The #6 Biggest Moment: Cash Money Signs With Universal

XXL has been in existence for more than 10 years now. (Perhaps you noticed the sirloin-thick anniversary issue that tilted your local newsstand six months back.) In that time, since September 1997, we’ve put out 99 magazines covering, as the saying goes, hip-hop on a higher level—all the moments that made the music mean so much.

It should be noted, of course, that 1997 is significant for another reason. The death of the Notorious B.I.G. in March of that year closed what stands as the most momentous chapter in hip-hop history: the great Brooklyn MC’s rivalry with his California counterpoint, Tupac Shakur. In that light, the XXL era can be seen as the post–Biggie-Tupac era.

As we watch and wait to learn what will define the future, we cast an eye back at what we’ve witnessed so far. In celebration of our 100th issue, here are the 100 biggest hip-hop moments of our time.

#6: CASH MONEY SIGNS WITH UNIVERSAL

MARCH 1998. 1755 BROADWAY, NEW YORK CITY.
It was a cold spring day in New York City. Brothers Bryan “Baby” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams were keeping warm in Universal President Mel Lewinter’s office in Midtown Manhattan, signing a historic publishing and distribution deal for their homegrown New Orleans label, Cash Money Records. Estimated at the time to be worth $30 million (“It ended up being worth more,” insists Baby), the unprecedented three-year deal allowed the entrepreneurs to retain full ownership of their masters and publishing. “I refused to give them anything,” says Baby, who was 27 at the time. “I can’t let nobody take nothing we work for. If they get something, it’s gonna have to be something we accomplish together.” Under the deal, Universal would give Baby and Slim a $2 million advance every year, plus a credit of $1.5 million for each of the up to six artists they’d be able to put out annually. After the sales came in, they would divide the profits: Universal would get 20% for their services, and Cash Money would bring a whopping 80% back home.

While Baby and Slim had grown their business into a New Orleans institution by using independent distributors like Gonzales Music and SouthWest Distribution, there were two other key players present at the signing that day who were instrumental in taking it national. Rap Coalition founder Wendy Day and attorney Peter Thea had been negotiating with the majors on behalf of Cash Money for the past six months. “Universal was kind of where we had hoped they would end up,” remembers Day, who had previously helped artists like Master P and Twista secure sound contracts. “They hadn’t had any real success in rap yet, so they were hungrier than everybody else.” Part of that hunger, no doubt, came from watching a small label like Priority Records achieve massive success in 1997 by distributing the product of Cash Money’s New Orleans rival, Master P’s No Limit Records. Majors like Universal were scrambling to invest in regionally successful Southern rap, so after B.G.’s Chopper City moved 25,000 albums and Hot Boys’ Get It How U Live broke 75,000 units independently, getting a deal was a “slam dunk,” according to Day.

Shortly after the signing, the Cash Money Millionaires delivered the masters for Juvenile’s 400 Degrees to Universal, which would go on to sell over four million copies. Their subsequent run of success with B.G., Hot Boys, Big Tymers and Lil Wayne helped them outlast their original competitor, No Limit, and laid the blueprint for the gritty brand of lyrical Southern hip-hop that dominates the national scene today. “I studied Master P, I studied Suge and Diddy, because I didn’t wanna make the same mistakes,” says Baby. “I went into it with that attitude like, I ain’t giving them shit—if they wanna fuck with us, they’ll fuck with us how I want them to fuck with us.”—BRENDAN FREDERICK

CLICK HERE to read Moment #7
CLICK HERE to read Moment #8
CLICK HERE to read Moment #9
CLICK HERE to read Moment #10

THIS IS ONLY A PREVIEW!
Read the full “100 Moments” countdown in the 100th issue of XXL, on stands now!

  • http://. Rykkinn G-shit!

    first bitches

  • BIG O

    yall niggas is oblil waynes dick! no limit was waaay bigger and first yo open the door on the whole new orleans rap thing.both of them took advantage of BIG’s death and killed hip hop,but as i remember master p was way bigger than all of cash money put together

    • The Mfn Man

      Niggaz that is sayin that Master.P Didn’t blow up till Tupac died don’t know what the hell they talkin bout cause Ice Cream Man went Platinum before Tupac was dead so P was already the shit. And Niggaz couldnt get enough of it.

    • http://Yahoo Renzzy

      Yo No limit was way on top of ther game in tha time

  • http://www.myspace.com/deandresurrellthegreat deandre surrell

    if pac and big wouldnt of passed on dese niggas woulda never seen da light of day

    • Tray Stay KoolnReal Kitts

      I agree with you a little bit, but Cash Money was already rapping when Tupac was alive. B.G. was Cash Money’s superstar, and he began rapping and making hits in the south in 1994. By 1995, UGK wanted to make songs with B.G. During Tupac’s last years, B.G. was already blowing up and making a better way for Cash Money.

  • og bobby j

    I remember when the Cash Money and No limit shit was happening…it was hot at the time. At the time, it was a new sound to fuck with up in NY…I remember distincly getting some slow neck in my boys camaro with “Numba 1 Stunna” blastin….good times!

    I wish it would have stayed that way, not become whats all over the radio and shit.

  • Slick Willie Himself

    All this ‘counting down’ Rap’s biggest moments shows is that Rap’s best days are behind it…

    • Latin Votes Don’t Count

      Yea this is kinda true…its not like there’s going to be another $30 mill deal in Hip-Hop ever again.

  • http://www.myspace.com/shasheriashirika SHA EMPERESS

    BEFORE THE XXL THERE WAS THE DA SOURCE.
    I SUPPORTED DA SOURCE FOR MANY YEARS….POURING MONEY EVERY MONTH INTO A MAGAZINE THAT I BELIEVED IN….EVEN COLLECTED THE COVER AND THE LAST WORD…UNTIL THAT “LETS SAY….CHANGED”
    AFTER THAT CHANGE…I SUPPORTED THE XXL. AND I BELIEVED THAT THE XXL SUPPORTED ME. ELLIOT…THE EDITOR….WROTE WITH HIS HEART AND SOUL….HE MADE IT EASY TO STAND BEHIND HIS MAGAZINE.I SUPPORT ELLIOT, AND I KNOW THAT I AM NOT ALONE.I WILL NOT TAKE MY BALL AND GO HOME….I WILL HOWEVER WATCH FROM THE SIDELINES AS ELLIOT GIVES HIS COMPETITORS (SPLL CHK…BITE ME) NIGHTMARES…..HE GOT 24 BLOGS IN 24 HOURS SONNIES….I’M WITH NASIR BIN OLU DARA JONES….BURN THE MAGAZINES. WORD.

    YOURS TRULY,
    SHA EMPERESS
    KISS MY GRITZ…

  • jg420

    Man I remember that shit, Mannie Fresh used to have the best beats. That shit used to bang in my Cadillac, and I miss the old Cash Money before Baby decided to start raw dickin all the artists. Especially Wayne, Stuntin like my daddy lol

  • Yaw Dankwa

    You lot are on some bullsh!t!!!! How are you going to put this at number 6??!!! I’m actually going to read the article, and if I’m wrong I will retract my comment and apologize, but that’s how stupid this sh!t was- I didn’t have to read this to know it was nonsense.

  • moresickaMC

    Lil Wayne will always be an average rapper

  • beatz23

    504 bitches

  • Rodjilius

    yo dats whats up i guess the hot boys sold a good bit but then after signing they sold massive amounts but good article

  • Town-Bizz

    They got it from Master P and P got it from the Bay. Game.

    • KLETEWOOD

      Co Sign – T-B

      Master P got his game from the Bay when he moved to Richmond! Baby got his game from copying a lot of E-40′s slang too.

      Atlanta blew up when Too Short moved to the A. Lil Jon got a lot of his shit from the BAy.

      The majority of the slang and hot shit came from the BAy. Game REcognize GAme.

  • biz

    Listen all you haters you don’t know what the fuck u talkin about. Those dudes built that shit from the ground up.They were pumping music in New Orleans before Master P was even thought about and were doing a dam good job with no help. Futhermore, styleing themselves after the Bay Area or there game. I don’t think so. New Orleans has it’s on unique style shit it’s were jazz originated. Remeber That

  • omegared13

    first of all non of the cash money dudes have skills lyricaly neither does master p he sucks as a rapper as well so yall country dudes need to chill none of your rapper can out rap any of the east coast or west coast mc’s if you can find one let me know.

  • biz

    Lil WAYNE, SOULDA SLIM ya BITCH YOU!!!