“Cash Money is an Army”. Words that once were true for the iconic hip hop label run by New Orleans born brothers Bryan “Birdman” Williams & Ronald “Slim” Williams. throughout the years this army has gone through several instances of internal disputes that is leading to quite possibly the end of the once great label. But beyond all this Cash Money Records has been a major force in the music game. Thus it is only right we delve into the history of the juggernaut once known as “Cash Money Millionaires”& later the ore popular “YMCMB”
The First Wave
Although the label started in 1991, the signings of B.G in 92 & Lil Wayne in 95 would prove vital in the success of the label. In 96 when B.G dropped his debut album “Chopper City” it was the first real successful album the label put out. He then proceeded to drop two albums in the same year in 97( “It’s All on U Vol. 1 being regarded as being instrumental in future dealings for the label), also while forming a group within the label with fellow artists Juvenile, Turk & Lil Wayne known as the “Hot Boys”.
Following the success of the Hot Boys debut album “Get It How U Live” & both B.G’s & Juvenile’s individual success the label brokered a $30 million distribution deal through Universal Records, thus giving them a wider audience and more resources while keeping virtually all of their ownership. Right after the deal they Dropped Juvenile’s album 400 Degreez with the hit single “Ha” & Iconic “Back That Azz Up” leading the way, the album went on to go 4x platinum. This would spawn a run in 99 with 4 albums all going platinum starting with B.G’s “Chopper City in the Ghetto” (an album that gave us the phrase “Bling Bling”) Hot Boys “Guerilla Warfare album (their most successful one), Lil Wayne’s debut “Tha Block is Hot” (where a young Wayne shows his skills by not cussing at all on the entire album) & Juvenile’s “Tha G Code”.
in the year 2000 the label was just continuing their run. Birdman & producer Mannie Fresh released an album as a duo under the moniker “Big Tymers” They would also go on to go platinum. Success was getting so good that they even made a independent movie called “Baller Blockin”. But cracks were beginning to surface within the label.
Between 2001-2003 the label would go on to sell well over 7 million albums collectively. But it would be without arguably the linchpin of the label B.G (although Juvenile would leave first) after financial disputes over Birdman trying to in his terms “Brainwash into giving up his money”. This would be the first of many future occurrences of people claiming to not have been rightfully paid by the label.
After dropping another successful album in 2001 Juvenile decided to leave the label which started to make B.G & Turk to start to take a look at their contracts as well. (It should be noted the old regime of Cash Money artists signed in 91 pretty much all sued for financial reasons)
Turk would also soon follow Juvie’s & B.G’s lead & leave the label. This left Lil Wayne & Mannie Fresh as the last two true members of the Army known as Cash Money Millionaires. Through this time Birdman became more involved musically with not only another Big Tymers album, but a solo album himself.
Tha Carter Series
in 2004 Lil Wayne would drop the first of a series of albums entitled “Tha Carter”. This was the album that started to gain Wayne significant recognition & respect. It is widely regarded as Wayne’s best album. This would be pivotal in the months to come as Jay-z would attempt to sign Wayne to Roc-a-Fella Records, but Wayne ultimately decided to stay with Cash Money with the title of President of Cash Money & his own label “Young Money Entertainment”.
Although Mannie Fresh would no longer be producing hits for him as he chose to leave the company in 05 ,Weezy would continue this momentum with the release of the Carter II. A mainstream successful hit that started to get Wayne more looks from other artists to be on their tracks most notably Destiny’s Child for their song “Soldier”. Birdman would capitalize on this momentum teaming up with Weezy on a joint album “Like Father, Like Son” a play on their father/son type relationship.
Wayne would then embark on an amazing streak of mixtape dominance not seen since 50 Cent’s rise. As well as the most requested artist for features. Mixtapes like “Dedication 2” & “Da Drought 3” are highly regarded as some of the best mixtapes ever. Not to mention features like Lloyd’s “You” or Playaz Circle “Duffle Bag Boy” or Dj Khaled’s “We Takin Ova” solidified Wayne as the “Hottest MC in the game” at the time.
By Time “Tha Carter III” dropped in 08 it was not improbable that Wayne would have a major selling album. But nobody expected him to sell over 1million albums in his first week. Hits like “Lollipop” & “A Milli” both won Grammy’s & were mega hits. Thus giving Wayne a remarkable run of dominance from 06-09.
In 09 Wayne signs Canadian Born rapper Drake & Trinidadian born rapper Nicki Minaj to Young Money. The would drop a collaborative group album with other Young Money members. New Cash Money artist Jay Sean would go on to give Cash Money their 2nd #1 record. Birdman would drop his 4th album off of the strength of a Wayne & Drake featured song “Money to Blow” & they would begin dominating under the moniker of “YMCMB”.
In 2010 both Drake & Nicki would drop their debut albums to massive commercial success, making both artist forces to be reckoned with still to this very day (Drake much more than Nicki). During this time Wayne would release two more albums (1 being a rock album) & would also do an 8 month prison sentence.
In 2011 As Drake would continue tearing up the charts with arguably his best album “Take Care” & Wayne would release the long awaited Carter IV. Young Money would sign rapper Tyga & Cash Money would sign DJ Khaled. Both spawned hits like “I’m On One” & “Rack City” further cementing YMCMB as a juggernaut of hit makers.
Final Cracks in the Armour
In October 2014 Tyga lashed out on the label saying that he has completed his 4th studio album but Cash Money is holding his music hostage. This was the first time in awhile that an actual artist with some buzz has attacked the label. To make matters worse two months later Lil Wayne started publicly outing the label for doing the same thing with his album “Tha Carter V”. This then spawned Wayne to launch a $51 million lawsuit against the company claiming to not have been rightfully compensated for his albums, as well as the work done by Young Money artists Drake, Nicki & Tyga.
The Following year in a move seemingly to back up his boss, Drake drops an album “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” without Cash Money’s knowledge. The album/mixtape’s title is rumoured to be a diss to Birdman & Slim. During this time Birdman partners up with Atlanta rapper Young Thug & was briefly investigated for allegedly trying to assassinate Wayne. This has caused a rift between some former associates with Birdman like rapper Rick Ross who has sided with Wayne & has dissed Birdman every chance he gets for not paying people like Khaled or producers like “Bangladesh”.
In recent years some members of Cash Money have done mini reunions. Whether it be with Juvenile signing back twice (03’s album “Juve The Great” & once more in 2014) The most notable reunion came with members of the Hot Boys(without B.G who is currently serving a 14 year prison sentence for having a hand gun & witness tampering) & Mannie Fresh appearing in 2 Chainz video “Used 2” which plays off of old Hot Boys lingo & pays homage to Juvie’s Back That Azz Up. These reunions have not included Birdman, however he has stated that he will be doing his own Cash Money reunion which Mannie Fresh has agreed to be apart of.
Through all the ups & downs, through all the legal battles with producers & artists. Cash Money Records has still stood the test of time. Almost 3 decades of success. This label had two different amazing runs in the game that’ll cement their legacy forever. But as most successful groups, ego & greed has led to their downfall. Still for all you’ve done for the culture. THANK YOU.