Bryan “Baby” Williams: In It For Keeps [June 2011 Cover Story Excerpt]

Two o’clock in the morning, on a warm spring night, Bryan “Baby” Williams pulls his blood-red Bugatti Veyron into the parking lot of the Hit Factory studio in Miami. Stepping out of the driver’s-side door in blue jeans, white-on-white Uptowns, a white YMCMB hoodie, a Gucci belt, dark sunglasses and a whole lot of diamonds and tattoos, the Cash Money Records founder looks like real hip-hop—a back-in-the-day era when rappers still dressed like they came from the hood.

Baby, 42, is from the streets of New Orleans, where he and his brother Ronald “Slim” Williams founded their label 22 years ago. They broke nationally in 1998, entering into a landmark distribution deal with Universal Records and selling millions of records by the Hot Boys—Juvenile, B.G., Turk and Lil Wayne. Juve, B.G. and Turk would jump ship a few years later, complaining of financial impropriety. But Wayne remained and was rewarded with a president position at the label and his own imprint, Young Money Entertainment. He would soon become, of course, the biggest star in rap music, and would sign a pair that would become the two biggest new stars in rap music, Drake and Nicki Minaj.

Baby, meanwhile, oversees it all. As hip-hop goes through its transitions and industry heavyweights fizzle out, lose power or disappear, he and his company grow stronger and richer every year. In April, Forbes magazine named him one of The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists, tallying his wealth at $100 million (a figure he disputes as being far too low). XXL sits down for a conversation with one of hip-hop’s last true moguls.

XXL: When you look around at the industry and see the lack of moguls doing it like they used to, what does that make you think?

Bryan “Baby” Williams: When I look around, through my years and my time, you know, the game, it was a lot in the field, a lot of people doing it. And I look around, and it’s like, Where the fuck did everybody go? I ain’t never understood that, but the game like that sometimes. That muthafucka’s gon’ keep ya or it’s gon’ leave ya. It’s all on you.

So you look around and feel like everyone’s gone… What does that feel like? How does that work?

Just how heavy it was, how many different brands you had, how many different artists. Now it’s a new era, really. A lot of the old acts ain’t around no more, of the era when we come in the game. The labels, the corporations, they not supporting the brands. I think one of my biggest things was I been an independent brand. I always owned my own brand. I never been funded by them. It’s P&D deal. I was always able to use my money to do everything we wanted to do, too. So when you bagged up by them and they money, and you ain’t working out… You might have one bad year, and they’ll give up. Things might not balance out. It could be any little thing. Times change, like 9/11, depression. People didn’t wanna fuck with money like they used to. In my situation, I never had them do that for me. I always floated my own money. We made our own moves.

You and your label have been through a lot of ups and downs. You had major success coming in the game in 1998, but by 2001, the Hot Boys had broken up; Juve, B.G. and Turk left the label with beef; and Lil Wayne wasn’t nearly as big as he is now. A lot of people had written you off. What were you thinking?

You know, the way I grew up was, I lost my mama at two. My daddy died when I was, like, seven. My brother died when I was, like, nine. So I been losing lives all my life. So for the acts to leave me, it really made me stronger, ’cause personal life made me this way, and growing up taught us that we have to take a loss and try to make it into a gain. And it’s all I really had in life to do was music. So they losses, really, when they left, it opened me up to have to go harder, you understand me? At that time, Wayne was young, so I had to get it in. We had to go hard as a team. So then when he came to the plate like, “Let’s do it,” that was a wrap.

FOR MORE OF BRYAN “BABY” WILLIAMS, GO TO PAGE 2

  • bug

    gay

  • Sean Izzle

    maaan i never knew he lost that many close family members, woow! must be hard living with that everyday… he really is like batman, he lost both his parents and then he becomes the wealthy Birdman that lives in mansions with his pigeons Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  • Kam

    I RESPECT THIS NIGGA MORE THAN EVER NOW. HE ACKNOWLEDGED OEN THE MAIN THINGS THAT HASN’T GOTTEN HIM IN THE POSITION HE IS IN RIGHT NOW, AND THAT IS……STEPPING BACK A LIL BIT IN ORDER TO LET THE YOUNGIN’ DO HIS THING. RESPECT.

    OTHER NIGGAS IN THE GAME WOULD BE IN HIS POSITION IF THEY DID THE SAME, LET THERE STAR ARTIST FLOURISH AND LEAD THE WAY.

  • MR. UNDI$PUTED THE MOGUL

    Hip hop journalists must be afraid of the artists they interview because you never really hear or read where they asked what you want to know. I used to like Baby aka Birdman but the reality is they would’ve been out of business had Lil Wayne signed with Roc-A-Fella like he almost did when his contract was up. I’ll buy the mag to see what else is asked, but he needs to man up on what really happened at Cash Money. All of the original artists would not have just left if the business was really being done like a true family. How can he act like Universal Records didn’t pay Lil Wayne millions in back royalties & then suggest they make him the new President of Cash Money which they then let him create “Young Money” records. Someone please answer this question. How the hell can “Birdman” say the Forbes total is wrong? Not only has he done a song called 100 Million dollars, but he has atleast 6 – 8 songs where he says he has that exact number repeatedly. Just be honest & admit you got lucky with Wayne putting in the work to become a Big Star. Baby did say on the song “Bling Bling” by the year 2000 my son weezy gone tear this game up.”

    PEACE & GET MONEY!!!
    MOGUL $$$ GAME ’11!!!

    • DV

      ^^^^^^^ = truth

      this man screwed over his flagship artist (Juve and BG) and producer (Mannie Fresh) at that point in time and they wasnt no artist he picked up off the street they knew each other for a very long time. Wayne is his saving grace and he knows it.

      No matter what Wayne does CMR will forever be the house that Mannie, Juve, and BG built.

      to all you producers out there. make sure the check is cut or cash in hand before you do tracks for them. We dont want to hear you crying because you got screwed over when you should know better based on his history.

      Fool you once, shame on him. Fool you twice, shame on you

  • Uncle Pressed

    Wack. Birdman= bad.

    Wayne: Crackhead-sounding played-out nonsense spittin’ auto-tuned-up spaz who says random shit just to rhyme it.

    Can’t wait for those worthy to jack that limelight.

  • nolaoldskool

    I’m DV. BG put them on the map, Juve & Mannie blew’em right off that b*&ch ya heard me. Everybody knew Wayne had talent & he was nice w/ them words but he was too young at the time. Baby did them dudes down bad being greedy & if it wasn’t for Wayne dude would be broke, real talk.

  • tumi

    so what XXL is saying si that Wayne is bigger than Nas, Em, Jay or even 50, heck even Kanye? lol please tell me how or where?

    • allhiphop>xxlmag

      check the Hot 100 on Billboard and count the songs Wayne has on it, he is statistically the biggest rapper right now

  • Ali-G Slage

    Nigga u got to give respect to the man. Birdman has seen it all, they thot cashmoney wuld fail but luk whr they are. Its true Wayne put a lot of work in tht mafuckr but bigs up to birdman for givin hm th platform

  • http://hitemup.com GBtha G

    I respect this nigga even tho he isn’t my favorite, nevertheless he stayed independent in life so its by no chance to be where he’s @ now .But what the hell do ya mean lil wayne being the Rap’s biggest star?bullshit! is y’all serious,d’ya know what the fuck you talkin’bout? This game aint ‘bout the muthafuckin’ money .suckas!!!!!!!!!

  • http://gmail luzile khumalo

    u rock BABY/WAYNE

  • http://gmail tone

    Man Birdman been getting money way before music, 504 all day

  • R.Mendez

    When is xxl gonna ask these people the real question instead this scripted crap. And quit fillin your pages with rocwear ads and full page spreads on artist’s, or Rims for sale, get back to the old xxl. No more of this nuvo ads and shitty jewelry. Put the hip hop news in the front again, the borrower lender back up front, give just blaze his videogame review column back, And can we get a white hip hop honey. No disrespect but the majority of your readers probably bang white girls. Seriously guy, your slackin and tryin to fill up space instead of put out a decnt magazine, in this last issue of 106 pages not including the cover, 37 full page advertisements, 11 half page ads, 6 pages designed to get us to buy clothes 2 people noone knows wears.

    now those of you keeping track thats54 pages of ads in a 106 page magazine, thats more than 50 percent, now you add in pictures and the writing gets really really low. I can honestly say that I could do a better job than you. Seriously, I could produce a better magazine than you right now. Step your game up XXL or im headin over to THE SOURCE.

  • gene

    To Baby and Slim, please make every attempt to resign B.G. Juve, turk and Mannie fresh. You guys claim how you should have copyrighted Bling Bling. That phrase would have made you even richer. (correct) To enhance your moves, sign these guys. The Hip-hop world loves change. If these see these guys back, think of the money,and happiness you just created. People should swallow their pride,and get money period. Take over the whole industry. The artist you have now are great. In a few years we need change, keep the money flowing and the hits going. SIGN THESE DUDES!!!

  • thuso wabo

    fuck em haters,big up baby u rock! whyane is ur son

  • http://gmail luzile

    u,v been thru hard times thats y u stanky rich now

  • CREEPER SLIM

    Birdbrain is ballin off other niggas hard work.That nigga never made a beat in his life.He got all that bread cause he robbed his artists just like Puffy,Suge,Master P, James prince..all them old niggas did to they people.Baby a homo too.He never got a girl or wife or nuthin.Look up that footage on you tube where Hot boyz is callin up hoes to the stage to dance, and the nigga Baby is callin NIGGAS up to the stage!! He said” I fuck wit niggas too”! “I want this nigga in the blue hat” and mannie says..”we need sum mo chicks up here,what the fuck”!!!