In the 2010 documentary “The Carter,” filmmaker Quincy Jones III followed Lil Wayne around as he recorded many of his 2007 songs. It’s the clearest look we have at how the rapper was so prolific that year. While on camera, Weezy essentially does only three things—smoke weed, perform live, and record. (He will tell Rolling Stone in 2008 that he could record up to five songs a day and have a rap ready for a guest appearance only 30 minutes after hearing the beat.) He doesn’t play other rappers’ songs on his tour buses or in his hotel suites, instead blasting a constant stream of material that he recorded the night before, usually high on purp or marijuana. He tells the camera at one point that he listens to the songs during the day and makes changes to them later, creating an environment where he is constantly working. He corroborates this in interviews. “What do you listen to these days?” Complex magazine asked him in December of ‘07. “Me!” he said. “All day, all me.... That's how I do me, I gotta listen to me, critique and analyze everything, every time you hear music playing.... I don't really listen to no rap.
This constant recording and self-critiquing created an interesting scenario. Because Wayne only listened to his own stuff and stayed away from much contemporary influence in ‘07, he created songs that were totally out of his own head, his own experiences, his own weird self-curated pop culture memory. In April, when he released the year’s first mixtape, Da Drought 3, you could start to see this subconscious brilliance. It’s a record full of obscure 80s and 90s pop culture minutiae—”Married to the Benjamins, battle all my enemies/Riding with Big Foot, Harry, and the Hendersons”—and strange metaphors—”I’m probably in the sky, flyin’ with the fishes/Or maybe in the ocean, swimmin’ with the pigeons”—pulled perhaps from Wayne watching TV on a couch in 1995 Hollygrove, or a fleeting thought that came to him while listening to a beat on a tour bus. The mixtape also sounds like it has around seven different rappers on it, with a voice over the music that seems to change with each song. On “I Can’t Feel My Face” it sounds like he can barely get the words out. “Promise” is all creepy put-ons. “Back on My Grizzy” is Southern trap.