Forgive me for oversimplifying this, but pre-Carter III release, there were two main types of Lil Wayne fans.

The first type were those who had been there for a long time. People who bought/burned Tha Carter, learned about Weezy from the New Orleans scene, or those who got on board from his very early mixtapes.

These people liked Lil Wayne before he became Lil Wayne the icon, before he became Lil Wayne the GOAT, even before he became the Best Rapper Alive.

Whether they came to Weezy because he was a cute young kid with the very popular at the time Southern swag, or because they liked his unique energy and twist to his native bounce music, these fans have been around for a long time. Some of these fans didn’t even like Mixtape Weezy because it wasn’t Tha Carter I or II.

The second group is who I call the “Drought 3 Era” fans. You can call them ‘Mixtape Weezy’ fans if you like, but I don’t because although mixtapes were his clearest form of dominance, his guest verses were untouchable too. These fans (of which I am one) came to Weezy during the prime of his career. Lil Wayne had transformed into a brand new rapper with better metaphors, better flows, more style, and more swag. Mixtapes such as the Drought 3, Dedication 2, and a whole slew of guest verses earned Wayne the crown of the undisputed ‘Best Rapper Alive.’ Even in those days people like Fat Joe, Rick Ross, and The Game, were admitting that Lil Wayne was the best.

There were also countless leaks of songs that were meant for Tha Carter III. These songs were fashioned into numerous non-consented mixtapes by various DJ’s across the internet. These songs included everything from “I’m Raw” to “Ask Them Hoes” to many Weezy fans’ favorite “La La La.”

Those leaks culminated with Wayne’s official attachment to Tha Carter III with “The Leak” which included classics such as “I’m Me,” “Gossip,” and “Kush.” This was an incredibly frustrating time for Wayne, having to deal with leak after leak, but it was all worth it once he achieved truly monumental success with Tha Carter III.

Tha Carter 3 lead up and release ushered in a new era of Weezy fans. The onslaught of popular guest verses by Lil Wayne made him hot everywhere from middle schools through colleges across America, but the release of the mega-hit “Lollipop” changed the game forever and turned “Lil Wayne” into a household name.

Lollipop wasn’t the only Carter 3 mega-hit, though. Hits like “A Milli,” “Got Money” and “Mrs. Officer” were blaring out of car stereos everywhere, and radio stations were all playing Weezy as much as they could.

Wayne didn’t let this time of ultra-popularity slip away. He struck while the iron was hot and in 2009 released No Ceilings, one of the greatest mixtapes of all time. No Ceilings could be heard in every college dorm room, house party, gym and car from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. College frat boys and athletes everywhere had anthems aplenty, and Lil Wayne’s dominance remained untouchable. Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller still uses No Ceilings as his pre-game music.

That period of musical dominance is what created the third type of Lil Wayne fan, the “bandwagon fan”. Don’t get me wrong, many of the fans Weezy gained in this period are still with him today. But the fan base that swelled so big to earn him another million copy-selling first week with Tha Carter IV that it was soon ready to explode.

Many loyal fans still rode with Weezy during Sorry 4 the Wait, Tha Carter IV, IANAHB 1 & 2, and of course there’s Rebirth. But the slew of people who had jumped on the bandwagon because of Wayne’s greatness began to jump off, and so began the exaggeration of his decline.

The main contribution that led to today’s norm of hating on Lil Wayne was Lil Wayne’s greatness itself. It set the bar so high for what rap music could be that anything Wayne released that didn’t reach that bar started to be slandered as trash.

And then people started looking for new ways to set themselves apart from the crowd. Some people became bored with being a fan of the guy everyone else was a fan of. They started to branch out and support people such as Big Sean, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and many others. But no artist has come close to matching Weezy’s dominance.

Because of the extended lack of any other real rap superstars before Kendrick Lamar’s emergence (Drake doesn’t count here because in this regard he’s more pop), Lil Wayne became the New England Patriots, the New York Yankees. Because you’re on top, people want you to fall. People love to hate in this day and age. If they don’t identify with you as an artist, they want to trash you.

Lil Wayne hating and trashing became almost as popular as loving him once was. All of the people who in the past would have been bandwagon fans were now becoming “bandwagon haters.”

Hating Lil Wayne became your way to show that you really know rap, that you actually have some culture. By saying you like “Run the Jewels” and don’t really listen to Lil Wayne, you’re saying: “I’m better than other people because I’m cooler than just being a Lil Wayne fan because everybody’s a Lil Wayne fan.”

There’s no major problem presented by haters in the grand scheme, there’s always going to be haters no matter who the artist is. The problem for Lil Wayne was that it just became way too popular to say you don’t like Lil Wayne in order to be cool. And eventually, the perception of Lil Wayne being trash became people’s reality, largely influenced by the media.

Once people said they hated Lil Wayne, the media wanted to give them what they wanted, hence all of the Weezy hate articles from some at Complex Magazine and other morons.

The perception became the “reality.” Because most people were saying “Lil Wayne sucks,” it gained momentum, and eventually became what people stated as fact. Great Wayne verses like those on Deep, Only, and M’s, were completely underrated and slept on. Even great entire projects like Dedication 5 were overshadowed. Sorry 4 the Wait 2 was so good it was basically an album, the entire mixtape was primetime Weezy from top to bottom. Free Weezy Album was an amazingly unique and exceptional Lil Wayne album. Yet despite such quality projects, the hate kept coming.

Did Lil Wayne have a period where he “fell off?” In a word, yes. Around the same time he started wearing moon boots and hats that looked like they were designed by a Tele-tubby, he also started taking it easy and phoned in some verses. I’m thinking of the 2011-2013 era.

Let’s face it, while Tha Carter IV had some serious bangers, it also had some tracks that weren’t up to normal Weezy par.

But the real truth is that even mediocre Wayne is still better than 90% of the rappers out today, and the Lil Wayne that has been on display since late 2014 has been on fire.

We as Lil Wayne fans may be hopelessly optimistic about Weezy at times. Sometimes we say an average verse is good, and sometimes we say bad verses are good, after listening to them 20 times out of loyalty to convince ourselves. But don’t ever second guess it, Weezy is the Greatest of All Time, and the hate he has received over the past few years has been enough to make anyone either retire or lose their sanity.

The optimistic Lil Wayne fan in me believes that he is about to go on an amazing run of new music once he’s free from his Cash Money nightmares. If that happens, many bandwagon fans will hop back on, and then a few years later, the hate will resume again.

Think of it like Tom Brady’s performance in Super Bowl 51. When the Patriots were down 25 points in the 4th quarter, if you logged onto Twitter you would see the most slanderous of Tom Brady hatred. “Washed up.” “He should retire.” “He’s always been overrated.”

Then he led the comeback and won his 5th Super Bowl ring. Let’s hope Tha Carter 5 is Wayne’s crowning comeback/championship moment.

And to all the haters who don’t appreciate the greatness that is Lil Wayne:

Fuck you.

We don’t care.