Can't front: I didn't start taking Lil Wayne seriously as a rapper until The Carter. Mea culpa. He was in my Top 5 from then until The Carter 3, and for a good 2.5 year stretch he was arguably the best rapper in the world.
Some consider the Dedication period to be his best. It was a great era, before youthful hunger gave way to the excess and self-consciousness of success, but I find myself fuckin most with the wilderness years between the Hot Boys and mainstream respectability. Maybe it's cause it bridges what was great about his Hot Boys incarnation and the rapper he would become; maybe it's because Pop Star Wayne has made such frustrating artistic choices that it's refreshing to return to the days when he was focused on rap.
Either way, here he is catchin wreck on a Spanish Guitar beat on the overlooked 500 Degreez, courtesy of the Great Man Mannie Fresh. Wayne sips cachaça from a gourd he then passes to Breno Mello, a rapper and guitarist bearing their souls beneath a drafty veranda in some picturesque favela.