500 Degreez

500 Degreez

By the time Lil Wayne released his third solo album, the writing was on the wall, and the once-mighty Cash Money army was starting to unravel. The rap game was changing, other acts were blowing up, and Juvenile (at one time the collective's brightest star) had just defected from the crew, frustrated by the Williams brothers' suspect accounting. Wayne was still a popular rapper, but not even close to the international icon he would eventually become. 500 Degreez (the title was a subtle shot at Juve, who had recently dropped 400 Degreez), is a solid release, though still pretty predictable in terms of song topics (money, hoes, guns, cough syrup, etc.) The production is all Mannie Fresh, which definitely helps a lot, and there are the requisite guest appearances from Big Tymers, Petey Pablo, Jazze Pha, and TQ. Key tracks to check for: the mellow narrative "Young'n Blues," the guitar-laced "Bloodline," and "Way Of Life," an updated version of Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s capitalist classic "Get Money." This is a good snapshot of mid-career Weezy, a moment in time after the Hot Boys breakup, but before his lyrical rebirth and massive industry takeover.

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