Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV's "Drink Champs," which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly "Drink Champs" episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
This week, legendary rap mogul Birdman pays the "Drink Champs" a visit to speak on his new album with Juvenile, the history of Cash Money, and his plans to usher the label into yet another decade of dominance. A native of New Orleans, Birdman got his start in the music industry during the early '90s by founding Cash Money Records with his brother Ronald "Slim" Williams in 1990. Dominating the independent circuit with a succession of releases from Kilo-G, Lil' Slim, U.N.L.V., Ms. Tee. and other local artists, Cash Money truly found its footing in 1997 when Birdman and company inked a historic $30 million pressing and distribution deal with Universal Records.
The partnership proved fruitful, as albums from Juvenile, B.G., Lil Wayne, Big Tymers, and the Hot Boys all reached platinum certification and established Cash Money as one of the new powerhouses in the music industry. While the defections of Juvenile, B.G., and Turk placed a cloud of uncertainty over the label during the early aughts; Birdman and Lil Wayne kept the Cash Money ship afloat with releases like Tha Carter series and the duo's collaborative album, Like Father, Like Son.
In addition to helping turn artists like Nicki Minaj and Drake into megastars, Birdman continues to run the Cash Money brand like a well-oiled machine with west coast rapper Blueface being his latest success story. While controversy about his business dealings have made him a polarizing figure, his excellence as a CEO and talent scout cannot be denied.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT TV compiled a list of nine highlights from the Birdman episode of "Drink Champs." Take a look at them below.
1. On His Groundbreaking Pressing And Distribution Deal With Universal Records
Birdman's historic $30 million dollar pressing and distribution deal with Universal Records helped shift the playing field for independent labels in rap and put Cash Money Records on the national stage. During his sit-down with Noreaga and DJ EFN, the Louisiana-bred mogul explains his mind-state during the negotiations. "Just to bring you to the essence of how we come up, just growing up in a boys home and just being in the streets all my life, we lost a lot. So, I just felt like when Universal approached us, I was already five, six years independent and I felt like we had blood on this money already. So, I refused to give up anything. I was a young man and that was my mentality, that it wasn't about the money, it was about me being able to own my shit.
2. Turning Cash Money Into A Regional Powerhouse
During the '90s, a number of rap artists and moguls out of the south helped legitimize the region's credibility in rap, one of them being Birdman, who took cues from his predecessors while bringing New Orleans to prominence. "I was inspired through all that, but New Orleans always had a culture," he says. "We was able to move and do what we do throughout New Orleans, Texas, Atlanta, throughout the south. Alabama, all them areas. So, for us, we was still generating a lot of money and we was putting out a lot of music every month... So, for me and for us, we was just really trying to get out the ghetto. I found the hustle, which was music and we just stuck with it. Kept it pimping."
3. Noreaga's Introduction To Cash Money
Noreaga has worked with many of the top rappers in the game, but one collaboration he remembers fondly is "Play That Shit," which included guest appearances by Juvenile and Lil Wayne. "I went to New Orleans and I was trying to get a record from Master P and 'em," the "Drink Champs" co-host recalls. "This is after N.O.R.E. I remember I was out there, some girl said, 'You gotta fuck with Cash Money.' And I hadn't hear them niggas, so I was like, 'What?' And she had put me on to 400 Degreez before the "Ha" record and I was Cash Money'd out at that moment. So then, I finally hooked up with you on the Melvin Flynt album in New York. I had just wanted Juvenile at the time and you said, 'Nah, this lil nigga right here is gonna be the biggest thing in the game: Lil Wayne.' And to be honest with you, he was so shy back then. Remember, he ain't used to talk, so when I looked, I just trusted you and I believed you. And if you remember, I let Lil Wayne go first. But, you told me that years ago when Juvenile was the hottest in the game."
4. His Reaction To The Hot Boys' Breakup
After establishing themselves as the most dominant rap collective out of the south, Hot Boys members Juvenile and B.G. both defected from the Cash Money camp, a moment in Birdman's career that remains a sore spot. "When all that shit took place, bruh, it kinda fucked with me 'cause I never thought it could happen," he shares. "A nigga would just go separate [ways] knowing how hard we come up. And we really started with nothing and I blessed niggas. I gave my life to this shit, honestly, I put my everything on [the] line. If I was gonna die, if I had to kill, whatever had to be done, I was with that shit. So, when it did happen, the same day it happened, Wayne came to me 'cause I was in my feelings about this shit. He was like, 'Fuck them niggas, man. I'm better than all of them niggas together anyway.' That shit woke me up. I said, 'You know what? Fuck them niggas, let's go.' That shit turned me up and we ain't ever look back."
5. The Friction Between Cash Money And No Limit
Along with Birdman, Master P is credited with kicking down the door for Louisiana rap with his No Limit Records ensemble, which bum-rushed the game with a continuous stream of album releases and hit records. However, it's been rumored that the two moguls have had their differences in the past and Birdman shed light on that, during his interview. "Cash Money and No Limit, that shit was real. They ain't fuck with us, we ain't fuck with them, that shit real. We from two different projects, so it just didn't ever mix and me and his relationship never mixed. Maybe the artists, but we didn't fuck with each other, so they couldn't fuck with each other. We just ain't never vibe. We ain't ever had no beef, ain't nobody dead. But, we just didn't ever vibe. Don't get me wrong, I got the utmost respect for him. He from my same city. So, niggas came up and he did some shit niggas still trying to do. He put out 35 albums in one year, that's a lot of hustling. But, I salute to everything he doing."
6. Where He Feels He Ranks Among His Contemporaries
The '90s is considered the decade of the rap mogul with names like Diddy, Suge Knight, JAY-Z, Jermaine Dupri, Dee and Waah, Irv Gotti, J. Prince and countless others making an impact on the music industry. But, when asked how he stacks up among the greatest moguls of all time, Birdman doesn't hesitate putting his name at the top of the list. "To me, with all respect to everybody that ever did this shit, none of 'em have done more than me," he argues. "I sold over a billion records, I done sold over 300 billion streams, and I done did over 575 million on iTunes alone." The former Big Tymers member also points to the fact that most of his success came strictly from music, as opposed to other business endeavors, which sets him apart from the pack. "I did it all music. When they gave it up, I hugged it. This was the life I wanted, this the life I chose and I refuse today to give it up. I love it. I love the hustle of music, I love to take young black men and make 'em successful. That's an ambition for me. To see the talent who see it in they self. But, I'ma believe in 'em and show the world what they got within them. That shit a rush for me."
7. His Issues With Rick Ross
In the midst of the drawn out war of words between Birdman and Lil Wayne, one artist who came to Wayne's defense was Rick Ross, who chastised Birdman for his alleged transgression against Weezy and others on his scathing diss track "Idols Become Rivals." When prodded about his reaction to the song and their present relationship, Birdman addresses the elephant in the room in blunt fashion. "I just came up, I mind my own motherfucking business, I don't get in no other nigga business," he says. "So, when another nigga in another nigga business, to me, that's a violation. That's how I come up, simple. I ain't ever been no man to speak down on no man in this music business, never did. That ain't my thing 'cause I know how hard this shit is. I ain't here to downplay a nigga, I wanna see a nigga come up, period. So, as far as me ever speaking down on a nigga, I don't ever do it. Now if a nigga disrespect me, it's fuck him. Fuck him or bitch, we can kill, shoot, whatever you wanna do. But, as far as me speaking down on a nigga in this game, that ain't my M.O. 'cause I do my thing."
8. His Brother's Role In The Cash Money Empire
One of the more elusive figures in rap is Ronald "Slim" Williams, Birdman's elder brother and co-founder of Cash Money Records. Birdman gives Noreaga and DJ EFN some context behind Slim's importance to the Cash Money brand and its success. "Slim the coolest nigga on the planet," Birdman says. "I look up to my brother, he mean everything to me. He like a daddy to me, he everything. If it wasn't for Slim, wouldn't none of this shit be still going on 'cause I was ratchet with this shit. Slim really maintained [it], he a thinker. He kept all the pieces together." He continues to speak fondly of his brother, adding, "He play the back, but he totally 1,000% the shot caller. Anything go down, Slim call all shots."
9. Repairing His Relationship With Lil Wayne
One breakup that many rap fans never expected to see was Lil Wayne's split from Birdman in lieu of business disagreements. However, the dynamic duo was able to settle their differences over the past year, which led to the liberation of Weezy's long-awaited Tha Carter V album. When asked if he ever had intentions of doing harm to Lil Wayne or publicly disrespecting him, the Rich Gang boss insists the thought never crossed his mind. "I would never cross that line with Wayne, I always looked at him as a son," he says. "So, how could I ever disrespect him? That wouldn't be a man. That wouldn't be a father. I could never disrespect somebody I call my son, I would never. I just suck it up." As far as what led to their reunion, Birdman credits the pairs communication with one another and his own desire to make things right between the two. "We talked a couple of times. That was important to me. I started with Wayne, I gave my all to my son and he gave his all to me. So, for me to continue to do this business, I had to fix that with him."
More by Preezy Brown: