By Justin Tinsley | @justintinsley
It all started innocently enough. Homework was completed. Pizza was ordered and the rest of the night was dedicated to finding new music online and playing Madden against anyone on the second floor of James Hall. It was a normal night during the spring semester of freshman year at Hampton University.
Then, that’s when it happened. Checking Boxden.com had become a nightly ritual, especially since peddling mixtapes on campus had become serious hustle.
Lil Wayne Presents Young Money The Mixtape Vol. 1 had to have been a random tape compiled a fan with all previously heard before tracks or 2004’s The Prefix under a different file name. The worst case scenario was losing the time it took to download the tape. And even then the pizza would have had arrived by then. The best case scenario, it had two or three new tracks to store on an external hard drive.
Turns out, it was better than the best case scenario. It was a completely new tape, a double disc behemoth equipped with 28 new tracks from Lil Wayne, Mack Maine, Curren$y. No one had heard the tape, at least not on Hampton’s campus. It was like finding one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets, only in mixtape form.
So excited by the discovery, I burned two blank discs and walked down the hall to my friends Will and Charles’ dorm room. Not even a fourth of the way through the impromptu listening session, they heard enough and requested copies of their own. From that moment until now, even in 2014, whenever we speak to each other—Charles in North Carolina, myself in Virginia and Will in Chicago—chances are the night we all heard the first Young Money tape routinely becomes a topic of conversation.
Wayne’s ascension into rap royalty between the years 2004 to 2009 was, in many ways, unparalleled. In a catalog spanning that five year explosion, those years produced 2000s-era heavyweight projects like Dedication 2, Carter I & II, The Suffix, Drought 3, The Drought Is Over, No Ceilings, Lilweeziana and God knows how many features, in addition to the aforementioned gem, which, in many other ways is largely misplaced when discussing Wayne’s legacy.
Much of this is because many of the records went on to find real estate on Wayne and Drama’s first Dedication mixtape later that same year. Yet, there was something truly authentic and instantly nostalgic about its original double disc release. There was no sense of sequencing to the project, not that YMTM needed it. Mack Maine and Spitta were entertaining and were about as quality leadoff hitters as there were under the still-infant Young Money umbrella. To put that in some glimpse of perspective, Drake was still “Wheelchair Jimmy Brooks” on Degrassi and Nicki Minaj was uploading songs to Myspace.
Without question on the project, however, Wayne was the alpha dog.
Not yet a superstar and still shouldering the brunt of doubts from many critics, who believed Cash Money was a sinking ship, Wayne’s aggression was electric. Every verse was a notable quotable. Unlike the speculation about his output in recent years, Wayne and “filler bars” were oil and water.
The highlights of the tape mimic a modern day Miami Heat fast break from “You’re Gonna Love Me” to “We Pimpin’” to “Y’all Simpin’” to “2Pac Dedication (Made N*ggaz)” to “Mama Gave Me” to Slim Thug’s “3 Kings” to the tape’s unquestioned premiere highlight: “Knuck If You Buck.” Unrelenting. Cita’s son was firmly putting his foot in the dirt declaring rap’s next superstar was from the bottom of the map.
And Cash Money’s future was anything but in doubt.