When it comes to Lil Wayne’s music, there’s more inventory than the grocery section of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. He’s featured on albums that date back to the late 90’s, and his mixtapes have been the standard in quality since 2005.

So if you’re a casual Lil Wayne fan looking to dive into a deeper appreciation of Lil Wayne music, here are the first three mixtapes you should listen to:

1. Da Drought 3 – 2007    Da Drought 3 was the two-disc masterpiece that propelled Lil Wayne to a position of dominance in the rap and hip-hop genre. He was already a force to be reckoned with after Dedication 2 and Tha Carter 2, however, Da Drought 3 was the mixtape that gave every Lil Wayne fan limitless ammunition in the form of insane quotes to back up his claim of being the Best Rapper Alive.

It was during this period of greatness that Lil Wayne took every popular song that was out and made people forget, and possibly not even care, who the original artist was that made the song. Tracks such as “The Sky is the Limit” and “Back on My Grizzy” completely captured their beats and made songs that were far better and more impactful than their originals.

The incredibly overused ‘so and so killed that song’ was originally made applicable when used to describe Lil Wayne’s mixtape version of songs.

There were songs such as “Walk it Out,” “Boom,” and “King Kong,” that followed very similarly the flow and cadence of the original track. However, songs like “Live from the 504” and “Ride 4 My Niggas” (Sky is the Limit) in which Lil Wayne basically made completely new songs.

Start with disc one of Da Drought 3 and listen through every track, and you quickly and easily see the greatness of Lil Wayne and what truly makes Weezy a truly unique force within Hip-Hop.

2. No Ceilings – 2009

No Ceilings is argued by man to be Lil Wayne’s best mixtape. (Argued mainly against the aforementioned Da Drought 3) While Da Drought 3 introduced a huge part of the Hip-Hop community to the creative metaphor-driven rapping that was its future, No Ceilings features the same creativity with a new level of polish and ferocity.

Part one of the now sequeled series was a 21 track assault on any other rapper at the time who fancied themselves a better rapper than Weezy. With songs like “Ice Cream” being blared constantly out of car stereos for the next year, and others such as “Watch My Shoes” and Gucci Mane’s “Wasted,” Lil Wayne was able to take songs that were already immensely popular and had already run their course of hotness, and then completely revitalize them to give the tracks seemingly second lives.

Weezy also showed he wasn’t afraid to cover beats from the games biggest stars, doing his own versions of Jay Z’s “DOA” (Death of Autotune) and even Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface.”

If you’re looking to get a taste of the never before seen greatness that was Lil Wayne from the years 2007-2010, Da Drought 3 and No Ceilings are a ribeye steak and some crab legs.

3. Dedication 2 – 2006

Dedication 2 is one of Weezy’s older mixtapes, but still one of his best to date. It’s a different style of Weezy than many of today’s fans may be used to. There’s no autotune, not much singing, just Weezy going hard and on fire. He holds nothing back and spits his raw southern ferocity onto some of his greatest classics, inlcuding Georgia Bush/Ambitionz az a Rida, and Get ‘Em (Dedication 2).

These mixtapes are full of metaphors and similes for days, as well as clever sports, pop-culture, and even political references. You’ll hear a few well pointed disses, such as two to Gillie da Kid who claimed to have ghost-written much of Lil Wayne’s Carter I and prior material.

Enjoy these mixtapes as you begin your Lil Wayne education, and watch his evolution from these tapes into the classic that was Tha Carter III, and his later more introspective works like the Free Weezy Album (FWA.)

Check out some of the tracks from these mixtapes included on our Lil Wayne workout playlist here.