I remember putting the DD3 on for the first time in my car and rewinding “Seat Down Low” over and over again, listening to every change in voice and trying to catch every reference. I wasn’t alone.
“I became obsessed with Weezy for the year,” said Ramsey, who was at the epicenter for the entire phenomenon. “It was a personal obsession—it was me at home listening to tracks over and over again.”
Over the year as Wayne began to release more and more, he took a publicly conflicted attitude to why he was releasing all this free music. At times, he seemed blasé, almost careless, about it. At one point in the “The Carter,” he’s asked the name of a song he’s recording (and that would later be called “Demolition Freestyle”). “It’s just a mixtape, man,” Wayne responds. “Ain’t got titles.” In June, when he released The Drought is Over 2: The Carter III Sessions, he released the largest collection yet of free music he could have potentially profited from. (The bulk of DD3, ont the other hand, were songs that used others’ beats and would have gotten Wayne resoundingly sued if he had tried it put on sale.) The Carter III Sessions contained originally produced songs, including the Kanye-crafted “Did It Before” and “La La La,” a terrific track produced by Infamous that vividly describes the pre-Katrina New Orleans of Weezy’s youth. "I come through the hood suicide doors," he sings. "I used to come through the hood on the handle bars/'Gat in my drawers/Money in my pocket/Crack in my jaws/I hope it don't dissolve." Ramsey saw so much of New Orleans in that he track, he took a lyric from the track as the title of his essay. Why was "La La La" not released as a single? Was Wayne as crazy as he constantly told us in his songs?
Or, was this all a calculated move? In 2007 interviews and in "The Carter" doc, Weezy talks about a coherent philosophy of releasing music for free, seeing it as a way to both connect with fans— “This about to be disk two. Hope you got both of ‘em for free. If you didn’t you’re stupid,” he says on an intro to the Da Drought 3—and to work at being a better rapper than his competitors—“Everyone in the game got this game fucked up,” he says in an especially unhinged YouTube clip from April of the year. “Work, man. Work. Fuck you want to be on the streets talking about what you do, and you don’t do it.... Write a rap, man. Make a beat or something.” He went at releasing his tracks like an athlete who signs autographs constantly and works out daily. It was all about connecting and self-improvement
Once he began to release this tidal wave of free music, of course, Wayne may have seen what other economic benefits came out of the strategy. In our conversation, Ramsey mentioned that Wayne may have caught on to a post-reality TV public’s desire for artists to totally put themselves out there—in both good and bad forms. This was similar, in many ways, to the increasing popularity of blogs in 2007, with writers realizing they could catch others’ attention by writing a shit-ton and by being very open about themselves, creating fully formed online personas. Weezy, who put out a lot of shitty songs in 2007 to go along with his great work, created a volume of tracks that were similar, in a way, to blog entries. Consumers liked that.
Wayne also found that he was able to workshop his songs through mixtapes, finding out what worked and what didn’t, what hit and what missed. Thibeault compared it to jazz musicians playing New York nightclubs in the ‘20s. “Lil Wayne is a great exemplar and extremely noticeable example of this new economic model built on becoming famous by giving things away and trying stuff out,” he said. “He could prototype a ton of different genres to see what becomes popular.” By the time The Carter III rolled around in 2008, he was a practiced musician who knew what his fans liked, based on what free songs worked and which ones didn't.