FEATURE: Birdman, The Stunna[Definitive Dozen]

[Editor's note: For our 12th-anniversary celebration, XXL speaks with 12 artists who’ve come up, and blown up, with the magazine. 50 Cent, Baby, Shyne, Dame Dash, Crooked I and more reflect on how we’ve affected their careers—and how they’ve affected ours.]

Photography Jonathan Mannion

Photography Jonathan Mannion

In September 2007, Bryan “Baby” Williams (also known as Birdman) appeared on our 10th anniversary cover with Lil Wayne, tatted up and shirtless—his fourth XXL cover. We’ve been chronicling his story ever since Cash Money Records, which he founded in 1991 with his brother Ronald “Slim” Williams, went from a local New Orleans indie label to a national sensation. In the span of 12 years, Baby played both the CEO and the rapper role, releasing eight albums, including four as half of Big Tymers, and the 2006 Weezy collabo Like Father, Like Son. Still grooming Cash Money into the next generation, he reflects on his covers and his history with XXL.

Your first cover was in April 1999, with Lil Wayne, Mannie Fresh, Juvenile and Young Turk. What do you remember about that cover and the shoot?

Yeah, we shot that one in New Orleans. My best friend Brian did that one. Shit, this was, like, 10 years ago, right? Young, excited… I was probably about 26. We were just doing music, not really knowing what we was really doing, taking pictures. We just knew that we were working.

In the accompanying story, a White woman came up to Juve and asked for his autograph. Did you notice that your music was expanding outside of the hood?

Really, it had gotten too big—we couldn’t even go to malls without it being a stampede. We wasn’t staying in the projects, but we were in the projects every day. New Orleans was small, so, to us, we was just some ordinary niggas. To see these people react to the music, we realized that this shit really done got out of control, and we blew up.

Your first solo cover was in 2000. How did you feel?

At the time, we just was working, so, to us, it was just another picture. But I was very excited and happy like a muthafucka to see us—we was brand-new—to start seeing us all over the world like that. I was the older one out of everybody, and I was able to do more shit that they couldn’t, go places where they couldn’t. But I started to be on some family shit, so if one of us had it, all of us was good. I remember the cover, but we didn’t have a story behind it, so I was kind of pissed about that.

What do you mean? There is an article with it.

I didn’t get a cover story, though. I was still glad that I got the [cover], but I called [my publicist], talking about, “Why the fuck I ain’t have no conversation in my shit?” But I was happy with it, though. Love. [Editor’s note: Actually, Baby’s right. Although he graced our September 2000 cover, the feature was a pictorial celebrating our first three years.Our bad. We did have a short Truth column with Baby, though.]

The most recent cover featured a recreation of you and Wayne in front of a run-down house in New Orleans, with all the tats and chains—

I love that one. I think that was the best one. At the time, we was getting all of these fuckin’ tattoos.I wanted to do something different from anything that y’all ever had done, and I think, at that time, I wanted to just show our tats—Let’s go skin, with just our jewelry on.

Did you get any backlash?

It was controversial to have us on the cover like that, but a lot of muthafuckas loved it. I liked working with [the photographer]. I think Jonathan [Mannion] took that. But, also, anytime I’m working with my son, it’s like I’m in heaven. Really, you’re one of the ones who started it with putting us on the covers, so our relationship with XXL has always been 100. XXL always came through some kind of way.

To read more of the Definitive Dozen package, make sure to pick up XXL‘s September issue on newsstands now.

  • tronthadon

    “Anytime im workin wit my son im in heaven”….huh where they do that at..nigga you gay

  • Beave

    Okay, yeah I really think these niggas are gay. Kanye west too.

  • Beave

    Any nigga who you tubes him sitting around with all louie vuitton and just brags about it in a lil queer robe HAS to be gay. Street niggas that buying that music really don’t care about all your luxurious luggage just to carry around all your shit.

  • Kayda N Reem

    CHECK OUT YADADI MUSIC GROUP OR KAYDA LUCHIANO ON MY SPACE! NEXT MAN TO BLOW UP SO DON’T SLEEP ON IT!!

  • JAY STONE

    Birdman is the best rapper in the world.
    This nigga has one of the best line in hiphop.
    Birdman > nas.
    ‘i m hot like sun/my chains shine like star’
    ‘I dont fuk with bald women/dey will make my son bald’
    Aint these line hot?

    • CrunchyBlack187

      Those are some impressive lines, makes Illmatic look like garbage.

      • Hanch

        Please tell me your being Sarcastic or Joking? Please

    • Rdub07

      lol classic shit for real, birdman= best rapper ever!!!!

    • know-how

      that is some of the funniest shit i have ever heard, that cannot be for real, it can’t….

  • SOUTHSIDE A-TOWN

    Birman always (strapped, lol?) had my respect for the shit he’s done in this music biz, similar to Irv Gotti. just a lot richer. i think i read somewhere that these niggaz (Cash Money) get like 85% of all profits. them Cash Money niggaz is str8 up HUSTLAZ. can’t knock that shit.

  • http://www.lilwaynehq.com LilWayneHQ

    Lol at the no story thing

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  • stuckfresh

    My nigga Stunna! The realest nigga in the game!!

  • http://xxlmag.com Bobby

    Birdman a real business man, but a garbage rapper.

  • L.a Vet

    why he never be on the forbes List… never top 1o at least…

    • Oz

      Birdman makes his money flippin drugs and shit..He’s too gangsta to be on Forbes list

  • k.ing

    Why do birdman got a drop by his mouth…. niggas is werid

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  • money mitch

    Actually the 85% profit was master p on priority records back in the day because he didn’t take an advance noway universal is givin’ them dudes at cash money 85% in todays market.

  • 305

    OZ YOUR AN DUMB ASS TEENAGER I BET. U REALLY BELIEVE THIS 40 YEAR OLD FAGG SELL DRUGS? DAMM WHEN I WAS YOUNG I WAS BRAIN WASHED TO BUT DAMM

    • Oz

      Damn I should have added ‘jk’ to let an idiot know it was a joke. My bad

      I’m also sorry to hear you were brainwashed I hope your old enough to start thinking for yourself. no jk.

  • REAL TALK

    faggots always talking about Baby getting money or he a real businessman but WHEN THE FUCK HE EVER MADE THE FORBES LIST??? Master P use to own that list.

    FUCK A BIRDMAN

  • FUkk BirdmaNN

    Diz Nigga Iz Gay
    He Iz An Old AZZ NIgga Who Kant Spiit For Shit
    ND Hiz Adoptide Kid Which Iz Lil Wayne
    IZ A Fukking Drug Addict

    WIZ KHALIFA BABY