Lil Wayne and Zayn Malik are in the headlines because Zayn is being accused of stealing Lil Wayne’s album cover idea for his Tha Carter III album. However, instead of Zayn Malik being a first-time Lil Wayne imitator, could it be that Zayn Malik is simply making one of many nods to Cash Money Records and other Lil Wayne affiliates… like Rae Sremmurd?
Zayn Malik has a long history of referencing rap in interviews, and, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, he had a cache of raps that he waited to leak until after he quit One Direction.
Many fans may also forget that around March 1, 2015 (a few weeks before he quit One Direction), Zayn Malik was telling fans that he wanted to do a side-gig outside of One Direction involving rap, according to MTV.
Interestingly, although Zayn Malik has many references to rappers and rap, it is difficult to find any references online that include both Zayn Malik and Lil Wayne before February 2016.
Despite this, when Zayn Malik quit One Direction, Lil Wayne’s label, Cash Money Records, was cited as an instigator in Zayn’s quitting. In particular, Drake was referenced as a reason that Zayn Malik decided to go solo — and Drake is often considered a protege of Lil Wayne.
Hollywood Life reported on March 28, 2015 that insiders close to Zayn Malik stated the following about inspiration for quitting One Direction and becoming a rapper.
“Zayn has been listening to a lot of Drake — he’s always been a big fan. He’s hoping that some of the magic will rub off on him, and he’ll be able to put together an album to rival his inspiration in the R&B charts.”
While Zayn Malik paying homage to Lil Wayne with his Mind of Mine cover art may be debatable, Zayn Malik has made a direct acknowledgement of Rae Sremmurd in the recent past… and Rae is currently the other half of Lil Wayne’s Dedication Tour.
Perhaps more direct than record cover art, one of the first raps Zayn Malik covered outside of his One Direction career was Rae Sremmurd’s “No Type,” according to Billboard.
After Zayn Malik revealed his cover art on his television solo debut performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, the headlines began accusing him of stealing ideas from Lil Wayne.
In the end, it is clear that this action by Zayn Malik could be viewed as a secret nod of thanks from Zayn to honor Cash Money Records artists for their direct or indirect contributions to his solo career — in addition to being a compliment to Lil Wayne in general.
About the cover art, the Mirror states on February 18 that Zayn Malik’s new album “shows Zayn, 23, as a child with tattooed arms and is very similar to the concept the rapper used for Tha Carter III and Tha Carter IV, released in 2008 and 2011 respectively.”
Adding to this, US Magazine says insiders close to Zayn Malik stated the following about his intentions to honor Lil Wayne.
“Zayn’s album cover art was done as an homage to Lil Wayne and Notorious B.I.G., who[m] Zayn is a big fan of.”
Of course, Lil Wayne is always getting compliments from other celebrity musicians — and Zayn Malik would hardly be the first. On the fan-created website, Lil Wayne HQ, there are over 100 celebrity rappers and musicians besides Zayn Malik that have given Lil Wayne their highest forms of praise.
Along with these quotes, two of the most popular rappers in 2016, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, have both given Lil Wayne compliments in the recent past.
In 2013, Rap-Up quoted Kanye West calling Lil Wayne “the number one rapper in the world.”
In 2012, Kendrick Lamar said the following about Lil Wayne to Hip Hop DX.
“Just remembering the staple [Lil Wayne] put on the game back then all the way to now, to have that longevity years beyond it. For him to actually acknowledge what I’m doing right now and seeing it as a path, the same way the longevity he created, it’s a great feeling to share that same stage and a moment with him.”