Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer
Over twenty years ago, hip hop became a nationwide movement and areas outside of New York City started movements. New Orleans was among the cities who quickly built a rap scene. Brothers Bryan and Ronald Williams established Cash Money Records in order to capitalize off the local talent.
The brothers took money they had made on the streets and opened an office and a studio in New Orleans. Many local rappers began recording for the label, landing regional hits. Early Cash Money albums were sold in the trunks of cars. While Cash Money Records had a modest growth, cross-town rival, No Limit Records did things big.
Fellow New Orleans native, Percy "Master P" Miller, started his own record label, No Limit Records, a year after Cash Money Records. Master P initially created gangsta rap music in the West Coast, but soon brought the label back home to New Orleans. With no major star to market, P recorded albums, himself, and made modest hits. Soon, he signed family members to the label and established a solid distribution deal with Priority Records, which handled all of his promotion and videos.
Cash Money Records lived under the shadow of No Limit Records from 1992 until 1997. The label was profitable with minor hits from artists such as U.N.L.V. At the time, no one would have predicted the type of hold Cash Money Records would have over the entire hip hop market. The groundwork for this movement began in 1996, when the label signed Juvenile, B.G., Turk, and Lil Wayne. Together, the four young men made up The Hot Boyz.
Bryan Williams, the co-founder of Cash Money Records, soon began his own career as a rapper, serving as a rival to Master P. Naming himself Baby, he teamed up with producer, Mannie Fresh, to form the hit-making duo, Big Tymers. But, it would be the Hot Boyz that helped make Cash Money Records the force it is today. Their 1997 hit, Get It While You Live, helped land Cash Money an exclusive distribution deal with major label, Universal Records, which was more lucrative than No Limit's deal with Priority.
At the time, many felt as if Cash Money had reached its peak. The label had a full roster of hitmakers and solid distribution. In the eyes of many, there was not more they could do with what they had.
By the turn of the century, Cash Money Records was proving these doubters right when things began to fall apart. The tight-knit family fell apart when some of the artists accused Baby and Slim, the Williams brothers, of not fully paying royalties. These disputes led to the departure of Juvenile in 2001 and the departure of B.G. in 2002. Lil Wayne remained with the label, even though there were rumors of him not properly being paid. All of the bad publicity left Wayne the only member of the label.
Not only did Juvenile and B.G. leave, they made their dispute with their former bosses public, outing them on
In 2004, Lil Wayne assumed his position as the flagship artist of the label with the release of Tha Carter. On this album, Wayne made the bold statement of him being "the best rapper alive." Jay-Z coined this phrase on his final album, The Black Album. The famed rapper intended to retire on top of his game.
Not only did Lil Wayne name himself the best on this album, but he also pleaded with his former partners on "I Miss My Dawgz." Fans loved the song and how Wayne spoke of wanting to reunite with his crew, but B.G. wrote the song off as a publicity stunt and continued to diss his former label. Meanwhile, Juvenile returned to the label to record one more album and to officially end the feud.
With Lil Wayne as the frontman of the label, Cash Money Records was headed in a new direction, but in the eyes of many, they were scrambling to find hits. Lil Wayne was at the peak of his career, while Cash Money was at a new low. But, with their faith in their young star, Cash Money Records was on the track to taking over the game, while pundits were ready to stick a fork in the label. Lil Wayne returned with his most-successful album, at the time, Tha Carter II, and reinvented his entire style.
Despite the efforts of Lil Wayne, no one took the movement serious. Wayne was only a minor rapper, himself, in a game filled with the 50 Cents and other major stars. Lil Wayne did the impossible in order to take the title as "the best."
Lil Wayne left in the middle of what was then the peak of his career to record mixtapes. Many of his verses were so popular that artists ended up inviting him to record with them. Towards the end of 2006, the new king of collaborations was Lil Wayne.
With the mixtapes coming more and more at the time, Lil Wayne was soon touted by critics as the best rapper in the game. The newfound popularity also helped rebuild interest in Cash Money as the label released three projects in 2006, despite losing Mannie Fresh. Cash Money Records was in the middle of a transition phase and had a roster of new talent they were ready to introduce. Lil Wayne also prepared to introduce the world to his Young Money camp.
In 2008, Lil Wayne released his ever-popular album, Tha Carter III and he officially assumed his role as the face of hip hop. Many felt this was the peak of Lil Wayne's career and the start of a new movement for the rest of the Cash Money label. Baby began going by the moniker of Birdman full time and he also began working on his own solo projects. Cash Money went on a signing frenzy and doubled the number of artists on the roster, even branching out into rock music.
While the world waited on Tha Carter IV, Lil Wayne made other plans in 2009. He intended to release his experimental album, Rebirth, and introduce the world to Young Money. Wayne had signed former television star and mixtape sensation, Drake, along with Nicki Minaj and other talents to the label. Instead of releasing his own album in 2009, Lil Wayne released We Are Young Money for his 2009 album. The reception was mixed, as fans wanted Wayne, but they appreciated the new introductions.
By 2010, Cash Money Records added frequent collaborators, Cool & Dre, a production duo to the label, along with the ever-popular, DJ Khaled. Bow Wow was added to the roster in 2009, along with a few other artists. Bizzy Bone is also in discussions of signing with the label. Currently, Cash Money Records is putting together a lucrative deal for Soulja Boy and his entire Stacks on Deck label to bring them over into the already-large fold.
Ten years ago, it looked as if Bryan and Ronald Williams had reached their peak with Cash Money Records, but they have proven they were just getting started. Now considered the biggest hip hop record label, the next ten years will truly prove how big a hip hop record label can be.