Forget about being born with a silver spoon in your mouth. The real tool that will set one up for a lifetime is being able to see a silver lining in any grim situation and chase after it with gusto. Such has been the element of success for super producer, Mannie Fresh. As part of Cash Money, he helped usher in the sound of the dirty south to the mainstream and in the process sold over 23 million records.
After falling out with Cash Money over financial issues, the New Orleans beatsmith is now grinding on his own with Chubby Boy Records, producing for hip-hop’s who’s who and developing his own acts, The Show and Sole Fresh. Throughout the past few years not even Hurricane Katrina or the violent death of his sister could hold Mannie back from chasing every silver lining through the dark clouds.
XXLMag.com spoke with Mr. Fresh about the “messy” Hip-Hop Weekly cover story on Cash Money, supporting producer Bangladesh’s recent blasting of his former label, and an update on recently released N.O. rapper Mystikal.
XXLMag.com: Hip-Hop Weekly recently ran a cover story with you where they presented your interview as an expose about Cash Money. How do you feel about the way the story was presented on the cover?
Mannie Fresh: It was to sell magazines and Hip-Hop Weekly did that. If you read the story that’s the quote they took and made the headline. That was messy of them. I thought I was doing an interview on me not Cash Money. I’m tried of even talking about that. They asked me a question about what happened with Cash Money and that became the headline and cover of the magazine. I don’t get approval on how they do the magazine but it ain’t nothing to tell. The whole world knows what happened with me and Cash Money.
XXLMag.com: Have you heard any response from the Cash Money camp about the cover story?
Mannie Fresh: I haven’t heard nothing but I talk to them off and on. I won’t apologize for what I said. The article wasn’t mean to slam them.
XXLMag.com: Have you been paid back royalties for your time with them yet?
Mannie Fresh: We are still going through what we going through. We had a settlement and I can’t discuss the terms but they are still selling my music so we are back to that page again.
XXLMag.com: Bangladesh recently spoke out about not getting paid for his work on Tha Carter III. Are you surprised by that?
Mannie Fresh: Well, I wouldn’t want that for nobody. It’s a slimy business is all I can say. It’s not just him—they got four or five lawsuits from Lil Wayne’s last album. On my way leaving out I said everybody can’t be wrong but I don’t wish that for nobody. I been in that place before and I know why Bangladesh feels that way. His life depends on it so it’s like if you sold all these units then give me my money.
XXLMag.com: Do you ever look back and blame yourself for not realizing what was going on earlier and leaving sooner rather than later?
Mannie Fresh: Yeah, I won’t say it was all them. It was me too and not paying attention to how it goes. I wasn’t aware it was that bad. I was just so in love with music. Now, when something serious comes up and you think they got your money but they don’t—that’s an eye opener for you. It was a learning lesson more than anything. Homeboy’s business is never good. It’s like having a friend and thinking you can trust them to do something. You should entrust your money the right way. Money makes everybody evil when you think about it.
XXLMag.com: Do you have trust issues as a result of that experience?
Mannie Fresh: I don’t trust nobody and I mean that. I see how attorneys are and nobody is really on your side. It’s about money. The attorney is not chasing after your money; he’s chasing after his fee. So it’s like, truth be told, nobody cares about you in this business. It’s all about money at the end of the day and if you’re not a hot commodity then nobody is checking for you.
XXLMag.com: What are your thoughts on Cash Money being omitted from the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors this year?
Mannie Fresh: Well, Cash Money has been around and held it down but not long enough to me. So it’d be a curse if they did that because I would want to earn something and not get a quick fix. There’s been pioneers in the South before them.
XXLMag.com: There’s always talk here and there about a Hot Boyz reunion so what’s the current status of that?
Mannie Fresh: I don’t really know and can’t answer that one. If the check clears it’s good but so far it’s all been talk. What motivates anybody is writing a check. It’s a great idea. I feel like now veteran hip-hop dudes pack in clubs and give a good show and people miss that.
XXLMag.com: So you feel like there’s a lack of showmanship in hip-hop concerts these days?
Mannie Fresh: Yeah, I won’t say names but I been to shows with this young generation—the entertainment part is missing. You can’t just get onstage with 50,000 dudes; pass the mic all around and yelling. I can’t tell who raps on the song anymore.
XXLMag.com: Now you’re making the switch from being with a hot camp to being your own boss with Chubby Boy Records. What’s that transition been like for you?
Mannie Fresh: I’ve had some bad business lessons and learned some things. It’s not always about going platinum. So long as I know who is buying my records and I generate revenue that’s mine then it’s cool.
XXLMag.com: You’re working with a new group called Sole Fresh, right?
Mannie Fresh: They are some kids from Louisiana and they had a nice little following. They weren’t trying to be nothing but skinny jeans White boys and doing what they do, and that made me gravitate to them. I’m also working with The Show and he is on all the hip-hop sites and he has high ratings. I’m going hard with The Show and Sole Fresh.
XXLMag.com: Who have you been producing for lately?
Mannie Fresh: I’ve done the same people like Rick Ross and Mystikal but all I can say is there’s only six rappers left in the game.
XXLMag.com: Many people would argue that with the Internet there are many more rappers coming up in the game. Why do you feel like there are only six?
Mannie Fresh: I’m saying labels only want to mess with about six rappers now. There’s many independents but not with a budget where they can afford my services.
XXLMag.com: You said you were working with Mystikal, how is it being in the studio with him?
Mannie Fresh: He is a super talented dude. On top of that anybody gone for a while is gonna have a whole ton of songs. He is really that artist and had a bunch of songs. He knows his raps by heart and there’s no reading off a paper.
XXLMag.com: How would you say he’s holding up mentally after his time in prison?
Mannie Fresh: Well, from us vibing and talking he is cautious and very careful about things. He pays attention to his surroundings like crazy and that’s to be expected. He learned some lessons. He is with three dudes at the most now and he says that whole entourage thing is over for him.
XXLMag.com: What are your thoughts on Lil Wayne’s incarceration?
Mannie Fresh: I don’t wish that on nobody. Hopefully he comes back out a beast and ready spitting.
XXLMag.com: The whole dynamic for producers has changed due to the recession. You have a lot of major producers now taking pay cuts or even waiving their fees. So how have you been managing the changes of the game?
Mannie Fresh: There’s no big budgets anymore and I’ve taken pay cuts on songs but I am still striving. I’m selling cars, spinning and making beats. I get my hustle on. I been spinning more than anything and get good prices to do that. I would tell anybody don’t go broke but do another thing like sell books or lemonade. If you came in hustling you know how to get it. —Souleo