We were outside having coffee and the Times was spread out over the table. The arts section held a collage of performers and a story about summer concerts. I pointed to Lil Wayne, "This is the one I'm for."

"Who's that?" my friend asked.

"What!? It's Lil Wayne!" I held my tongue. Usually I say, "It's Lil Wayne, BITCH!" 

"Who?" She had no idea.

It flipped me. At this point, how can anyone have missed out on Lil Weezy? He is, after all, The Best Rapper Alive. But I suppose I wasn't early to the game either. It's understandable, I suppose—Wayne's early days with Cash Money were a joke. But over the last few years I'd heard him creeping back up. Still, it took a 2007 New Yorker column to get there. I couldn't believe it—Wayne being featured in a literary magazine with a focus on his lyrics!

Equally intriguing is Wayne's process. He gets wasted and records nightly, sometimes three or four songs a session, the best of which become mixtapes offered freely online. Wayne appears absolutely engrossed in the art, bursting with it. At the end of 2007, Vibe magazine compiled a list of Wayne's 77 best tracks that year.

Finally I found Tha Carter III mixtape and it blew me away. It was mostly stripped down, relieved of hooks, featuring Wayne just going. And going. And going. Three minutes of solid rapping and boom, on to the next track, every so often tossing in a profound, fucked-up turn of phrase like: "Every time I hear the track I'm like an energy pack/The instrument's are cryin' out, 'Where the sympathy at?'" Or ridiculous, like: "I got a grill, I don't have to get my tooth fixed/The tooth fairy would retire if I lose it." Wayne works ably in all styles. He can jokingly shift his tone to resemble a dancehall inflection and do it better than many of the genre's mainstays. He does bangers, spacey flights, and yes, even introspection.

So if you haven't yet, it's time to discover Lil Wayne. You won't be sorry. And don't be dissuaded by what you see of him on TV or in the mainstream—the mixtapes are a different beast entirely (though I do love Wayne's new single "Lollipop," which turned the dance floor into sweet syrup last week at Branx). Try Tha Carter III mixtape or Da Drought 3. And hopefully, when the highly anticipated studio release of Tha Carter III finally shows up, supposedly on June 10, it'll hold a candle to the brilliant spontaneity and passion of those late-night sessions.