This profile is certainly a departure from the other artists that I’ve so far posted on (and I may get slewed for this haha). Something that I’m drawn to and intrigued with is the people “behind” the music. Whether they producers, CEO’s, A&R’s etc…these are the people that support the faces of the music and brand.
Often the case with “Urban” music, these people start with very little and come out of harsh youth.
Bryan “Birdman” Williams Photo courtesy of derickg.com
The first profile I’m going to cover is Bryan “Birdman” Williams. It’s only in recent years that his record label Cash Money has started seeing serious commercial success here in our country. Along with his brother Ronald “Slim” Williams, they set Cash Money up in 1992 in his home town of New Orleans. Up until 1998 Cash Money released all of its recordings fully independently without having any promo videos or songs on the Billboard chart. By securing a loyal local fanbase, every release still sold 100,000’s copies, distributing the albums themselves. The South is notorious for supporting it’s local artists, something that’s good to see also going on in the UK.
Mannie Fresh, Birdman, Slim, Lil Wayne, BG – Circa 2001
After years of high independent sales, major labels of cause took interest. Due to Birdmans strong vision for Cash Money, aswel as being use to having complete control over his business, he ended up turning down countless distribution offers. His audacity was so strong he even told the likes of Russell Simmons (Def Jam co-founder) that he (Birdman) would pay Russell a little fee to distribute his records, but Cash Money would keep the rights to all his masters…plus loan him a little money to play with. He finally negotiated an unprecedented deal with Universal Records. Cash Money would be entitled to 85% of its royalties, 50% of its publishing revenues and ownership of all masters! This was the first deal of its type…Birdman, nor Slim, ever attended any business school, they learned everything on the streets, and their somewhat gangster approach in boardrooms lapped them the most profitable music deal anyone had heard of at that time. The first major release was Juveniles ’98 Southern classic album 400 Degreez, which went 4x platinum. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s Cash Money went on to sell millions and millions of records.
Juvenile – Back that Azz up ft. Mannie Fresh & Lil Wayne 1998
Cash Money had the streets and clubs of America on lock. Over the years the Cash Money family had already suffered many set backs with deaths, life-imprisonments, drug problems…basically, all the usual things you’d imagine when street dudes suddenly start earning $1,000,000’s a year. In the mid 2000’s the label endured losses from the label including the in-house producer for all Cash Money releases, Mannie Fresh, who decided to depart from the family.
Thankfully, remaining star Lil Wayne, who had first signed with the label when he was 9 years old, stayed loyal to the label. Towards the end of the 2000’s he had steadily become the most talked about rapper in the world. His 2008 album Tha Carter III became the only album in 3 years to sell more than a 1,000,000 copies (USA) in its first week of release. From this success, the general public was again fixated on Cash Money and now Lil Waynes own label Young Money, which is an imprint of Cash Money and again distributed by Universal Records.
lil wayne – A milli 2008 (It’s hard tryna find a non-Vevo video that plays on a shared link!)
Young Money & Cash Money have had two of the biggest releases in the past 12 months with Drake’s Thank Me Later and Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday, both citing worldwide critical and commercial success. With California’s Tyga ’bout to blow up next.
We’re currently living in Cash Money’s second chapter, and they’re dominating the airwaves. Just try listening to radio for half an hour and you are guaranteed to hear a Cash Money song…try watching a music channel, try going to the club, try walking down the street and not hearing a Cash Money song!…and that’s in the UK…if you tune into an American radio station, say New York’s Hot .97FM, every other song will have a Cash Money artist involved. Late last year, production duo Cool & Dre signed with Cash Money as the labels new in house production team…and now they have signed their own DJ/personality in DJ Khaled.
Cash Money/Young Money Photo courtesy of derickg.com
Cash Money & Eminem Photo courtesy of derickg.com
Cash Money have now set their eyes on the UK, in 2008 they signed R&B singer Jay Sean and more recently ex Mis-Teeq member Sabrina Washington. They’re also reportedly setting up office in London too. It seems Diddy isn’t the only one to see the gold mine here. Williams isn’t stopping at urban acts, he’s sighting straight pop music, rock and country as all big money makers and currently scouting for the right talent to induct into the family.
Birdman, Jay Sean & Nicki Minaj Photo courtesy of derickg.com
Birdman’s other treasure chest is the Oil Business. Him and his brother have been involved with the oil industry for some years already and have pumps in different areas of America. Bringing in $100,000,000’s…”for my (Birdmans) kids and kids’ kids.”. Nice.
What I find influential is Birdmans (and Slims) faith in their own vision and how they have/are following their dreams…without formal education. It goes to show how far true passion can take you. If they can make it with their background, really, nobody has an excuse not to be successful. Sure Cash Money releases may not evoke the same emotion, as say a Nas or Lupe song…but for me at least, it’s a representation of regardless your background, with enough resilient and efficient work, a dream is more than capable of achieving.
Birdman – Fire Flame ft. Lil Wayne 2011