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“California trio blink-182 is the most popular band to emerge from the post-Green Day mainstream explosion of pop-punk. At a time when competition with teen pop and nu-metal were not unheard of, blink-182 released a steady stream of hits, bolstered by humorous, tongue-in-cheek music videos that were popular in the waning days of MTV’s musical programming. The band formed in the suburbs of San Diego, California around guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge, bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus, and drummer Scott Raynor. Originally known as simply Blink, the band debuted in 1993 with a self-released EP, Fly Swatter. After releasing the album Buddha in 1994, the trio signed to Grilled Cheese/Cargo and released Cheshire Cat the following year. The threat of a lawsuit from a similarly named Irish band forced them to change their name to blink-182, but that did not slow them down: the group earned a higher profile by touring the world with Pennywise and NOFX on the 1996-1997 Warped Tour, in addition to appearing on innumerable skate/surf/snowboarding videos.
The third blink-182 LP, Dude Ranch, was jointly released in 1997 by Cargo and MCA. Dude Ranch expanded the group’s audience and went platinum by the end of 1998, due in part to the popularity of the infectious teen anthem “Dammit (Growing Up).” The group also officially signed with MCA, which released the band’s fourth album, Enema of the State, in the summer of 1999. The album, produced by Jerry Finn (Green Day, Rancid), also welcomed a new member into the trio’s ranks; Travis Barker, formerly with the Aquabats, settled in on drums after Raynor left midway through a 1998 U.S. tour. Enema was greeted with almost immediate success, and helped the band achieve the mainstream status of toilet-humored pop-punk kings that Dude Ranch had only hinted at. Driven by the commercially successful singles “What’s My Age Again?,” “All the Small Things,” and “Adam’s Song,” music videos for the three songs (whose clips included themes of streaking and boy band spoofs) were MTV smashes as well.
After selling over four million copies of Enema of the State, the trio played on with the limited-edition release The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back) in fall 2000. The album featured their radio hits in a live setting, intertwined with their quirky sense of humor as well as the new song “Man Overboard.” Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, issued in spring 2001, saw the band return to its SoCal punk roots and became their first number one album in the U.S. Maturity, of a sort, came with 2003’s self-titled album, released on Geffen. Not only did the album sport a song (“All of This”) that featured Robert Smith of the Cure, but “I Miss You” also topped the modern rock chart in 2005. In February 2005, however, popular as ever and seemingly indestructible, blink-182 unexpectedly announced they would be going on an “indefinite hiatus,” supposedly to spend more time with their growing families. Asking fans for help in selecting tracks, the group issued Greatest Hits that November.
The bandmembers also continued on with other projects. Barker — who had previously released an album with DeLonge as Boxcar Racer — continued playing with the Transplants and running his clothing company, Famous Stars and Straps. His family was also spotlighted in the MTV reality show Meet the Barkers. Hoppus carried on with his Atticus fashion venture and began producing — starting with Motion City Soundtrack‘s Commit This to Memory — and hosting his own podcasts. He further began work with Barker in a new band, Plus 44. DeLonge also continued work with his lifestyle clothing company, Macbeth, and formally announced his new project, Angels and Airwaves, that fall.
While still on hiatus in 2008, the group endured a handful of personal setbacks including the death of longtime producer Jerry Finn, who suffered a brain hemorrhage and subsequent heart attack, eventually going off life support and passing away that August. Then in September, both Barker and frequent collaborator DJ AM were seriously injured in a plane crash in which both pilots and two of Barker‘s associates died. It ultimately took 11 months for Barker to fully recover from his injuries and led to the drummer suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The crash prompted Hoppus and DeLonge to reconnect with the drummer in support of his recovery, and in 2009 blink-182 announced that they were reuniting, hitting the road with Weezer for their reunion tour. They went into the studio later that year and began laying down the groundwork for a new album, which would be plagued by delays until 2011, when they were eventually able to release their sixth studio album, Neighborhoods.
Despite growing evidence of friction within the band, blink-182 toured throughout much of the rest of 2011, joining My Chemical Romance, Rancid, and Against Me! on the tenth annual Honda Civic Tour. A 20th anniversary tour found the group members appearing together again in 2012. Later that year, blink-182 parted with Interscope, a transition they marked with the release of their self-produced Dog Eating Dogs EP.
Following a string of sold-out dates in Los Angeles in 2013, as well as headlining appearances at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2014, blink-182 began discussions concerning a follow-up to Neighborhoods. However, in January 2015, Hoppus and Barker were quoted in Rolling Stone saying that DeLonge had left the band and announcing the possibility that Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba would fill in for the guitarist at future shows. DeLonge then quickly responded via Facebook that he had not quit blink-182, and that any decision for the band to move forward was made without him. In the end, Skiba officially joined blink-182 and the band entered the studio at the end of the year to begin recording new songs. The first taste from the new trio was “Bored to Death,” which was released in April 2016. Their seventh LP, California, was released that summer and debuted at number one, just before they embarked on a tour featuring All Time Low, A Day to Remember, and All-American Rejects. Also in 2016, blink-182 released the career-spanning vinyl anthology Box Set, which featured all six of the band’s studio albums prior to California.” – John Bush, AllMusic
“Lil Wayne began his career as a near-novelty, a preteen delivering hardcore Southern hip-hop. Through years of maturation and prolific output, during which the delivery of his humorous and wordplay-heavy rhymes gradually changed from ringing and pugnacious to stoned and rasped, he developed into a million-selling artist with a massive body of work, one so inventive and cunning that it makes his claim of being the “best rapper alive” worth considering. Wayne debuted at the age of 12, received his first platinum certification only five years later as a member of the Hot Boys, and immediately thereafter became a formidable solo artist with Tha Block Is Hot (1999), his first of nine Top Ten pop albums. During a period of constant output entailing not just successful albums but also reputation-building mixtapes and featured appearances on pop hits like Destiny’s Child‘s “Soldier” (2004), he reached mainstream superstar status with Tha Carter III (2008). A triple-platinum blockbuster, it spawned the number one pop hit “Lollipop” and the number six follow-up “A Milli,” and netted three Grammy awards, including Best Rap Album. Throughout the 2010s, despite numerous legal and creative battles, Wayne continued to be a regular presence on the upper reaches of the charts with albums such as Tha Carter IV (2011) and I Am Not a Human Being II (2013), additional smash singles as a headliner, and a continually lengthening list of collaborative hits, including the multi-platinum “Sucker for Pain” (for the Suicide Squad soundtrack in 2016) and “I’m the One” (headlined by DJ Khaled in 2017).
Born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. and raised in the infamous New Orleans neighborhood of Hollygrove, Lil Wayne was a straight-A student but never felt his true intelligence was expressed through any kind of report card. He found music was the best way to express himself, and after taking the name Gangsta D he began writing rhymes. Combining a strong work ethic with aggressive self-promotion, the 11-year-old convinced the Cash Money label to take him on, even if it was just for odd jobs around the office. A year later, in-house producer Mannie Fresh partnered him with the 14-year-old B.G. and dubbed the duo the B.G.’z. Although only B.G.‘s name appeared on the cover, the 1995 album True Story has since been accepted as the B.G.’z debut album both by fans and the Cash Money label. The 1997 album Chopper City was supposed to be the follow-up, but when Wayne accidentally shot himself in the chest with a 9mm pistol, it became a solo B.G. release.
That same year, he officially took the moniker Lil Wayne, dropping the “D” from his first name in order to separate himself from an absent father. He joined B.G., Juvenile, and Young Turk for another Fresh project, the teen hardcore rap group the Hot Boys, who released their debut album, Get It How U Live!, in 1997. Two years later, Cash Money signed a distribution deal with the major-label Universal. Mainstream distribution helped that year’s Hot Boys album Guerrilla Warfare to reach the number one spot on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In 1998, Lil Wayne appeared on Juvenile‘s hit single “Back That Thing Up,” or “Back That Azz Up” as it appeared on Juvie‘s album 400 Degreez. Wayne launched his solo career a year later with the album Tha Block Is Hot, featuring the hit single title track. It went double platinum but the rapper was still unknown to Middle America, since his hardcore rhymes and the rough Cash Money sound had not yet crossed over. His second album, Lights Out (2000), failed to match the success of its predecessor but it did go gold, and with an appearance on the Big Tymers‘ hit single “#1 Stunna,” his audience was certainly growing. While Fresh was primarily responsible for launching his career, Wayne was now much closer to Fresh‘s fellow Big Tymer and Cash Money CEO Birdman. When Juvenile left the label, Wayne — or “Birdman Jr.” as he was calling himself — showed his allegiance to his CEO by releasing an album with a title much hotter than Juvie‘s breakthrough effort. 500 Degreez landed in 2002 and while it went gold, rumors began flying about Cash Money’s financial troubles and possible demise. The rest of the Hot Boys had defected and Wayne‘s planned 2003 album was scrapped, coming out instead as an underground mixtape called Da Drought.
Wayne became enamored with the mixtape world after Da Drought drew so much attention from the hip-hop press. He used these underground releases to drum up anticipation for his next official album, the breakthrough effort Tha Carter. Released in 2004, the album seemed familiar on one hand with Mannie Fresh‘s production, but the Wayne on the cover was a dreadlocked surprise, and the rhymes he laid on the tracks showed significant growth. His marketing skills had become sharper, too, and it was no mistake that the album’s hit single, “Go DJ,” mentioned hip-hop’s greatest tastemakers right in the title. It reached number five on the singles chart, and with a guest shot on Destiny’s Child‘s number three single “Soldier,” Wayne had officially crossed over. On the flipside, his street cred was supported by a slew of mixtapes released in 2005, including the popular titles Dedication with DJ Drama and Tha Suffix with DJ Khaled. Cash Money’s future was no longer in doubt and traditional music business rules no longer seemed to apply, as tracks were leaked onto the Internet and various DJs’ mixtapes. “Get Something” was another bold move, as a Universal-funded video was made without the track ever seeing official release.
With his alternative marketing scheme working in overdrive, the 2005 landing of Tha Carter II was a major event, selling over a quarter-million copies the week of its release. “Fireman” and “Shooter” with Robin Thicke were released as singles, while the album — which for the first time featured no Mannie Fresh productions — went platinum. It also introduced his Young Money posse, with appearances from Curren$y and Nicki Minaj, and initially came with a bonus disc featuring Wayne‘s greatest-hits screwed and chopped by Swishahouse DJ Michael “5000” Watts. A year later he collaborated with Birdman for the Like Father, Like Son album, featuring the hit single “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy.” His mixtapes were still flooding the underground, including the stunning Dedication 2, which came with an iconic image of the rapper on the cover plus the much talked-about track “Georgia…Bush,” a venomous response to President George W. Bush‘s handling of the Katrina disaster. With no official follow-up to Tha Carter II in sight, numerous collaborative tracks kept the rapper in the mainstream with “Gimme That” by Chris Brown, “Make It Rain” by Fat Joe, and “Duffle Bag Boy” by Playaz Circle becoming three of the biggest hits.
Tha Carter III was promised for 2007 but didn’t arrive until a year later, setting off Wayne‘s reputation for delayed releases. Part of the problem was the unauthorized leaks of the album’s tracks, something combatted by the official downloadable EP The Leak, released that same year. Preceded by the number one hit “Lollipop,” Tha Carter III arrived in May 2008, selling more than a million copies in its first week of release. An appearance on Saturday Night Live and a handful of Grammy Awards — including Best Rap Album — spoke to Wayne‘s mainstream acceptance. He also performed at that year’s Country Music Awards with Kid Rock, but rather than rap, he played guitar. The guitar playing was part of Wayne‘s new involvement with rock music, including his help in signing Kevin Rudolf to Cash Money plus an appearance on Rudolf‘s massive hit “Let It Rock.” His planned rock album was previewed with the 2009 single “Prom Queen,” but when the album failed to meet its promised April release, the music press began to portray the rapper as the king of missed street dates. Unconcerned, Wayne forged ahead with his Young Money crew, releasing the underground mixtape Young Money Is the Army, Better Yet the Navy, the aboveground single “Every Girl,” plus the official album We Are Young Money that same year. His rock album, Rebirth, finally appeared in early 2010, and coincided with Wayne being sentenced to a nine-month prison term for criminal possession of a weapon. The rapper may have been behind bars on Riker’s Island, but that didn’t stop his ten-song EP, I Am Not a Human Being, from seeing the light of day in September 2010. Tha Carter IV was finally released in 2011 along with its lead-off single “6 Foot 7 Foot.” The album reached the top spot on the Billboard 200.
In 2013, unfazed by criticism that a controversial verse he contributed to Future‘s “Karate Chop” — he made a reference to Emmett Till, a black teenager gruesomely murdered in 1955 by white men — was in poor taste, Wayne released a second volume of I Am Not a Human Being. The album debuted at number two and featured the singles “No Worries” and “Love Me.” A sequence of singles intended for the repeatedly delayed Tha Carter V ensued, with “Believe Me,” featuring Drake, an addition to Wayne‘s stockpile of certified platinum hits. Another track — “Nothing But Trouble” featuring Charlie Puth — was released in 2015 as a contribution to the soundtrack for 808: The Movie. That same year — to make up for fan disappointment over Tha Carter V’s delays — Wayne self-released Sorry 4 the Wait 2.
By 2016, Wayne had become embroiled in a legal battle with Birdman and Cash Money Records, further complicating the fate of Tha Carter V. These continued delays prompted the release of Free Weezy Album, yet another mixtape to tide over his fans. By the end of the year, he published a memoir about his time spent at Riker’s Island (Gone ‘Til November) and scored another hit with “Sucker for Pain,” a collaboration for the chart-topping Suicide Squad soundtrack. The all-star track topped the Billboard rap chart and rose to number three on the R&B/hip-hop chart. DJ Khaled‘s “I’m the One” became one of Wayne‘s biggest collaborations the following year, topping the pop chart on its way to quintuple-platinum status. Primarily collaborative work continued well into 2018, including a contribution to the Future-driven soundtrack for Superfly.” – Andy Kellman, AllMusic
“Welsh pop-punks Neck Deep formed in 2012 as the D.I.Y. project of singer Ben Barlow and guitarist Lloyd Roberts. After testing the water with a couple of self-released online tracks, they issued their first EP, Rain in July, in late 2012. Part of the wave of pop-punk revival acts, Neck Deep cited influences like Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, and Sum 41, offering an updated version of the genre’s classic sound. Wanting to expand their capabilities, Barlow and Roberts enlisted friends from the local scene to complete their lineup. Matt West joined on guitar, Fil Thorpe-Evans became their bassist, and Dani Washington joined as drummer. Their second EP, 2013’s A History of Bad Decisions, garnered enough attention to bring them to the U.S. for their first international shows, where they caught the attention of several major labels. Neck Deep signed with Hopeless Records in August 2013 and, just a few months later in January 2014, issued their debut, Wishful Thinking. The album was well-received and they spent much of 2014 touring the U.K. and the U.S. supporting bands like We Are the In Crowd and Knuckle Puck, and joining the Vans Warped Tour for a stint. Their sophomore LP, Life’s Not Out to Get You, arrived in August 2015. The record garnered widespread acclaim, from both fans and critics alike, with particular praise from Daniel P. Carter of the BBC Radio One Rock Show. After promoting the record on a worldwide tour and a lineup change (Roberts was replaced by Climates and Blood Youth guitarist Sam Bowden) Neck Deep returned with their third studio effort, The Peace and the Panic, in the summer of 2017.” – Timothy Monger, AllMusic