The Origin Of Lil Wayne & Kendrick Lamar’s “Mona Lisa” Is Wild

The Origin Of Lil Wayne & Kendrick Lamar’s “Mona Lisa” Is Wild

Photo: Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

Lil Wayne

broke the internet this week with the release of

Tha Carter V

, his 23-track opus that has been six years in the making.

The album offered fans a tantalizing look into the rapper’s personal life and creative evolution — but perhaps the crown jewel was a long-awaited Kendrick Lamar collab with a backstory that’s even stranger than the myth surrounding it.

“Mona Lisa” first came to light thanks to — wait for it — now-incarcerated pharmabro

Martin Shkreli

. For years, Shkreli claimed to own some extremely rare hip-hop albums, including

Tha Carter V

(the rumors were later substantiated by New York state officials when

he was sentenced

to seven years in prison for fraud).

According to



Tha Carter V

came into Shkreli’s possession after an almost serendipitous series of events. A third party bought Lil Wayne’s old Bugatti Veyron, who discovered “CDs and assorted personal belongings of Wayne in the car.” The story goes that Wayne didn’t want his stuff back, so Shkreli eventually wound up buying the CDs.

In a December 2016 interview with

DJ Akademiks

, Shkreli said that one of the purchases turned out to be what he thought to be a “two-CD, authentic,

Carter V

final product mixed down.” Shkreli said that he believed the sale was legal, although it eventually sparked an

ongoing legal battle with Lil Wayne


Over the last two years, Shkreli shared snippets of various tracks from Tha Carter V. One of the tracks that Shkreli leaked, which quickly became legendary among fans, was “Mona Lisa.”

On the audio from the leak, Shkreli can be heard calling it

“the best song on the damn thing.”

The song itself is an elaborate, theatrical display of both Wayne and Lamar’s talent, as they

weave a dense, detailed story

of a conniving woman who sets them up to be robbed blind by her real boyfriend. The two rappers compliment each other throughout with interweaving verses and tight, poetic lyrics. Lamar opens with a whisper of an introduction: “I got a story to tell, you know that I cherish these / Hope it ain’t too many feelings involved.” Later, in a tense, deliberate chorus, Wayne sing-songs the lyrics, “Mona Lisa, long hair, don’t care / She handle the business and don’t ever tell.”

The track was almost certainly recorded years ago, since

Tha Carter V

was announced in 2012 and was supposed to drop in 2014. In a series of now-deleted tweets just says before it’s scheduled release date, Wayne explained that the album was being withheld due to a dispute with his label: “I am a prisoner and so is my creativity,” Wayne wrote, per

Rolling Stone

Wayne eventually sued his former label Cash Money, and just settled the legal dispute this year — allowing Tha Carter V and “Mona Lisa” to finally make their way to the rest of the world.

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