Mannie Fresh Explains Why He Regrets What Cash Money Records Did To Hip-Hop (Audio)
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cash Money Records was a dominating force within Rap music. While the label dated back to the top of the decade, Juvenile’s 1998 hit “Ha” made plenty of fans, DJs, and record industry followers say “huh.” In short time, “Ha” was followed with “Back That Azz Up,” B.G.’s “Bling, Bling,” Lil Wayne’s “The Block Is Hot,” and Big Tymers’ “Still Fly,” amidst other popular mainstream singles. Each one of those hits was produced by Mannie Fresh, a second generation DJ and Bounce music pioneer who had cultivated musical paths for each of Cash Money’s breakthrough artists and groupings.
By the mid-2000s, Mannie exited Cash Money Records, citing financial motives. He would prove his musical worth outside of the label, making hits with T.I., Young Jeezy, and others. Perhaps a preposterous thought to Rap fans in the late ’90s, the Big Tymers co-founder has also put in work with Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def), Kanye West, and others.
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Speaking with The Come Up Show, Fresh updates fans on “Big Tymers-meets-Black Star. “Yes, it’s still gonna happen… we’re both fans of what each other do…the world never thought we could get together and do this,” he tells host Chedo. “I get calls from Mos at the oddest times. It could be 4 am and I’ll get a call, ‘Bro, we gotta do the album,'” Fresh says, confirming that he has the songs in the can, but that works still needs to be done, with both artists together. “I’m gonna do it the right way. I’m not gonna do it without him. No emailing.” Elsewhere, the artist explains why while Cash Money Records dumbed down Rap music in the eyes of some, he never wanted it to push Hip-Hop’s variety off the mainstream map.
At 31:00, Mannie explains why he feels that the Cash Money Records explosion was a gift and a curse for Hip-Hop music. “What Cash Money was, at the beginning, was a category. You still had categories in Rap when we was doing that. Even though we was the flashy dudes, that was our category; we had our own lane. Because you got Slick Rick, who was the storyteller. You’ve got Public Enemy, who [led a social movement]. You had N.W.A., that was Gangsta Rap. You had Cash Money, that was just the flashy dudes. Like I said, you had different genres of Rap, and we were just one of ’em. So that’s how we fit in. What makes it all confusing, and this is where it’s the gift and the curse: we never set out for Hip-Hop to turn into just something flashy; that was just our thing. It wasn’t everybody’s thing. Right now, Hip-Hop is just flashy. Everybody wanna be that dude, everybody wanna be a millionaire, billionaire. That wasn’t our intent,” says Mannie, whose beats and songwriting were instrumental to that paradigm shift. “We never wanted a whole culture of rappers goin’, ‘Look at me, my chain is big [and so on].'”
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There, the podcast jokingly deduces that Mannie blames his own former label for “ruining” Hip-Hop. With a chuckle, Fresh clarifies, “I’m saying nobody’s got the guts to be a J. Cole. Nobody’s got the guts to be a Kendrick Lamar. We need more of them…everybody wanna go the easy route.” He calls 1990 to 1995 a great period for the music. “Hip-Hop was a form of education. It’s not that no more. Even though you had the ‘Bling Bling’ era, at one time you could play six different records with six different messages from Hip-Hop on the radio, or [at a club] and everybody would jam to it.”
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At 59:00, Mannie returns to his point in speaking about the current Rap landscape. “The problem is, like I told you, now it’s a ‘bling-fest’ all over the world. That’s the curse part of [Cash Money Records’ success]. The gift part of it, like I said is [teaching artists] how to get the money,” he says after breaking down C.M.R.’s independent blueprint and true financial success. “But like I said, I never [imagined] that was gonna be the only thing [rappers] was gonna talk about. I like to say that new rappers have a ‘Rap kit.’ What I mean is… everybody dress alike.” He says the dances are uniform too. “No disrespect to [any rapper], but nobody dares to go left. I think that’s what’s missing in it…what’s crazy, statistically, the people that go left are winning. It’s nuts that nobody can’t see that. I’m not [meaning] the fans, I’m saying the [record executives and rappers]. You take Chance The Rapper, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, to me, that’s artists that go left. That’s ones that’s doing the numbers, the big tours, and the big things. A label would rather concentrate on, ‘Make a song like Future.’ There’s only one Future!” He says that that kind of grooming and label production destroys talent and limits impact. “You just killed somebody’s creativity and vision and what they thought they wanted to do.”
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Elsewhere in the interview Mannie describes meeting Juvenile at a New Orleans bus stop outside of Cash Money’s offices. He says he is currently working with Maroon 5. He closes the interview listing his own five favorite productions, and details recycling “Go DJ” for Lil Wayne from a vintage C.M.R. track and DJ routine.