Last night, Birdman held a private listening session at NYC’s Quad Recordings for selected media outlets in preparation for another Rich Gang album dropping on Nov. 24. While Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug were absent, the YMCMB CEO entertained his guests by previewing about seven records from the LP that predominantly features rising stars Thugger and Quan. In between songs, Stunna also previewed videos for “Flava” and “Milk Marie" off Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1, which come from the stash of 15 more they’ve already shot.

Despite this latest release from the label, YMCMB’s flagship artists have drawn a lot of attention from the media in recent weeks. Lil Wayne announced that his long-awaited Tha Carter V is pushed back indefinitely, Nicki Minaj moved her date for The Pinkprint back to Dec. 15 and Tyga took some surprising shots at his labelmates and complained about his management on Twitter.

Among these developments, Baby remains cool and confident that everything will work itself out. Seated in a room next to the main studio, Birdman gave XXL his opinion on the hot issues fans want to know, from aligning himself with 2014 XXL Freshman Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug, Thug’s particular clothing tendencies, why they’ve recorded so many songs (about 800) together, Juvenile’s new album on Cash Money Records, his response to Tyga’s outburst and what’s in store for YMCMB in 2015. —Interview by Vanessa Satten and Eric Diep 

XXL: What’s up with Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug? Why do you believe in them so much?
Birdman: I’ve been met Quan and Quan was in a situation where he felt like he just wanted to build himself up stronger before he fucked with me. Really, he followed me. But, when I met Thug...

It’s been a minute since you linked up with them.
I met Quan two, three years ago. When I met Thug like a year ago, Thug was [like], “I’m with it, let’s do it.” Thug brought Quan and then I just felt like it would be better for us to be together. Because I felt like both of them make great music separate, and I thought if they do it together... Because they was about to do a mixtape together, and I was like, “Let’s just...fuck a mixtape. Let’s throw down. Don’t worry about a mixtape, let’s do an album together." And then when I started working with them and seeing what they had. When I first heard Thug, I just heard some other shit with him. My whole potential was let me build them up and put them with Wayne, Drake and Nicki.

It’s interesting because they both have big buzzes, but they’ve been relevantly quiet. Not really, really quiet, but still, particularly Quan just went out of the picture. But you know he’s got hits and you can hear them here right now. So it’s interesting to watch you now...
See, what I hear, y’all don’t hear this. People only hear what they heard. If I didn’t put the mixtape [out], they never heard that much of them. I feel like to build them, I have to let people see the potentials they really have because I don’t think people know what they have. I’m in the backfield and I hear this. If you don’t hear it, you won’t know what I feel.

It’s been about 20 years for you. How did you get excited by this? You seem excited and rejuvenated. Is that true? You look excited about your artists in a different way than Drake and Nicki.
Wayne, Drake, Nicki and them, they are on cruise control. There’s pretty much nothing I can say to them. Wayne is one of the most talented artists in the world. What can I say to him? Drake is one of the most talented artists in the world. What can I say to him? Except just put my input. And Nicki the same way. They one of the most talented artists in the world. I’m not just talking about hip-hop—in the world.

What does that say about you?
Seeing that they can be that. That was great. But there’s not too much I can say to them. But with these youngsters, I can grow them. They got so much to grow to be them. So when I see them, I like the challenge of doing that because I did that with them. I saw this in Nicki before she became Barbie and Nicki.

You saw that in Juve before he became Juvenile.
I saw all that. I mean, if you want to go back that far to the game. I’m legendary with it, it ain’t no secret. But I think what I see in Thug and Rich Homie Quan is that same potential I see in them. And us as youngsters, we was legends before we knew we was legends. When I look at them, just like I looked at us, we was legends without knowing we was legends. I just think I want to bring an expertise to them. They don’t go through all the ups and downs that we went through before we realized what we was.

Why not? Don’t you learn from those things?
I would rather have them take advantage of it than to experience [it] and just learn from it. I'd rather have them benefit from it than just go through it and don’t benefit from it. See we just went through it, not knowing. Just being young and wild. Ain’t nobody told us.

It was uncharted territory back then, especially from the South where you're from.
Yeah, but it’s different now. I mentored these two. These two here—Thug and Quan—just like I did Wayne. You understand me? Wayne did it to Drake and Nicki. I’m mentoring them. They good and bad gonna be on my face so I’m taking my everything and putting it into them. As far as their labels and everything. Them as talent. I’m putting them on my face.

Are they signed to Rich Gang management?
YSL, I have Thug’s label. And I’m just working with them as artists. It ain’t about what I can make from them. It’s what I can make of 'em. You can take nothing to something. That speaks more than anything. That speaks volumes to me. I’m always gonna be a part of their career. It ain’t about what I can make off them. You do something for a muthafucka who never have nothing and make him outta something he gonna do for you regardless. You understand me? My initial fucking with them was about what they can do for me. I’m good in this shit.

As the figure you are in the industry, is there something that you feel you have to live up to when you take a chance with these artists and the energy you put into them?
My whole thing is to make an artist a star. It don’t even have to be a superstar, if he can be a star in some kind of way where he can do something for his team and his family, I’m kosher with that. God said if you can do for one, you’ve done for plenty. If you did few, you did more than enough. I see big potentials for these young guys. Thug and Quan. Not no normal shit. For me to know what I am about to do with them and what they are allowing me to do with them, they’re what’s next.

Do you think Thug’s outfits are weird?
He different. He very different. I never saw an artist like him in my life. Even when I saw him today, this nigga wild. He wild, but he a gangsta. There’s nothing bitch made about him. A nigga might see what he wearing and be looking at him crazy, but he’s a real deal. I had to take him for the life. He a real gang banger. He a blood. He a gang banger. He bangin’. Any nigga in Atlanta speak of Young Thug name, the nigga vouch for him. Fuck what I'm saying. Any nigga in the 404 and ask him about Young Thug and watch him come back. You heard me?

When I look at him, when I see him, my initial thing was, I have to change their life. That’s the challenge. My challenge was to change their life and show them that just like we was. Young niggas [that] thought the block was exciting, make the studio exciting for them. So once I saw that they was in that mood, I saw that they wanted as much as I wanted for 'em. So that changed my life for me with them. But as far as a person and what he wear, you might get anything. He just a different muthafucka. When you different, you have heart. You don’t care. And you have confidence. You are who you are.

People respond to confidence. You can see it on someone.
When I listen to his music, he’s very cocky and confident. When I listen to him, I said, “Boy, you are so real. You too real.” Only nigga I heard that before is Lil Wayne. And that’s confidence and cocky. Be cocky and [have] confidence. Very cocky and confidence.

Wiz Khalifa We Dem Boyz Video Shoot

You guys recorded over 800 songs. Why so many?
It’s them. They wanted to turn in this many songs. I gave 'em the stories. I be like, “Aye, man. Wayne got 3,000-5,000 songs. Just telling you the God honest truth.” That was 10 years ago. I had 5,000 songs on Wayne 10 years ago. You niggas plan on being anything like this boy? This what it takes.

How do you label the 800 songs? How do you figure out what’s good or bad?
It’s hard to listen to that many songs with them. I try to pull what I pull and when it's time... It’s hard. That’s why we're putting out the mixtapes.

So the album is dropping in November? How many songs are you thinking of cutting?
15. Top 15. We got a mixtape coming on Halloween. It’s called B-Slime, 4K, and GTV.

Why are mixtapes important?
I think mixtapes are so important to date in this game. It gives you an identity. It’s an outlet where you can work around if you have a buzz. You can work around the label. Even Thug and Quan was made out of mixtapes. Even Dej Loaf, she made off mixtapes. You heard me? You can do mixtapes and don’t even need a label. And his situation with his contract forces us to go these situations. Mixtapes? I’ma never diss on mixtapes. I want to put out another before we put the album out anyway to promote the album 'cause you get so many downloads. They so UGK. Underground with this shit. Everybody—some on the surface might not know, but the streets know exactly what’s poppin’ with them niggas.

Tell me a little bit about Dej Loaf. You worked with her on the song “Blood.” What do you see in her?
Super talented. She like a female, ghetto version of us. I like what she rap about. What she live for. Definitely.

What’s up with Juve? You got a new song with him. New project in the works. How did that come together?
We working on the album with Juve. London [On The Track is] gonna produce the whole album. London is the super, dope producer. He is today’s producer to me. You heard me? He was somebody that Thug brought to the table. And we have a couple of other producers under London, but London is the ace one. He’s the main one with us. He’s doing the whole album. London doing everybody’s album, majority of the album. He’s overseeing everything. I feel like it’s time to keep it all in-house. Instead of working with a lot of different producers, you just get one producer and then work with everybody.

birdman lil wayne nicki minaj
Photo: Getty Images

Wayne’s album got pushed back. Nicki’s got pushed back. Is there a reason behind it?
Wayne, man. He’s so much an artist like that. He change his mind a lot. He feel like he want to do more. Really, they be on they call. It ain’t on me. So whatever Wayne want to do, Nicki want to do. I leave that up to them. I don’t decide on dates and everything. I don’t do none of that.

Besides your artists, what are you paying attention to in hip-hop?
Really, outside of hip-hop. I want to teach that it’s bigger than just hip-hop to survive in this game. I watched other people, my peers, who have businesses outside of hip-hop. Like the liquor, the clothes. All the other advisories outside of hip-hop. If you got all that poppin’—that’s why I respect Nicki so much. She took it and mold it. She did more than just music for herself. That’s like my little sister, man. We talk a lot. Damn near two-three times a day. We talk business on how to become better than what we doing and what should she do to be better at what she doing. And she took the avenues to not just do music. Music is the core of everything, but you can just do other things with the music and then it all adds up.

The way Nicki is built up is amazing.
I watched it form before my eyes. I did it with her. We did it together. We all did it together, so when I see what [we] have done and what she did and what she is still doing, it’s incredible.

When you meet someone like that, do you think any of that is feasible? Or does her success blow you away? Is it crazy to say that you knew she was going to be that big?
I think I’m just numb to it. I think I’m just numb to life, period. 'Cause I feel like we done it, it ain’t she done it and we done it together. She just took the initial approach to do other things and make herself big. And I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud of Nicki Minaj. She’s like a little sister to me. When my sister died, she became my little sister. When I look at her, I’m so proud of her. The mindset to even let her mind take her that far and what she wanted to do and everything that she doing.

You know, some people age in this business. Nicki not one of them. Wayne not one of them. Drake not one of them. Jay Z not one of them. There’s people that just don’t age in the business. There’s just a few people that don’t age in this game and they are one of them. How far she had taken it, we never saw that in hip-hop ever. Nobody in hip-hop—you can name it from Lauryn to Kim to however you want to nickname it. None of them. Not one of them has took this game as far as Nicki took it. That’s really nothing to something.

I think it’s interesting that’s it’s hard for any female artist—not that you are going against it—no matter what, that’s what you are being compared to.
It can if it's Nicki. I didn’t know just watching Nicki at the Hit Factory with us. I ain’t know that. I ain’t see that much potential in them. She showed me that. “Let me go Stunna. Let me go.” I gave her the avenue. “Go ahead, do what you want to do.” I believed in her. I ain’t got in the way of nothing she wanted to do. Whatever you want to do, let’s do it. You heard me?

You never had any hesitation when people aren’t as receptive to female rappers? They love Lauryn because she can sing and play. There’s a different thing there. She had to be multi-talented.
And she is multi-talented. I never got in the way of whatever [Nicki] wanted to do. I always helped her with what she wanted to do. That’s just been me as a CEO. Everybody different. I just felt like, whatever she wanted to do, I’ma do it with her. I believed in her. We never not believed in Nicki Minaj, so believing in her made her go to the extreme to where she at now. We never got in the way of nothing 'til this day. Whatever she want to do, we allowed her to do 'cause we believed in her.

What about Tyga? What’s going on with him?
I don’t know man. But I got respect for Tyga. I always had respect for Tyga. We built something together. Another person we took from nothing to something. It will work itself out. It will work itself out. I’m just not with the Internet shit, saying nothing negative. 'Cause I can’t say nothing negative about Tyga 'cause 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. He’s always been a man to me. A young man to me. A young man to the team. This shit coming out of left field to me. I don’t understand it, but it is what it is.

You're rapping again on the Rich Gang album. What motivated you to do that?
It was they choice. This ain’t about me. It ain’t about Quan and them. None of them. Even Wayne, Drake, Nicki. Ain’t none of this shit about me. I had my run in this shit. To me, it’s about them. But if they ask me to get on something, I would. You understand me? But nothing about what we doing right now, today, ain’t none of this shit about me. It’s about them, to me.

When I say that, as an artist, I’m not trying to be no best rapper. None of that shit. Even when I did that shit, I was never trying to be the best rapper. I’m just being who I am. Understand me? But with these young boys to me, even with Thug and Quan, it’s about them to me. It’s always been about Wayne, Drake and Nicki to me with me as being a CEO. I’ve watched other CEOs get in the way of niggas. I ain’t never gonna get in the way of what they trying to accomplish and achieve. So I fall completely back and don’t touch a muthafuckin’ microphone and don’t care about no microphone. That’s not important to me. I don’t give a fuck if I never rap again in my life 'cause I know these people got raps for your ass. Some of the most talented muthafuckas I’ve been around in my life. So to me I don’t give a fuck if I never bust a rap. If they ask me, I would, though.

So does that mean Like Father, Like Son 2 isn’t coming out...
Oh, that’s guaranteed. Like Father, Like Son 2, that’s guaranteed. That’s guaranteed.

What’s in store for YMCMB in 2015?
I think 2015 will be a big year for us. My goal for 2015 is, I want to drop a Thug and Quan album. Maybe my solo album. My last album. A Drake album. I would like to see a Juve album. And I would like to see Wayne, Drake, Nicki, Quan and Thug do a project together. That’s one of my goals of my career. If I get to do that album, I think that would be the most amazing shit. One of my goals is to build Thug and Quan after their solo albums come out next year. Summertime, Wayne, Drake, Nicki, Thug, Quan. Then, let them go do their thing. I think that would be huge.