The recording booth is Lil Wayne’s sanctuary. In the studio, he’s at ease and peace on his own planet as the King Martian. Throughout his over 20-year career, the New Orleans MC has dropped an ungodly amount of music. And during that time, there are plenty of Weezy's bars, songs or projects that wowed us. As humans, we have an innate curiosity about how things come together once we witness something special. In this case, Wayne is that extraordinary talent. And luckily, whether he was aware that he was being documented or not, he's been captured a good amount of times cooking up his special Good Burger-type sauce from scratch in the studio over the years.
While watching Lil Wayne record a song is rare, you could hit a quick Google search right now and witness footage of the lauded rapper back in the 1990s as a member of the Hot Boys. As the young blood in the group, he seemed to be more reserved than the dominant figure he would soon become. Of course, time went on, he got older and his confidence grew (in 2005, he proclaimed himself to be the "best rapper alive"). At a certain point, he knew that he was the best and confidently asserted himself as such. Tunechi internalized his crown and in the process of him ascending to the top, the lyrical beast was filmed in his natural habitat.
In the clips of Lil Wayne recording that have made it to the internet, there isn’t a pen or pad in sight, just Lil Wayne flailing his arms, likely holding a cup of lean and a rolled J or dutch to puff on in between takes. It’s surely a sight to see, like a true rap national treasure. But you can be the judge of that. Today, XXL highlights 12 moments that reveal Tune’s recording process. Take a look at him in action below.
"Swagga Like Us"Jay-Z & T.I. Featuring Kanye West and Lil Wayne
In 2008, Lil Wayne recorded his verse for the posse cut "Swagga Like Us" straight out of his hotel room. According to Wayne, he freestyles nearly everything. And as an example, you can peep him here, closing his eyes and staring at the mic as he thinks up the next few bars. The first half of this verse ended up getting cut. But you'll recognize the second half of his syllable-stretching, metaphor-filled performance in the final version of the song.
"I Gotta Feeling" and "D.O.A."Lil Wayne
No one is really arguing that along with Da Drought 3, No Ceilings is one of the best mixtapes Lil Wayne has ever dropped. Gearing up for the release of his classic project in 2009, he handpicked a number of beats from every genre including The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" and Jay-Z's "D.O.A." He ripped through them with ease, as you can see short snippets of his horse-powered verses here, stemming from a Young Money documentary that was being filmed.
"Banned From TV"Lil Wayne
Speaking of No Ceilings, most fans of the highly coveted project would rank "Banned From TV" in their top three tracks from the tape. Featuring footage of Wayne's signature soundbite of a lighter flick at the start, you can watch him lay down most of the 2009 track in this seven-minute video. He had no mercy for this beat, and put a clear concentration on mastering his bars as he listened back, puffed and laughed in between takes.
"She Will"Lil Wayne Featuring Drake
In 2011, Lil Wayne and Drake recorded Tha Carter IV cut "She Will." Going from artist to artist is like a fire fight in this case, as both G.O.A.T.s executed to the highest of degrees on the final track—Wayne takes care of the verses and Drake handles the hook. The video only captures the end of Weezy's verse, but the most interesting part is witnessing him smile after noticing that he and Drizzy had another hit on their hands.
"Luxury Tax"Rick Ross Featuring Jeezy, Trick Daddy and Lil Wayne
There was no artist heating up in the mid-2000s more than Lil Wayne. He was on a feature-killing spree aside from his own projects. In the midst, lended a prime verse of his own to Rick Ross for the 2008 Trilla standout "Luxury Tax." This verse was recorded in 2007, and understanding the workaholic Wayne is, it's safe to assume that he didn't even remember it by the time the track dropped in 2008. Fans did forever though.
"Big Spender"Lil Wayne Featuring Nicki Minaj
In 2008, Lil Wayne and his protégé Nicki Minaj hopped in the booth and tackled a triumphant-sounding sample of Jay-Z and Freeway's "Roc-A-Fella Billionaires." This clip is taken from an episode of Vh1's Behind The Music, which aired a year later in 2009. While watching the under-the-radar gem "Big Spender" come to life, you can see that Wayne's flow comes through his body movements. And rightfully so, Nicki's amazement of watching her boss work is all over her face.
"Way I'm Ballin"Lil Wayne
By the time Lil Wayne dropped his Dedication 5 mixtape in late 2013, he was a seasoned, Grammy Award-winning vet who likely didn't have to try at all to craft a good song. It came that easy to him. You can see a quick glimpse of how simple the lyrics came to mind in this sneakily recorded video of Weezy laying down the Future, Mack Maine and Birdman-assisted banger "Way I'm Ballin." He was in his zone or on his planet, as he might say.
"Damn Damn Damn"Lil Wayne and T-Pain
If T-Pain and Lil Wayne dropped their T-Wayne joint project back in the 2000s, it would've been one of the best joint albums of all time. Though the effort ended up dropping years later in 2017, archival footage featuring the recording of songs like "Damn Damn Damn" is still available to be found on the internet. Here, in a clip recorded back in 2009, which was featured on the 2009 documentary The Carter, Weezy's syrupy tempo and tone is put on display, all before Auto-Tune is added.
"Magic"Lil Wayne Featuring Gudda Gudda
Lil Wayne goes crazy from the second the Gudda Gudda-assisted song "Magic" sounds off. The track was ultimately featured on Weezy's Dedication 4 tape in 2012. This clip of Wayne at work finds him locked in as he puffs his joint to keep his head in the clouds, which he talks about during his verse. You can't really hear the music in this clip, and that puts even more emphasis on just how unique Wayne's voice is.
"Hittas"Lil Wayne Featuring Drake
"Hittas," featured on Wayne's 2018 album, Tha Carter V, doesn't include the Drake verse captured in this clip. The version of "Hittas" featuring both Weezy and Drizzy is one of their top-tier collaborations. The Toronto native takes the backseat and lets his boss shine here. In a preview from this 2014 studio session, Wayne lays down one of his verses on the song while Drake laughs at just how good it is. This Carter V cut didn't end up dropping until four years later (without Drake's verse), but considering how old this clip is, it's a reminder that music-making is an elongated process. Unfortunately, the final song did not feature Drake due to clearance issues.
"Different Girls"Lil Wayne
Most people might not even know the Lil Wayne track "Different Girls," probably because it was taken from a project called Da Drought Is Over 6 (The Reincarnation), released in 2008. These days, you have to scour the internet to find in full. But here, Lil Tunechi is rocking to the beat with his neck going from side to side as we all do when he hear his songs. The session comes from 2008, where Wayne was again at his peak.
"Open Safe" and "Let It All Work Out"Lil Wayne
In another preview of the delayed Tha Carter V sessions, Weezy is captured hugged up on the mic recording the Mustard and Mike Free-produced track "Open Safe." The clip comes from 2014, which you can peep due to the black color in Lil Wayne's hair. At the end of this one-minute clip, he lays down a bar or two from another album cut "Let It All Work Out." Both songs ended up on the final version of Tha Carter V, released in 2018.