Lil Wayne's Young Money is a crew on par with G-Unit, Dipset, Maybach Music and Grand Hustle. Last year, Drake redefined R&B and hip-hop fusion while transforming into a platinum artist with Thank Me Later; Nicki Minaj almost single-handedly revived rapping as a vocation for the ladies and became a platinum sensation with Pink Friday. Which other squad can boast three platinum brands in 2011? To quote Jay-Z's memorable riposte to his many haters at the 2009 American Music Awards (which he later repeated on The Blueprint III's "Reminder"), "Men lie, women lie, numbers don't."
And yet, it seems wrong to rank Young Money among mainstream rap's biggest cliques, even if they've inarguably earned their spot. When we think of rap crews, our minds turn to hood soldiers, self-described thugs that spend as much time racking up criminal charges and beefing with other gangsters as they do logging guest spots on their sponsors' albums, patiently waiting for some shine of their own. Lil Wayne may fit the bill of a fearless, battle-scarred leader who's served prison time, but his progeny seem focused on reaching the pop charts, not ruling the mixtape circuit and carrying Weezy's weed stash. Their heroes are genre-blurring sensations like Kanye West, Chris Brown, Rihanna and, of course, Wayne himself.
This playlist collects all the familiar Y.M. hits from the late 2009 collection We Are Young Money, as well as a few unheralded singles that expand on the collective's urban pop approach. With new, swaggering tracks like " I'm on It," Tyga is carefully rebranding himself after the 2008 novelty hit "Coconut Juice." On "Love Affair" and "New Money," Lil Twist has modeled himself after Bow Wow and other underage emcees, searching for a breakout single that will force the world to notice him. Not every Young Money crew member will blow up like Drake and Nicki Minaj, but expect rap's hottest team to continue upending our notions of the hip-hop supergroup.