On The Scene At 16: Lil Wayne, LL Cool J and Soulja Boy Broke The Rules And Redefined The Game


Editor’s Note: Hip-Hop has been referred to as a sport for the young. Even a rap legend or two will tell you that Hip-Hop – the music and the culture – are rooted in the trends, slang, and follies of street-oriented youth.

Make no mistake. “Generation Next’s” influence can be seen all over rap music. From A$AP Rocky to Chief Keef to Pac D## in Cali, the 18 to 30 crowd (and sometimes younger) is driving Hip-Hop and Pop culture today. But what’s old is new, and rappers are great at every age. All this week, AllHipHop.com ponders the “Age Effect” on Hip-Hop, both then and now.

Age is nothing but a number, and the saying has been proven true time and time again over the years with some of the biggest success stories in music and entertainment coming onto the scene at an unusually young age. Currently, it is becoming even more common with the likes of such artists as Earl Sweatshirt, Justin Bieber, Amiracle, Chief Keef, and Diggy Simmons, just to name a few, all building brands and fanbases, and releasing music that is heard by millions of people around the world on a consistent basis.

Although they may be the faces of today, they are just a few names in the frequently-expanding category of artists who burst onto the scene as a teenager. Artists like Lil Wayne, LL Cool J and Soulja Boy are three of the most well-known names in music today – and all three got their official starts around the tender ages of 16 and 17.

As part of our focus on Rappers Through The Ages, we have decided to highlight the accolades that these three titans have amassed over the years – both acknowledging and celebrating the fact that they are all working just as hard, if not harder now, than they were as teenagers:

Lil Wayne

  • First Album: Tha Block Is Hot (1999)

It’s hard to believe that one of the biggest names in music today came on to the scene when he was just nine years old, as one of Cash Money Records first signees. Almost 21 years after signing on the dotted line of his first recording contract, Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter, has built a music empire of his own under the guidance and mentoring of his own father figures in Cash Money founders, Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams.

To date, Weezy, who is now 29, has sold over 10 million albums worldwide, won seven BMI Awards, two ASCAP Awards,  three Grammys, and been nominated for almost 50 BET Hip-Hop Awards. As he continues to work on his tenth album, I Am Not A Human Being, which is set for release later this year, Wayne has continued getting his mogul on and helping further propel the longevity of multi-platinum artists in his own camp like Drake and Nicki Minaj while simultaneously building budding careers for the rest of his Young Money roster, based on the trials and tribulations he’s experienced throughout his own life.

At 16, Lil Wayne was the quintessential New Orleans boy, but already showing signs of eccentric greatness to come.

LL Cool J

  • First Album: Radio (1985)

After 27 years in the game, LL Cool J is still going strong, and as one of the first faces of Hip-Hop and the Def Jam brand at age 16, LL will forever be one of the staples of both the music and the culture. Having released 12 albums since 1985, and with his 13th currently in the works and on the way, James Todd Smith has had a career quite unlike anyone else within the music industry, possibly even in all of entertainment.

The nine-time Grammy Award-nominee has won four NAACP Image Awards, 10 Soul Train Awards, starred in nearly 25 movies, over 10 television shows, and most recently was named the recipient of BET’s “I Am Hip-Hop” Award in 2011 for his endless contributions to Hip-Hop culture.

At 16, LL Cool J rapped with the ferocity of a lion, and the “Ladies Loved Cool J” right from the start, too.

Soulja Boy

  • First Album: Souljaboytellem.com (2007)

Two years after releasing “Crank That” on the world via YouTube, DeAndre “Soulja Boy” Way landed at #18 on Forbes list of Hip-Hop Cash Kings for pulling in over $7 million. As further clarification, that wasn’t a list of “cash kings” under 25, that was a list of overall rappers and Hip-Hop entrepreneurs that he found himself on, after amassing one of the biggest hits of the digital age at the age of 16.

Despite some faltering album sales following his initial release, Soulja Boy paved the way for young artists who are now building up their work ethic and utilizing the tools at their fingertips to create a career and long-standing fortune. Soulja’s fourth album, Promiseis on deck for release later this year, as is a rumored collaborative project with one of Hip-Hop’s other wealthiest business minds, 50 Cent.

At 16, the Atlanta teen was perhaps the Steve Jobs of Rap-Based Social Media. Soulja Boy, tell ’em.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more on rappers through the ages!