In the summer of 2007, hip-hop heads flooded the clubs around Houston to experience Lil Wayne’s takeover of the rap game firsthand. He wasn’t physically in the building, but his presence was undeniable. The club rocked back and forth, loudly blasting through the most popular cuts from the emergent “rock star” phase of hip-hop — hard guitar samples, Ed Hardy shirts and Nirvana references. Yet time stood still when “Mr. Jones,” a piano-laden Rocky theme originally created for Mike Jones came alive through the speakers. Instead of Jones’ voice however, there was Wayne, sounding energized and hungry.
Most in the club, myself included, could only look around to one another as we rapped out Wayne’s opening verse of “The Sky Is The Limit.” The song was a call to arms and a signifier of a new reality. Lil Wayne had spent three years telling the world he was the best rapper alive. Now he was proving it.