[Editor’s Note: With the new year around the corner, XXLmag.com looks back at some of our greatest stories and video features of 2008.]

XXLMag.com: I got a chance to come down to Calliope projects and Magnolia when y'all were first coming out, when y'all flew down a bunch of journalists in ‘98 or ’99. No Limit was poppin’ around that time. Y'all seemed like a smaller crew, but they seemed like an army. For y'all to do what you did, as far as becoming successful, what was the plan?

Lil Wayne: The plan? We real niggas. No plan, at all. No strategy, continue to do what we do. We never sat down and said, “You gonna do this, you gonna do that, you need to watch this.” Naw, we just did what we did and it worked.

XXL: Was there a mutual respect between Cash Money and No Limit?

Wayne: I think the fact that No Limit was so wack helped us, literally. ‘Cuz they was wack and they was big and they represented New Orleans. So that automatically makes someone else from New Orleans get looked at and we was right up next. They started comparing, which was the best thing that could have happened for us. Once they started comparing they saw that there was no comparison. We have skills we could really rap, we could really do what we doing. [Master P] had a trillion rappers that probably one of them could rap and that was Mystical…and Solider Slim, they didn’t get him ‘til after. So I thank them for being so garbage.

XXL: Did y'all ever have to do shows on the same bill with them?

Wayne: Yeah, but you know like, P was surrounded by artists. He had 30, 40 artists. We got 30, 40 niggas with us. We just 4, 5 deep with artists, me, Juvie, B.G., Turk, Fresh and Baby. That’s the only artists, you know? As for all these other niggas with grills and tattoos in they face, they ready to knock your motherfuckin’ head off. P ain’t stupid. Like I said, he was surrounded by artists, he paid those people to be around him to rap and record and make music. Not to be a gang or go down with him when it go down. A lot of people got to look at it like that, too. Yeah, they seemed like an army, an army full of artists. Cash Money is a [real] army, we got solders.

XXL: When you were rocking with Mannie Fresh, was it getting to a point where it boxed you in creatively? You did so many joints on that same kind of rhythm…

Wayne: Exactly…I’ma say, now, being the artist that I am now and knowing how creative I can be and how far you can go with your mind and your thoughts with this shit, I’ll say yeah, I was shoved in. Then I’d probably say no, ‘cuz he’s the best, but now that I’m older and see where my style has went I couldn’t possibly have got to this, doing all those songs like that. ‘Cuz to sell those songs the right way you have to do it and say it exactly.

XXL: If you were trying to spit now like you were back then…

Wayne: Nah, it would sound like the Hot Boys featuring some nigga spittin’.

XXL: What was it like when you got that first beat from someone other than Fresh? You got the shackles off and you were excited?

Wayne: It wasn’t never that serious. Getting all excited ‘cuz I got a beat from somebody. That’s hoe shit.

XXL: You still haven’t been on a Dr. Dre joint or is that something that you would want to do?

Wayne: Um, I did. I been on a Dr. Dre joint, I wrote on [the] Detox album. I been on a collabo…um, I don’t really be trippin’ on that shit. If anything, any motherfucka can get in there and make the beat that they want. That don’t really be important to me. The music, just as long as it’s good. I got a lot of my producers; I like to mess with the dudes I came in with.

XXL: Fans are always, “Yo, Wayne gotta be on this or Nas gotta be on a Premier track, why hasn’t Jay-Z rolled with Ski…”

Wayne: What the fans need to know is that niggas got prices. A lot of the songs you want a nigga on, those songs don’t meet that standard. Don’t meet that price. There’s a lot of songs I’ve recorded, hot songs out right now, that I ain’t on, ‘cuz niggas can’t do that price. We have mouths to feed, for real. A lot of times people get that fucked up, ‘cuz we not doing what they doing everyday. We got mouths to feed.

XXL: Are you speaking on them wanting a certain amount or you wanting a certain amount?

Wayne: Oh it’s never a them wanting a certain amount, ‘cuz it ain’t that serious, we don’t want you that bad on our song. It’s me. My amount. You got to meet that standard and I don’t be trying to lower it, ‘cuz one day it’s not gonna be able to be this high. So, I’ll lower it that day.

XXL: You’ve been documented as saying that you would charge your sister [$75,000 for a verse], is that a true statement?

Wayne: Hell yeah. The first rule in business is there is no emotion, there is no love. It’s business.

XXL: How hard is it now to keep that same credo?

Wayne: It’s not hard at all. It’s easier. It’s easier to tell you no if you about to come at me with that. Check Billboard, I’m number one right now. Respect me right now, wait for later. You want me on a song that bad respect that. I’m that nigga. You want that nigga on your song, pay for it like it’s that nigga. You go in the store and it’s that jacket that you want, leather, mink or whatever, it’s that real shit, though. Pay for it, get it.

XXL: When you go to Gucci you can’t talk them down…

Exactly. You know I ain’t about to fuck over your song. A lot of times niggas don’t be having they paper work right, though. I ain’t talking about money. Just contracts, to where they don’t even have a say so in that type of shit. Me and the artists might be cool and they’ll ask me to do a song, ‘cuz I’ma do it off top. But once they call Universal and they hit them with that price, you’ll hear that same song out with another motherfucka on it like I always do.

So there’s even more joints that you could be on?

[Eyebrows raised to express shock in the question, answers in a high pitched tone while sippin’ that drank] Mmm hmmm. [Everyone laughs] That’s the new thing right now. “Take him off, fuck it.” I done heard that on like three songs now. I listen to the radio like, “I’m on this one, cut that up.” I don’t come on that bitch, I be like dang…call Tez [Wayne’s manager] up and be like, “Nah, they did get the work right.”

Every MC that’s great, outside of sales, has had to have blood on their hands from dealing with other MCs. If you look at our generation, you look at Eminem, Jay-Z and Nas, they have all had these epic battles. Do you feel like you’re missing that from your arsenal?

I’m the new-age artist. I don’t beef. I do the song, smile, do a few dance moves, put on nice clothes, wear cologne. I don’t want to beef with you. I don’t want my music to have to go towards how I feel about you or how I feel about your music. That’s not music. Music is supposed to make the listener feel a certain way. That’s what I’m dedicated to, making your heart, making your mind, feel a certain way when you hear me. And not making a some person feel a certain way when they hear me.

So there wasn’t any strategy in you not going back at 50 Cent when he made those comments about you?

My God didn’t send me here for that, my Momma ain’t birth me for that.

What are you reading right now to help you…

I don’t read a damn thing. That’s why I don’t write music. I’m too cool to be reading and writing…I’m a very intelligent nigga. I can read like a motherfucka. I don’t want motherfuckas to think I’m illiterate.

You’re in college so…

I don’t read, other than that shit.

But we talking about books for leisure.

Nah, I’ve done that like once or twice. It’s just not my thing. I’m not into made-up stories.

You know how people get together and they like, “Yo, you read…”

I’m not even in that conversation circle. That would be crazy, I can’t answer nothing so why would I sit there and talk? I ain’t read no books. I sit and watch ESPN all day. I can tell you what happened in sports. I do what floats my boat. If you trying to figure out where I get this talk, that’s me. I’m born with that. I don’t have no brothers, no sisters. My brother is 6-years-old. My dad ain’t never had one of those. And the one I called pops, he passed. My momma, she do her cooking thing. I’m an intelligent nigga,. I just refuse to be dumb.

Is it because you were surrounded by…

No, ‘cuz my father made me this way. My father is God. I thank him everyday and night. I think I’m the perfect example of…of…pure. Meaning not planned, not scheduled, not practiced. You know how white people practice to be smart, intelligent and all that shit? You know as black people we like a certain child, a certain way, and all that will have you believing that you have to do that. Just like a motherfucka might think you have to train to be a great football player, and some nigga just walk on the team and catch 100 passes. Now we know this nigga forever, know what I mean? Shit like that so, I am the definition of pure. I have no reasons why I am the way I am. -Datwon Thomas