THE ICON: Lil Wayne
THE LEGACY: He was born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., but he would make his mark as Lil Wayne, the multiplatinum, Grammy-winning rapper who — with his trademark dreadlocks and golden grills — rose from New Orleans’ rough Hollygrove neighborhood to become one of the city’s most prominent hip-hop artists. He has his critics, for his profane lyrics, his gangsta-glorifying lifestyle, his well-documented run-ins with the law. But his stratospheric pop-culture success — the result of a collision of talent, ambition and lots of hard work — is undeniably inspiring, to say nothing of the infectious edge of his music, which, we learned in 2008, has even found a home on the personal playlist of President Barack Obama. But you don’t have to listen to Lil Wayne to appreciate his impact on American music, his influence on a generation of rappers, or his continuation of the impact of New Orleans on American culture as a whole.
THE ARTIST: Jeremy Paten
THE INSPIRATION: “You don’t start nothing without visualizing yourself at the top. … Don’t start nothing you don’t think will be successful.” — Lil Wayne, in 2008