Carter had dropped his first collaboration album and by age fifteen, he had his first hit song with the group “The Hot Boys”. Nevertheless, it was not all fun and games for Dwayne. At the age of thirteen, he accidentally shot himself in the chest with a .44 caliber gun, missing his heart by just two inches. Less than a year later, he dropped out of school. Yet, by the age of seventeen, Lil Wayne had gone solo; and, despite two albums which failed to match the success of his debut, he would get his deserved stardom with his third solo album “Tha Carter” (2004), which sold a million copies, and his fourth solo album “Tha Carter II” (2005), which sold two million copies. In the past three years, both through the release of four additional albums and by being featured in many hits, Lil Wayne has achieved worldwide success and recognition- as easily demonstrated by his possession of countless awards, including ten Grammy awards.

Even so, Lil Wayne is more than just a successful American rapper. His life demonstrates evolution in a culture because he changed the face of music- raising the standards of rap music with his clever lyrics and work ethic. Yet, perhaps more importantly, it can be said that Lil Wayne’s life demonstrates evolution in an individual by the way he leads his life. Though, in 2009, he said in an interview with Katie Couric, “I am not an example for people on how to live their lives, if you need an example for how to live you shouldn’t have been born”, Lil Wayne really underestimates the example he sets. The defining aspect of his evolution as an individual is that he controls it, changing only what he wants. Though many may believe change is a process that occurs as a result of a particular or a series of circumstances, such cannot be evidenced by Lil Wayne’s life.

“I am a rapper and a gangster and I do what I want”, said Lil Wayne, not a year after his third arrest since 2007. Despite the fact that each of his arrests have been due to the possession of controlled substances, as well as criminal possession of a weapon, Lil Wayne has not allowed these incidents to bring him down or be a reason to change. Also, though he has often been criticized for his abuse of “purple drank”, or prescription cough syrup that creates a sense of euphoria in the drinker, and his habitual and public use of marijuana, Lil Wayne chooses to allow for those substances to remain a part of his life. In 2008 the rapper was quoted saying, “I depend on guide and motivation, I don’t depend on cough syrup and marijuana. I never have”. Instead, the rapper/ gangster only makes changes within himself and in his lifestyle which he wants to make- for example, in his music. These transformations can be seen in his lyrics, which have been said by critics to have “deeply matured” through the years. Since his debut, Mr. Carter’s lyrics have evolved from the topics of killing and being part of a gang, “Come to your burial and kill anybody else who care for you/ Don't blame me, society changed me” (Hit U Up, Hot Boys, 2000) to success, love, and life, “We are at war with the universe, the sky is fallin’/ and the only thing that can save us now is sensitivity and compassion” (Tie My Hands, Tha Carter III, 2008).

Mr. Carter is constantly striving to be the best he can be by remaining in control of his own evolution. The key to this control is that Lil Wayne is constantly delving deeper into understanding himself- thus, he feels in touch with the aspects of himself which he feels comfortable with and those which he wants to change. This deep reflection has not only allowed for the rapper to rise to the top of the industry, but to also have obtained impenetrable confidence as can be read in the lyrics of his latest hit, Right Above It from his “I am Not a Human Being” (2010) album: “Now tell me how you love it/ You know you at the top when only heaven’s right above it/ We on”.

Even President Barack Obama appreciates Lil Wayne’s talent. In 2008, the then-Governor Obama spoke to an audience in Georgia about the importance of achieving dreams through education and perseverance. He said, “You are probably not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school.” In conclusion, individual evolution is often thought to be closely related to one’s environment and how it affects him or her. However, it can be said individual evolution is similar to biological evolution in that it is actually a combination of nurture and nature. Lil Wayne is a perfect example of this type of individual evolution in that his hard working nature puts him in control of his own change, ultimately allowing him to become the greatest rapper of all time. As can best be described only by Mr. Carter in his 2008 hit Comfortable, “Make jokes, no stress. Love. Live. Life. Proceed. Progress.”