Who's The Most Influential Rapper Alive? | Okayplayer vs. DJBooth
In the internet age we can often get too caught up in meaningless arguments, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for debate. After all, what would hip-hop be without arguments about whether Jay Z or Nas won their beef? This isn’t a passive culture, it’s made for active participation, and so Okayplayer and DJBooth have joined forces to bring some of that good natured debate back.
In the second of our new series (peep our first), we’ll ask a question, pick opposing sides, lay out our arguments and then allow you to select the winner. This time around, we’re switching things up and asking, Who’s the Most Influential Rapper Alive?
The good thing about this question is that it steps around the “Best Rapper Alive” debate we’ve all heard seventy-thousand times. Whether the influence is positive, negative or neutral, influential is a different thing than “best” but influence doesn’t get talked about nearly as much as it should. After all, how can we hope to understand today’s hip-hop if we don’t understand who’s influencing it?
And with that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Lil’ Wayne is the Most Influential Rapper Alive (Okayplayer)
Being in the same boat as our friends at DJBooth, we get submissions from aspiring musicians in numerous (and intrusive) ways. With so many tunes flooding into inboxes across different platforms, we are able to see the signs of what’s hot, what’s bubbling and who’s paying attention to who. To be frank, a lot of what we get is pure basura and wouldn’t even be comparatively fuego as Kendrick Lamar‘s latest surprise drop. Yet, still they (and you) will try to get put on and break through the barriers that separate (you) from your fans. Nevertheless, there are those in the wilderness trying to recreate the success (and some would say story) of the man born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. If you haven’t looked at the landscape of popular rap — sans J. Cole and the aforementioned Cornrow Kenny — then it’s apparent that DJBooth’s argument doesn’t hold any dirty Sprite in their cup.
Lil’ Wayne is the prototype for “different” acts all over the country (some say the world, Craig!). While Drake might have opened the door for those with a proclivity to sing a tune, Weezy F. is the guy they owe their whole rock star style and rebellious personality to. Before Wayne, it was only Tupac Shakur and Master P who were doing marathon recordings and giving birth to mass quantities of albums. Now, you can’t go anywhere without Rich Homie Quan or Future releasing a new full project before the end of the week. Weezy’s energy levels helped the South to secede from New York’s sense of “rap,” which helped places all over the country now to sound like the Deep Fried South.
Without Lil’ Wayne’s 20-plus-year career, his EDM, genre-bending, synth-laden hip-hop track like “Lollipop,” you wouldn’t have Fetty Wap‘s “Trap Queen” or even Drake’s “YOLO.” And while Drake may have more #1 hits than Mr. Weezy “Fireman” Baby (please don’t say the ‘Baby) — we agree that in looking at other artists one can see the influences they’ve derived inspiration from. Drake might have made it cool to buy albums from rapper-singers, but Lil’ Wayne inspired mainstream and independent alike to stay on the road to make the real money. His “I Am Music Tour / America’s Most Wanted Festival,” plus his post-prison “I Am Still Music Tour” grossed beaucoup bucks ($80 million) combined with his latter performance being high in gross and attendance.
Not disregarding the fact that Wayne signed Drake (because Drake would’ve found a home eventually) — there’s another measure of Lil’ Wayne’s influence that cannot be taken for granted. His value to the hip-hop community in the eyes of its new stars adds merit to his worth as an influencer. Even Kendrick Lamar, a somewhat adversary to Drake, is influenced by Lil’ Weezy. Add into the mix that Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, Father, Yung Lean and Lil’ B are all disciples of Wayne and through him they have given rise to the “trappers” and “weirdo rappers” category (which Drake is a part of) in hip-hop.
Drake has a myriad of influences in his career, yet all roads must pass through Lil’ Weezyana. 20-year-olds are listening to those very artists and are still thankful to Lil’ Wayne for making the absurd awesome. For all of the commentary about Drake being an influencer, most are still using tactics, trends and styles patented by Lil’ Wayne. From the tattoos all over the body (even the hidden ones Drake has) to the dreadlocks that most of that subculture of rappers have — Wayne’s influence is certified and locked in for the next millennium.
A co-sign from Drake may get you to the Grammys, but Lil’ Wayne will forever be the man all should be thankful to for putting the game in young Aubrey’s ear thus enabling him with the platform to entertain all those ears that are listening to him now.