Mack Maine, “As [Lil] Wayne Grew in Rap, I Grew in the Business.”

The Young Money/Cash Money roster is star-studded, but the label’s brightest intergalactic body, Lil Wayne, has spent a better part of this year serving a year-long sentence stemming from a 2007 gun charge in New York’s Rikers Island. Still, the rap dynasty has managed to have an exceptional year, releasing albums from Wayne and Drake, and gearing up for Nicki Minaj’s debut. Amazing talent aside, Young Money/Cash Money is about their business. Credit YM’s president Mack Maine as an unsung hero. His day-to-day moves (as well as moves from Baby, Slim and Cortez Bryant) has helped make the label the hottest in the game today.

Still, Mack isn’t just a businessman; he’s an artist, as well. Earlier this week he dropped The Laxative mixtape and this Sunday (October 31) he and Birdman plan to release their collaborative White Boyz mixtape. Oh, yeah, and did we mention that Wayne is coming home next week (November 4th)? Where does one find the time? It’s Mack Maine, bitch!

XXLMag.com: You just dropped The Laxative mixtape; what prompted that release?

Mack Maine: Yeah, it was just some old shit, though. That’s why I called it The Laxative, man, that’s songs from like ’07, ’08. We clearing that out before I start the new shit. A lot of them songs are old. I got like over 200 songs sittin’ in my computer and like 100 sittin’ in this iPod. I was listening to some of that shit and it’s not old to new ears, so I was like let me put some of that out. And they’re loving it and I didn’t explain the concept yet, so I think they think it’s up to date or something.

Also if you really listen to it there are a lot of imperfections on the tape and I love it like that because it’s raw. It don’t have ad-libs on a lot of songs. A lot of people don’t know, that whole mixtape, I actually freestyled it. I know how to come up with a verse without writing and thinking my verse in my head. But what I mean by freestyle, I actually went into the booth and didn’t know what I was gonna say. And it was one-take; I don’t really punch in at all. I did a tape called Freestyle 101 a long time ago. I was a battle cat when I was younger… There’s not a lot of time for me to record all the time. I go to the studio 12 at night and I might have a conference call at eight or nine in the morning. So I’m leaving the studio at like six in the morning.

You started out as a rapper clearly, but you’ve grown so much more on the business side. How hard is it to balance that out?

It’s a challenge, but it’s kinda natural for me. I might go in the studio and in the same night I’m playing exec and artist, because I actually sit back and listen to some beats. The other day Lil’ Chuckee text me like, “I need some beats.” So I had to go and check my email and see what beats might fit him, then I might hear a beat that fits me and go in and do a song right quick. And then I’m back out listening to beats again like, “This might go for this person.” So even when I’m in artist mode, I’m still in exec mode.

So as Young Money’s President, what is your day-to-day like? Can you break it down?

I’m just gonna give you an example of today. I talked to Pharrell, tryna to negotiate for Tyga’s album. He has four tracks on Tyga’s album, so I have to make sure he gets paid for that. Tyga sent me his track listing today, so I’m sitting back trying to figure out in my head an estimated number like, “Is he gonna be over budget,” basically. He has four tracks from Pharrell, one from Banner, a few features, so I’m calculating numbers in my head to see where he’s at with that. Also, I’m on the phone tryna to schedule the events for Wayne’s coming home party in Miami. We weren’t gonna do one in Vegas, because we had a promoter guy and at the last minute he dropped the ball on it. Now a new offer came in for Vegas, so I’m trying to see what we’re gonna do with that. I’ve been on conference call with Baby all day, texting back and forth, emailing trying to get that together. I wake up expecting the unexpected. I never know what tomorrow will consist of in total. I know I have a few things I have to handle, but I can get a call at any moment about anything. I’m also trying to finalize the Young Money debit cards.

Yeah, YM debit cars, that’s pretty crazy.

I dropped the video, “All In One Swipe.” Honestly the cards stand out more than me in the video. I wanted it like that. I’m trying to promote heavy with that. When they finish watching that video I don’t want them to be like, “Oh, Mack Maine was cute.” I want them to be like, “I need one of those cards.” That’s what I’m worried about; money over fame, fortune over fame.

That’s a real hustler’s ambition, when did you start developing that?

It’s something you’re kinda born with. Also you grew up around it and also a lot of the great hustlers in music business were actually hustlers before they hustled music. No matter if it was illegal stuff, or legal stuff; whatever you did, you always had that ambition and drive before music. Especially when you come from almost nothing. When you look at the Jay-Z’s, the Baby’s, the Master P’s—people who were born with nothing, you want to make sure you never go back to that feeling of being broke.

Speaking of Birdman, what’s up with the White Boyz mixtape?

It’s coming in a few days, Halloween… No delays. We got a few songs on there where we’re talkin’ about free Weezy. He’ll be home November 4th, so you have to make sure all that shit get out to make sure it’s relevant and up to date. You can’t be hollering that after November 4th, you might as well can that song or change the verse.

What’s the plan for the day Wayne’s released? Are you gonna bring the tour bus to Rikers?

No, no tour bus. It’s like picking up a king. We gonna make sure everything is straight; jets and luxury cars, red carpet and probably beautiful women and just make sure that he’s [treated like] straight royalty. We ain’t gonna have the whole family up. The bosses are gonna be there and the immediate family. We gonna do it how we do it from there. Straight from there we’ll probably shoot to Miami, or we might go straight to Arizona. He has court on the 5th. We’ll go to court and then we’ll probably be shooting to the next city on the 7th, which is that Sunday.

What’s been the hardest part with Wayne in jail? We know it hasn’t been easy, but with Drake and Nicki and the I Am Not A Human Being album, YM/CM has been doing pretty damn good.

As far as myself, that’s my little brother. Everybody knows our bond. As long as we been together, we rock how we rock. The day-to-day basis you lose your best friend and your little brother, that’s hard for me on a personal level. As far as the business side, it’s not like he died and I talk to him like four times a day. So it was the same if I need to ask for advice on somebody’s project or if I had to let him know what was going on. I also made sure I saw him at least once or twice a month. As far as some of the artists, I used to get texts in the middle of the night like, “Mack, I miss him.” Or somebody would need advice, or help on a verse. As far as the business side we pretty much kept everything intact, me, Tez, Slim and Baby. And Wayne, too, I asked him for different advice. We didn’t really miss anything on that side, but personally his presence, him being in the studio, him coming up with a hook for somebody or being a mentor to the artists. He couldn’t talk to them on the phone all the time. I tried to call them on three-way if they needed to speak to him. He’s great with advice. Who else is better to give advice than someone who has been in the game for 17 years?

You are very close to Wayne, do you ever feel like people come at you just to get to him? When do you know that people are genuinely interested in Mack Maine? How do you handle that?

Being that close, it’s kinda like a gift and a curse to be honest. A lot of people out here would like to be in my shoes. There are quote-unquote benefits. But I never asked for anything, I never in my life have asked for anything. I’ve earned everything I get. The curse is kinda like, you have to decipher who’s who and what’s what. A lot of people come at you for the wrong reasons; just to get close. You also have a lot of haters like, “Oh, you wouldn’t be shit.” Things that I’ve learned and earned in my life are things that I’ve learned and earned. And I’m actually beneficial. And that’s my little bro, so there are a lot of things that he’s learned from me too. There are a lot of things that we learned from each other. Sometimes you are only as good as your surrounding cast. Obviously Wayne can’t go sit in every meeting and he can’t go do a lot of things that I can go do because of who he is. I’m able to go talk to CW and different T.V. channels or negotiate this and handle my business for him and all of Young Money. Also I learned a lot from Baby growing up too, I didn’t just start coming around. As Wayne grew in rap, I grew in the business. I knew that I could help lead this shit. —Rob Markman