So the word is on December 15th Lil Wayne will be releasing not one, but three albums. Well, kinda. It seems Tha Carter IV will be packaged along with the Young Money compilation album, and his long-delayed rock album, The Rebirth (or not, Wayne has since said Rebirth will be a stand alone). Either way it’s quite a bold statement by both Universal and Cash Money Records, showing the utmost confidence in Wayne and his star power to drop three albums on the same day.

It all got me thinking; Cash Money Records is shaping up to be the premier hip-hop label of 2010. No disrespect to Def Jam, who is celebrating their 25th anniversary (not a cover plug, just the actual fact), but who would’ve thought that with over 10 years in the game on a national level that Cash Money Records would still be standing? And leading the pack!

In 1998, Baby, Slim and ’em partnered up with Universal to the tune of $30 million dollars. There was Juvenile, B.G., Lil Wayne and Turk. There were beats by Mannie Fresh and the occasional Big Tymers (that’s Baby and Mannie) album. There was a tour with the Ruff Ryders and millions of records sold. But after Juvie and B. Gizzle left, Turk got locked and Mannie jumped ship it was all supposed to end. Except it didn’t.

Wayne carried the label, Baby put out projects from Mack 10 and Teena Marie, as well as his own Birdman albums, and Cash Money kept on keepin’ on. Then Wayne dropped Tha Carter III, sold a shit load of records, eventually signed Drake, then Omarion, then dropped Omarion, then signed Bow Wow, and then stole my boo Nicki Minaj. Now, with rumors of Lloyd joining the fold, things are looking pretty strong for the N.O.-founded label.

It’s funny because Baby originally found success with a hardened stable of local New Orleans artists, but now the new Cash Money roster (even if most of the artists are funneled through Young Money) is looking like it can eclipse the O.G. CM roster. Drake is a slam-dunk (even with a bum knee), and I wouldn’t bet against Nicki (call me, girl). It ain’t just rap either, as Baby has had some success with rocker Kevin Rudolf and is expected to make a ton of money with U.K. pop singer Jay Sean when his U.S. debut drops later this year.

I can’t front, even with Lil Wayne’s solo success; I never thought that Cash Money would have the potential to be the biggest label in the game. Gotta give them their props. —Rob Markman

Rob the Music Ed is no more. I’ve been upgraded and now I’m XXL’s Deputy Editor. Clap for ’em! One!