Lil Wayne’s Manager Reveals Cash Money Blocked The Release Of Carter V & A Big Check For Wayne (Video)
For more than 15 years, Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records were family, literally. Out of the Hot Boys, Wayne evolved from a burgeoning raspy-voiced teenage Rap sensation in the late ’90s to the label’s flagship superstar throughout the 2000s into the early 2010s. In the closing days of 2014, the New Orleans, Louisiana MC spoke out against his label, and the man who at one time had parental custody of him, in label co-founder Birdman. In a series of social media diatribes, the MC who has “Cash Money” tattooed on his body decried the label, followed by a $51 million lawsuit.
In addition to monies owed to Wayne during his multi-platinum run, the Young Money Entertainment co-founder cited breach of contract and withheld royalties for the imprint he established that had since been integral to the multi-platinum careers of Drake and Nicki Minaj, among others. While Wayne and Birdman have been photographed together since, the dispute is unresolved.
Cortez Bryant has been Lil Wayne’s manager since the second wave of his career (and arguably his artistic surge) near 2005’s Tha Carter II transformation. Before that, the two were friends. The Maverick mogul appeared on the Rap Radar Podcast, where he gave the backstory that the tweets won’t provide. Furthermore, ‘Tez reveals that Cash Money “baller-blocked” a Google deal that would have given away the “incredible” Carter V album for free years ago. As Wayne’s 2016 has been anchored through a symbolic appearance alongside Chance The Rapper on “No Problems,” perhaps Weezy F. created the blueprint for Chance.
Asked about the timeline of Lil Wayne’s battles with Cash Money Records, the MC’s manager reveals that he has strategically held back his star client. “Eventually, I’ma have [Lil Wayne] speak on his side, and his situation, ’cause this has been going on for three years.” Bryant details, “[This conflict began] long before that. [The December 2014 tweets] were the tipping point. I couldn’t control him anymore; he was just like, ‘Fuck it, you can’t stop me, ‘Tez. I’m going out here.'” The manager says that frustration has given way to yet another creative resurgence in Lil Wayne’s nearly 20-year career. “He has his bad days, as we see on Twitter, where he goes through his moments. But over the last couple years it’s just re-energized us to ‘Let’s figure it out.’ We’re not gonna stop.”
At 2:00 in, Cortez Bryant reveals that while the public learned of Wayne’s label woes in late 2014, the process began much earlier. “Before [the conflict went public], we were supposed to put out [Tha Carter V],” begins the manager. “We put out ‘Believe Me.’ Before you put out a single, artists get an advance. It’s never been a situation to where in the 12 years I’ve worked with Cash Money—besides the first year when we was cleaning everything up [surrounding Wayne’s contract re-negotiations]…in those other nine, 10 years, it’s never been a situation where I’ve had to worry about anything, financially. They were great partners. I come with a plan. I [present the plan], they cut the check. [They usually] go with the vision that we lay out to them, and they support. This time, once we put it out [laughing] the check didn’t come.” Produced by Boi-1da and Vinylz, “Believe Me” released in May of ’14. Soon after, Wayne and his manager followed up with the label about the status of the advance. After being told things were coming, the artist and executive accepted the news and waited. “[We believed we could] figure things out while [the label rectified the situation]. So we did the Drake vs. Wayne Tour, which was very successful. They was performing the ‘Believe Me’ record every night. It went [platinum]. We got the momentum going, we’re coming off the tour like, ‘Strike now, while it’s hot.'” To prepare to release Wayne’s fifth installment in the celebrated series, the veteran needed his bread. “Lil Wayne gon’ need [payment] in order to [release Tha Carter V and be successful]. At that point, they had to come forward to say, ‘We don’t have it.'” Cortez says even at that point, Wayne accepted the news, and improvised. “The tipping point came when [Lil Wayne] said, ‘Don’t worry about the money…at all. I’m gonna put the record out, and make it for us. I’m gonna go out there and build it back up; don’t worry about an advance.’ I was like, ‘You sure?’ He was like, ‘Yeah.'”
In mid-2014, Lil Wayne found somebody willing to pay him since Cash Money could not. “We came up with a plan. This is early, before streaming really [became as popular]. We had a situation set up with Google. Actually, we had a deal cut with Google to where they were gonna back the album; we were really gonna be able to give Tha Carter V away for free. Streamed, free. Like, free. And the deal was lucrative. When I presented it to Slim and Baby, they didn’t get it at the time; they didn’t get streaming.” As record executives since the early 1990s, Cash Money’s founders held to the old model. In 2008, as physical sales were declining, the label bucked the system with astounding first-week sales of Tha Carter III. “They basically told me, ‘You can’t put the album out.’ When I had to tell Wayne that, he was like, ‘What?'” As Wayne’s manager notified the legal team that they wanted to take action against Cash Money, the artist went to TMZ, and struck a nerve heard ’round the industry.
Rap Radar’s Brian “B.Dot” Miller asks Cortez why this album means so much in a career when Wayne has released more than 13 solo LPs. “Carter V is his marquee, staple series of music. Fans have bigger expectations for Carter V; he knows that. He knows what [people] expect from a Carter V, and he approaches those Carter projects like that. Especially now, he felt like it was important that this one be the one.” As Lil Wayne is a veteran of the ’90s and 2000s, the MC clearly must prove his place not only for legacy sake, but present-day relevance. Cortez believes that is not a problem. “The music is incredible. It’s done…it’s done, and it’s incredible. I don’t want to put it out until I know that it can be properly supported and marketed the right way. I don’t want a cease-and-desist coming, like [when] we did the Free Weezy album.” On July 4, 2015, Lil Wayne released an album through Tidal, and other platforms to follow. “We did Free Weezy album on Tidal last year. Jay [Z] supported it. Jay’s been a great supporter through this whole ordeal.” While Jay—a onetime collaborator and also rival of Wayne provided a platform, Wayne’s longtime distributor took action. “Universal sent cease-and-desist letters; [other streaming platforms] took it down. Jay was like, ‘Fuck them, I’m keeping it up.’ [Laughs] But those type of things I don’t want to happen. I just want to make sure everyone gets to appreciate the work that he put into that project.”
At 13:30, Cortez Bryant is asked to speak about the business tactics of Cash Money’s founders, Bryan “Birdman” Williams, and his brother, Ronald (a/k/a Slim). Questioned if this is just brute business, he says, “I don’t think [Birdman] is shrewd. Like I said, before this situation, I give a lot of props to [Birdman and Slim]. Me coming in, just as Wayne’s friend getting into the business, they gave me a lot of talks and I learned a lot from those guys.” While producers and former artists have publicly battled Cash Money in the past, that was never an issue for Wayne. “For a majority of those years they were great partners. They just were really there to support everything—the whole vision of Young Money [Entertainment].”
Cortez Bryant believes the label’s growth, expansion, and success has caused this misspent and unaccounted for money. “I just feel like it’s a situation where [Cash Money Records] has never really had more than one platinum artist at a time. Back in the day, they might have had it [with The Hot Boys and Big Tymers]. But there was a lot more money then, with Juvenile, Wayne, and everybody. But the magnitude, if you want to compare it to [Lil Wayne, Drake, Tyga, and Nicki Minaj], and those projects cost [money]. This is my philosophy on it—it may not be true, but I feel like [Cash Money will] get an advance from Universal [Records] to run the company. They might have a little money to play with ’cause they know it’s gonna come right back [after the albums the money was advanced to release]. But they [are not used to] having as many costs [as they did] with one superstar at a time. With one superstar, you can have play-money. This last time, when Wayne [did not get his] advance, they might have played too much. Then, it was time to cut checks for the Drake’s, the Nicki’s, and they’re literally like, ‘We spent too much.’ I feel like they got caught in a situation where [Birdman and Slim] made some poor decisions that put the company in jeopardy.”
While Wayne’s relationship with his label has been hostile for much of the last two years, his manager has to be in the middle with a different take. “Me being the background, business guy, I try to keep an open line of communication. There’s no beef, street beef, or shit like that. I try to be like, ‘Let’s figure it out;’ I try to be as diplomatic as I can.” While UMG attempted to shut down Free Weezy, Bryant reminds the public that the parent investor and distributor of Cash Money is also caught in the crossfire. “It’s not only us that got burnt; Universal is a victim also. There’s two victims.”
Rap Radar inquires on Ronald “Slim” Williams, the lower-profile half of Cash Money’s founders. “That’s who I pattern myself after [laughing]. He’s the guy who does most of the business, believe it or not,” reveals the dynamic between the two Williams brothers. “Baby’s the face. They’re brothers and they’re partners, but Slim is the one that goes up in the offices and sits with Universal, and cuts those incredible deals that Cash Money has got in their history as a label.”
While Lil Wayne does not veil his anger towards his mentor and label, Cortez Bryant reveals that as a mentor and label-owner himself, he refuses to compromise his artists. “With Drake and Nicki, Wayne always took it where he didn’t want [his issues with Cash Money] to affect them as artists. He was like, ‘Let them do what they do. If anything, the pot [of money we are owed] is just getting bigger at the end of the end, but don’t [compromise] their careers.'” Since 2014, Drake has released a number of projects, including 2016’s best-selling Hip-Hop album in VIEWS. Nicki Minaj’s career also appears to be unaffected.
In the past, as artist-label relationships have gone to battle, there have been casualties. In Roc-A-Fella and Death Row for instance, careers have been halted during disputes. “We could’ve pulled their card. We have a co-venture with Cash Money. We could have easily pulled their card like, ‘We’re not signing off on this.’ We could pull that Young Money card; ‘Young Money is not giving consent for this [music] to come out. But Wayne is a person who [is] unselfish as a person, to say, ‘We’re gonna take this on, and make their careers [have momentum].'” Due to this stance, Dreezy and Barbie have thrived, even outside of Cash Money. “I know Drake has a direct relationship with Universal to put out his product. [The same is true of Nicki Minaj].”
Besides Chance The Rapper’s aforementioned single, Lil Wayne’s 2016 includes appearances on albums by DJ Khaled, Solange, and 2 Chainz.