Today, Sept. 27, is the birthday of one of hip-hop's greatest Southern superstars, New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne. Weezy F turns 35 today.
With hilarious analogies, a larger than life personality and a rap career that started before he even hit puberty, Lil Wayne has made himself into one of hip-hop's most recognizable figures. Hollegrove-raised Dwayne Carter Jr. was signed to Bryan "Baby" William's label Cash Money at the age of 10, first appearing in the group Hot Boys with Juvenile, B.G., and Turk. Their major label debut Guerilla Warfare! reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. They weren't kidding when they said "Cash Money Records taking over the '99 and the 2000's."
By 17, Wayne had dropped his solo debut, 1999's The Block Is Hot, propelled by a gritty infectious song of the same title. The debut peaked at No. 3 on the charts followed by two more strong releases, Lights Out (2000) and 500 Degreez (2002). But it wasn't until 2004 when Wayne really hit his musical stride by introducing Tha Carter series. From 2004 to 2008, the dread-headed grill-grinning rapper became a household name thanks to radio hits and platinum plaques. 2008's Tha Carter III spawned some of Wayne's biggest singles to date, "A Milli," "Got Money" and "Lollipop" and automatically debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album is certified triple-platinum and scored Wayne his first Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2009.
Wayne has a proven track record of helping create stars as well. With a distributing deal from Republic Records, Wayne started his Cash Money imprint called Young Money Entertainment in 2007. Since its launch, Young Money has fostered the talents of stars like Drake and Nicki Minaj.
Weezy has become somewhat of a living legend in the game and has subsequently sparked retirement rumors once in 2014 when he tweeted and publicly said in concert that he wanted off the label that raised him, Birdman's Cash Money. This would start a years-long Cash Money feud between Wayne and Baby that still isn't over to this day. Wayne has accused the Cash Money CEO of holding out on paying him rightfully earned royalties, has sued for $50 million and said “Fuck Cash Money” at numerous public occasions. As of today, fans still don't have Tha Carter V and until he has his money from Baby, Wayne won't have his peace.
Even though he hasn't been dropping a ton of his own music, Weezy dropped a quartet of songs this summer including an original remix to Playboi Carti's "Magnolia" and has assisted younger artists like Chance The Rapper and Ty Dolla $ign.
Tunechi, who has long-since battled with health issues, suffered another seizure during this past Labor Day Weekend. The MC collapsed in Chicago and was rushed to a local hospital, but soon gave fans an update that he was doing fine and that the seizure was caused by his epilepsy. Weezy was back in the studio working a week later.
Happy Birthday, Weezy! Hope the Libra scales tilt in your favor this year.
The History of Cash Money's Internal Beefs Through the Years
But the Wayne/CM beef isn't even close to the first example of Cash Money bristling at its artists; the label, after all, goes back to 1991 and has morphed through at least five distinct phases: its early years as a local hub in New Orleans; the late-1990s rise of the Hot Boys and Big Tymers and early-2000s flourish after its historic Universal distribution deal in 1998; the mid-2000s blossoming of Lil Wayne into the biggest rapper on the planet; the late-2000s/early 2010s addition of Young Money and the likes of Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga, to name a few; and what is left now, with Wayne and Tyga looking to leave, Drake and Nicki hanging in limbo and Birdman making music with young guns like Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan without signing any paperwork with either.
It looks as if, under heavy pressure, Cash Money is evolving again. XXL has covered the recent issues facing Young Money/Cash Money and its roster of massive stars, but we've been around for long enough to cover Cash Money through the entirety of our 18-year existence as a magazine. XXL was there to see Baby and Slim sign on the dotted line with Universal in what was one of the most important label deals of the past 30 years. We've covered Juvenile, B.G., Turk and the Hot Boys when there was no movement more authentic in the game. We documented the many exits of Juvenile, the production brilliance of Mannie Fresh and the steady rise of Lil Wayne to solo superstardom. And we've been covering Nicki, Drake and the Young Money movement since it was established in 2007. Simply put, there isn't anyone better positioned to cover this than XXL.
With the beef between Birdman and his artists continuing to dominate the headlines and former Cash Money artists like Fresh and Turk now weighing in on the struggle, XXL dug back to the beginning to document the painful splits, euphoric reunions and internal beefs that have spilled out into the open over the years. Hitch a ride. —Dan Rys
Lil Slim and Mr. Ivan1995
Lil Slim was part of the first wave of Cash Money's roster, back when the label was a small-town house for local talent. He dropped three albums for Cash Money between 1993 and 1995 before being the first artist to allegedly leave due to contractual disputes and lost royalty claims, while Ivan was apparently in the same boat.
"I couldn't get where I wanted to get with that roster," Birdman told XXL in our March 2001 issue; that early roster also included U.N.L.V., PxMxWx, Kilo G, Ms. Tee, Mr. Ivan and Pimp Daddy in addition to Lil Slim. Later in the story, Birdman shut down on the business end. "We don't speak on family business," he said. "We run our business organized and family business we keep discreet no matter what it be. I don't owe that to nobody."
Only one artist stuck around during the label purge: Lil Doogie, later to be re-named B.G. "Everybody [on the label] was trippin' and gettin' bigheaded, and I wasn't," B.G. said about the mid-1990s roster clear-out in our May 2002 issue. "I was just observin' under Bryan and Slim's wing, and by me being under, everything about me grew."
In early 1997, Baby and Slim let UNLV go from Cash Money after six albums from members Tec-9, Lil Ya and Yella Boy (five as a group, one solo effort from Tec). But the split was far from harmonious; there were rumors that Yella had pistol whipped Birdman in the face and shot up one of his cars, rumors that persisted in the streets but are unsubstantiated ("That's some shit I don't know nothin' about," Baby said when asked about the rumors in our September 2002 issue). A few months later Yella was gunned down in New Orleans, apparently in a drug deal gone bad, at the age of 22, becoming the third Cash Money artist after Pimp Daddy and Kilo G killed in a violent N.O.
BG, Tec and Lil Ya cryptically addressed some of the rumors in a 2006 freestyle, with BG rapping, "I'ma speak the truth, I'ma tell no lie/I was on the scene, Yella snuck Baby in the eye" in apparent reference to the conflicts. In August 2007, a decade after cutting ties with the label, UNLV's Lil Ya and Tec-9 settled a lawsuit with Cash Money for an undisclosed sum, stating that they hadn't been properly compensated for their work in the early-mid 1990s. Terms were never disclosed, but the chapter was finally closed.
Juvenile was the crown jewel of Cash Money's lucrative kingdom when he all but disappeared from the limelight in early 2001, with whispers circulating that all was not well with the label and its golden child and that Juve had split away from Baby and Slim to form his own label, Uptown Projects Records (UTP). When he gave his first interview since the perceived split, for the cover story of our September 2001 issue, there was not a Cash Money chain in sight among Juvenile's bling-saturated crew.
"You always gonna miss it 'cause it was family, but when you find out that it's not family, it's like a stab in the back," Juve said about his split with Cash Money. "I feel sorry for the other rappers, 'cause they don't even know what's going on and they still over there."
"I'm going to be honest with you. My dogs ain't getting treated right," he continued later. "Turk's not getting treated right. B.G.'s not getting treated right. Wayne, on the other hand, I don't know his situation 'cause Wayne is always over there and Wayne listen to 'em like they his father. Where if you get a little deeper into Turk and B.G., they beckoning for me. When Baby ain't around they like, 'Dog, take me with you. Sign me. Do what you can do.' And it hurt me to have a team like the Lakers break up. I worked hard. [Baby and Slim] didn't do the hard work. Us five, we did all the work and [Baby and Slim] got everything. This ain't a family. How's this family?" [It's worth noting at this point that a rep for Turk and B.G. disputed Juvenile's account when reached for comment at the time.]
There were myriad reasons that Juvenile listed as contributing factors to his departure; he was upset that Cash Money began firing his own people that he brought in to work with him, that Mannie Fresh got final say on every mix, that he felt there were people supporting the CM empire that weren't getting compensated on the road. But in the end, it all came back to one particular sticking point.
"With them it was a beautiful thing 'til the truth came out," he said. "Money did it! Money came between us. They know it! I know it!... From day one, I put my trust in 'em and then you go back and check the paperwork and realize it ain't right. Then you look at a nigga like, 'I really don't like you no more.'"
B.G.'s story is perhaps the saddest in Cash Money's history. A breakout star as a teenager, B Geezy became addicted to heroin by the time he was 16, an issue that reared its ugly head again and again throughout his life. As the Hot Boys began to unravel and Juvenile went AWOL with UTP, B.G. also disappeared from the spotlight, with rumors swirling that he'd overdosed, that Baby and Slim had supported his addiction, that he'd left the crew forever. In reality, he spent the summer of 2001 in a rehab facility before distancing himself from the Cash Money fam to form Chopper City Records in 2001.
"Baby and Slim aren't managin' me anymore," he said in a revealing interview in our May 2002 issue. "We just decided that a couple of months ago. I wanted to see if things would be better for me with another manager who didn't own the label."
"Really, I personally care not to discuss that situation," Baby said about B.G.'s heroin problem in our September 2002 issue. "I never was one to be the one that exploit a nigga's business—that's a house nigga to me. I'm a field nigga, I'm a real nigga. What go on around here... I was taught one way: Family business stay within family business. And you can wrap that."
After Juve's September 2001 cover story, B.G. said the rest of his labelmates began wondering about their own contracts. "It made me start wondering, Damn, is Baby really capable of this?" he said in our March 2008 issue. "After that, everybody wanted to check up on what was going on. Like, Hold up, what's really real? At that point everybody was worrying about they own careers."
“I didn’t know no better," he told MTV in 2002. "I looked up to them and respected them. I felt like they wouldn’t do me like that, but I was wrong. [Baby] calls himself the Birdman, but he wants to birdfeed me. It’s cool, you fucked me over and I learned my lesson. It’s time for me to move on.”
The fourth member of the Hot Boys, Turk has dealt with his fair share of problems in his life, including an extensive nine-year stint behind bars on weapons and drug charges. He himself admitted that he began doing cocaine and heroin at age 14, which eventually contributed to his prison sentence. He would eventually be the third Hot Boy to split from the label in 2001, leaving to join Koch Records to continue his career.
"I felt like I got the short end of the stick on my deal when I was younger," Turk said in 2013. "But now I know. People die from a lack of knowledge. When we don’t know, we got to suffer for that. So I felt like that was my trials and tribulations for me to go through that to make me into the person that I am today. Some people might call it ruthless and hard. But, it’s business... I moved because I felt like the camp was broke up."
But now Turk is looking a little closer at the business of the time; two months ago he filed a lawsuit against Cash Money, seeking $1.3 million in publishing royalties and other payments. “The reason why I’m suing now is because I realized that me being loyal has gotten me nowhere in this business,” Turk said about his recent lawsuit. “It’s my attorney’s decision that it’s in my best interest to sue after several attempts to settle this matter privately. Now we wait for the next chapter wodie.”
No doubt that's another blow to Birdman, but Stunna had his own take on it in our September 2002 issue.
"Everybody trying to do their own thing," he said about Juvenile, B.G. and Turk leaving the label in quick succession. "I look at it like, Fuck it. Y'all gotta do y'all, I gotta do me. At the end of the day, what you want to do is cool with me. The way shit went, though—Shit ain't have to go like that. 'Cause a nigga could have came to the table, and we still could have been hustling together... It like, to me, them niggas got grown. And they got mannish. You know, sometimes kids get grown and want to talk back. None of them ain't never disrespect me, and I love them to death."
Joint Chiefs Concert At The Apollo
Juvenile sued Cash Money in Louisiana Court in 2003 saying he was cheated out of royalties. The two sides settled out of court and Juve returned to the label for one final album, the Platinum-certified Juve The Great, which produced the super smash "Slow Motion" with Soulja Slim. He would eventually say in our October 2004 issue that he was given 50 percent of the record sales for Juve The Great as part of his settlement. He'd eventually sign with Atlantic for his 2006 LP Reality Check.
"Trust yourself and trust the paperwork," Juve said at the time about what he learned from his Cash Money experience. "I shouldn't have trusted nobody at the company. It's a conflict of interest when the company is a manager and the situation I was in... I didn't know nothing about the [business] so I went in head-first trying to get the money. But I know now."
Even though the money eventually got worked out, the situation left a bad taste in Birdman's mouth.
"Juve bitched out, left me a message, talking ’bout a nigga wanted to kill him. He hoed up from the gate, so I ain’t even fuck with him," Birdman would say in our December 2006 issue. "Said I sent some niggas at him. I don’t know what he was talking ’bout. But he the only nigga I ain’t reached out to. The only reason we got back and did an album was because he putting all that bullshit out and that shit wasn’t selling. So the best option was for him to come back. And you see the success of his comeback to the success of him right now—he ain’t no success right now. He’s a failure with that bullshit."
The years eventually softened the blow, however, and Birdman and Juve are back on each other's good side. The MC re-signed to Cash Money last year and has been steadily dropping new music in the past few months on his third time around.
Mannie Fresh was the musical backbone of the Cash Money empire, producing every song on every album from 1998 until his departure in 2005. The old problem of financial disputes cropped up again; Fresh would sue the label, eventually settling in mid-2006 for an undisclosed sum.
"It was just time for me to grow up," he said in our March 2006 issue, side-stepping the financial issues. "A lot of it had to do with creative differences. I wanted to go outside of the boundaries. I wanna do rock, I wanna do gospel. I know everything that I can do, and I felt bounded. If you don't believe in me, then it's time for me to do other things."
But things didn't seem so rosy just a few months later. "The way that nigga Fresh played it, I could never respect it," Birdman said in our December 2006 issue. "Ain’t no need being around me, nigga. You ain’t ’bout what we ’bout. He coulda went out like they went out, when they went out. Instead he laid low, laid under a nigga, then gon’ go out. I ain’t with that. Fuck you, nigga."
Despite the 2006 settlement, Mannie Fresh told XXL in 2010 that he was still having issues getting royalties for the sales of his past work and looked back at his decision to depart from Cash Money.
"I won’t say it was all them. It was me too and not paying attention to how it goes," he said about the money situation. "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."
2012 BMI Urban Awards Honoring Mariah Carey - Red Carpet
Lil Wayne's 2008 album Tha Carter III may have sold a million in its first week, but it also led to a series of headaches for Cash Money. Jim Jonsin sued the label for $500k for his work on "Lollipop," a Grammy-winner that became Wayne's first-ever solo No. 1 hit; Play-N-Skillz claimed they were never compensated for producing "Got Money" and sought a million dollars for their efforts; and Deezle launched a $20 million suit over royalties from "Mrs. Officer," "Let The Beat Build" and "Lollipop."
But it was Bangladesh, the producer of Grammy-winner "A Milli," who was most vocal, and also the only one signed to Cash Money. He filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Wayne in 2010 and launched a series of volleys aimed at Weezy and Birdman in a May 2010 interview with Vibe.
“It’s [Wayne and Baby's] responsibility to pay [me] because all the money from album sales goes to Cash Money," he said, later expanding on his issues with the label. "It’s not even Wayne’s fault. Wayne is not getting money. He is given money, he’s not getting money. If Baby gets a million dollars he’ll buy Wayne a Phantom, but that’s in Cash Money’s name. That 14-bedroom mansion isn’t Wayne shit. That’s why he have his own company, because he was trying to leave Cash Money and the only thing that would keep him there was [if they] gave him his own thing. But Baby still controls that. All those Young Money artists don’t even know that they not getting royalty money.”
By 2012, however, the beef was dead and the work able to continue. ”Everybody respects each other, and real recognizes real,” Bangladesh said that March. “At the end of the day, the work is solid, so everybody wants to be in business with each other.”
106 And Park 2013 New Years Eve Party
Bow Wow signed on the dotted line with Young Money/Cash Money in 2009 and began preparing to release his seventh album, Underrated. But by 2012, with the album experiencing a slew of delays, the MC vented his frustration on Twitter, saying he wasn't getting any support and pointing the finger at his label without naming any names.
"Doing everything on my own. No help from nobody. Going to radio dolo going to da clubs fuk'n wit dj's dolo. So when i win im thankn myself," he tweeted, following that up with, "Shit so fucked up maaan.. I swear. Im tryna stay focused but its like at this point "Fuck that album" & Fuck a release date. Im doin shows."
As of right now, Underrated is still on the shelf.
Despite highly successful releases from Nicki Minaj and Drake, the past year hasn't been very rosy for other Cash Money artists. Lil Twist was the first to air out his dissatisfaction with the label. "I swear I gotta have the worst management team in the history of management teams.. Like wow this shit crazy.. All I wanna do is drop music," he tweeted during an extended Twitter ran in October, adding, "From "Don't Get It Twisted" to "Bad Decisions" I have so much fukin material recorded but I can't even get a answer from my "management.""
These days, of course, Twist has more serious matters on his hands, like figuring out how to stay out of jail when he's potentially facing 25 years behind bars for assault with a deadly weapon, among other things.
2013 BET Experience - 106 & Park Live Presented By Coke
All had seemed well between Tyga and Cash Money; his first two albums on the label, 2012's Careless World: Rise of the Last King and 2013's Hotel California, had both debuted in the Top 10 on the charts and "Rack City" was a certified smash, going four times Platinum. But the buildup to his next LP, The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty, revealed the cracks in the facade.
"Gold album been done. my label holding me hostage so i can't release nothing. might just leak it for my fans then let them make $ off it," he tweeted in October, hinting that he wouldn't be a part of the Cash Money team for much longer.
But Tyga's issues with the label went deeper than the business; in an interview with Vibe later that month, T-Raww said he didn't get along with Nicki Minaj and threw direct shots at Drake. "I don’t like Drake as a person," he said. "He’s just fake to me. I like his music; you know what I’m saying? I think his music is good, but we’re all different people. We were forced together and it was kinda like we were forcing relationships together."
Later that month, Birdman sat down for an extensive interview with XXL, skirting around the internal beef but expressing his disappointment that Tyga would take out his frustration on his fellow artists. "It will work itself out," he said about the drama. "I got respect for Tyga. I don’t like him saying nothing negative about Drake and Nicki. To me, that shit ain’t cool to me. 'Cause they never did no wrong to him. You understand me? But, he still the little homie and I do anything in the world for him. Nicki and Drake, that’s the family. Whatever side you choose, it is what it is. But I ride with the team. I could say nothing bad about little Tyga."
Things haven't quite worked themselves out as Baby hoped, however; the petty shots between Tyga and Drake have gotten messier and messier, with Tyga putting out a music video featuring Drake's ex-girlfriend and Drizzy airing things out on his track “6PM In New York,” poking at Tyga's rumored relationship with Kylie Jenner: “I heard a lil homie talking reckless in Vibe/Quite a platform you chose, you shoulda kept it inside/Oh you tried, it’s so childish calling my name on the world stage/You need to act your age and not your girl’s age.” The saga continues.
2009 BET Awards - Show
Lil Wayne is a survivor. The longest-tenured artist on Cash Money's roster has been through it all, growing up with the label and morphing from a budding lyricist in the Hot Boys into one of the most recognizable artists of any genre on the planet. Along the way he's sold millions of albums, obliterated chart records and stuck by Baby and Slim through bitter breakups and multiple shakeups, turning his Young Money imprint into an unstoppable force in the game with Drake and Nicki Minaj.
All of which makes his very public fallout with his father figure Birdman all the more surprising. His December Twitter meltdown, when he called out Baby and Cash Money for holding Tha Carter V hostage and referred to himself as a prisoner, is now the stuff of legend. His Sorry 4 The Wait 2 mixtape aired out his frustrations on wax ("All I got is Young Money, no more Cash, nigga," he raps on "CoCo"; the video features him locked in a cage), while a $51 million lawsuit filed in January put a price on his freedom.
At this point, things look bleak for the future of Lil Wayne and Cash Money. Weezy's threatened to take Nicki and Drake with him if he can get out of his contract, while Tha Carter V hangs in a seemingly perpetual limbo. A Young Money cypher which dropped two weeks ago continued the lyrical jabs; Tune took inspiration from Tupac with the line, "I thank you for my hit man/And tell 'Pac I’m a big fan/I sing 'Dear Mama' to my dear mama and sing 'Hit 'Em Up' to my Daddy bitch ass."
For his part, Birdman has stayed silent, with sources close to the mogul indicating that Baby has been "deeply offended" by Wayne's public and verbal assault. Weezy's longtime manager Cortez Bryant took to his Instagram account to defend the MC, saying, “Wayne carried Cash Money on his back for over 10 years when he could have left and did this on his own,” and equating the Cash Money situation to being in chains. Birdman has refused to release Wayne from his deal, and at this point it seems like Tha Carter V won't see the light of day until the courts settle the dispute. Also at stake? The fates of Drake and Nicki Minaj, who are still signed through YM/CM and Universal's distribution vehicle, but who Wayne is reportedly concerned will leaving for greener pastures due to the legal mess that has erupted. Could this be the end of one of the most consistent and loyal partnerships in hip-hop history?
”I have no words,” Wayne admitted to Rolling Stone in February, seemingly resigned to a messy end with Cash Money. “I’m super numb to it, to tell you the truth.”
Wayne and Baby aren't going to be cool any time soon, with Wayne taking time out to say "Fuck Cash Money" whenever he's onstage these days. As for Stunna, he claims he's trying to "heal" the relationship with Wayne. Doesn't look like that's going too well. Weezy just dropped a brand new song called "Grateful" where he called out Birdman by name, rapping, "And you don't see Stunna right next to me/And I won't see Stunna write checks for me." He also says he's officially finished with Cash Money – "They can't put no more Weezy Baby out, that's that Cash Money vasectomy." Wayne also appeared on an episode of Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe’s Undisputed show on Fox Sports and said that he will never work with Birdman again. He also claims Baby spent $70 million of the $100 million advance they were supposed to share for the Young Money label.
In September of 2016, a judge ordered the Cash Money mogul to show his financial records to the court. There is one major problem however, with word that Cash Money hasn’t been the best at keeping a tight book, as Birdman’s lawyers refer to the record keeping by saying, “It is what it is.” In response, a judge has given Birdman 30 days to pull together the requisite paperwork, or find someone who can.
Birdman SpeaksOver the years, XXL has spoken to Birdman multiple times about the beefs and breakups throughout Cash Money's history. Here, in separate interviews from our December 2006 feature with Baby and Wayne and our September 2007 cover story with the former Father-Son duo, Cash Money's lightning rod speaks on some of the underlying issues that divided an empire.
December 2006 Issue of XXL
"Any dispute I had with all them niggas [B.G., Turk, Juvenile and Mannie Fresh] is dead. If they felt that I owed some money, I paid them muthafuckas. But I still can’t speak on that over a period of time. I just wanted to get the whole shit to be over with. That’s not what I’m about. I’m not about taking nothing from none of them niggas, ’cause I gave them niggas. I ain’t played it by the paper trail, so everything I did looks invisible, so that’s how them niggas was able to come back and tell the court. It was a mistake on my end, and I can take my lick.
"I did what I had to do, got them bitches out the way, and I’m doing my own thing. All my books closed. I’m clean. Fuck them niggas. That’s just my whole philosophy. Get you. I’ma do me. They really don’t want to see no blood, so no need to talking about it. All that other shit is irrelevant."
September 2007 Issue of XXL
"I don't regret nothing. That's life, feel me? In my younger days... I made mistakes in the beginning, feel me? But you can't cry over spilled milk. You take the lickin', you keep on tickin'. I took so many blows, to where, you know, my heart is numb to whatever it is in my life. I ain't got no heart no more. So it's like, fuck it."