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How Cash Money Records Pulled off Hip-Hop’s Louisiana Purchase (with Zack O’Malley Greenburg)

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Is Cash Money hip-hop’s greatest record label? We still give that title to Def Jam. But there’s a stronger case for Cash Money to be hip-hop’s best record label business.

Cash Money’s 1998 distribution deal with Universal is one of the most influential deals in music. They maintained ownership of the assets and partnered with the strongest companies in the industry. Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams pulled off Hip-Hop’s Louisiana Purchase.

In the early days, there were no expensive Timbaland beats at Cash Money. It was all in-house production from Mannie Fresh. There were no million-dollar Hype Williams music videos either. Jay Z’s flashy suits in the “Sunshine” music video probably cost more than the entire budget for Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” music video! Cash Money did more with less.

As Zack said in our episode,

“Warren Buffett would love a business like Cash Money Records.”

was Cash Money a little too low cost?

Unfortunately, Cash Money has been notorious for disputes with artists and business partners over fair compensation. The list of artists who have had lawsuits or financial disputes with Cash Money is longer than a CVS receipt.

Zack has asked Baby and Slim about this specific issue in past interviews. Here’s his take on Cash Money’s reasoning:

“They did not have formal training in business, were represented by people who don’t have formal training, and did deals with others who don’t have formal training… when you go back to the early documents, it was not properly papered on either side.”

That’s an understandable excuse in the pre-Universal deal days, but these disputes went on for far too long with more recent incidents like Tyga suing Cash Money for unpaid royalties from “Rack City.”

thriving when others didn’t

The 2000s were dark days for the music industry due to piracy, but Cash Money and Lil Wayne still found a way to win. They leaned all the way into mixtapes.

Wayne teamed up with DJ Drama, who followed DJ Whoo Kid’s playbook with the 50 Cent G-Unit mixtapes but adapted it for the South. Wayne’s mixtapes like Dedication 2 to Da Drought 3 (my personal favorite), were exactly what hip-hop needed.

It paved the way for Wayne’s 2008 classic, Tha Carter III. Here’s what I wrote in 2019:

“Remember, Tha Carter III dropped in June 2008. CD sales were in steep decline, digital music was still driven by piracy, and the music industry was beside itself. The future was uncertain, much like the rest of the U.S. economy during that financial crisis. Homes were foreclosed and investment banks went belly up. Applebee’s was out here selling two for $20 steak dinners to keep the lights on! Meanwhile, Dwayne Carter went platinum in his first week with over 1 million copies sold. It was the highest first-week album sales since 2005. The last artist to do it before him? Fellow mixtape circuit king, 50 Cent.”

Lil Wayne also made great money with ringtones. “Lollipop” is the highest-selling ringtone of all time.

the ability to win bidding wars

Record labels are evaluated on their ability to deliver results efficiently, stay hot, and win bidding wars. Cash Money did all three well, especially the bidding wars for three of its most successful artists.

In the mid-2000s, Lil Wayne considered leaving Cash Money. Jay Z was President of Def Jam and wanted his fellow Carter Boy on his roster. Jay called Baby to give him a heads-up out of respect. But Jay soon received a “torturous interference” letter from Cash Money. Birdman and Slim then made Wayne an offer he couldn’t refuse—President of Cash Money and his own imprint label, Young Money. It set up the next 15 years.

A few years later, Drake was the hottest free agent in music. So Far Gone had just been released, he was still unsigned. Sources said that Motown, Interscope, Atlantic, and Warner Music Group were all in the running. But Drake’s relationship with Cortez Bryant at Young Money helped close the deal for Cash Money Records.

Then a few months after Drake and Young Money, Nicki Minaj sparked her own bidding war after her mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty. Many labels in hip-hop wanted a “first lady,” and Nicki took that title for Young Money. After that, Young Money went on one of the all-time runs after that.

From Juvenile’s “Ha” to Nicki Minaj’s Queen album, Cash Money had a 20-year run of straight dominance. Make sure you check our full episode on Cash Money. Zack and I go in more depth on:

–  how much money would Cash Money Records sell for?

–  the Cash Money – Republic Records partnership

–  missed opportunities for the label

–  what we would do now if we were in Birdman’s shoes

Listen to the full episode here.

[1:44] Is Cash Money the greatest hip-hop record label of all time?

[7:34] What people sleep on about Cash Money

[11:01] Cash Money’s history of not paying artists 

[16:52] Did Cash Money succeed because of Birdman and Slim or despite them? 

[19:29] Biggest signing? 

[20:29] The 1998 Universal-Cash Money deal 

[25:31] Lil’ Wayne’s mixtape run

[29:03] The benefit of partnering with Republic Records

[31:49]  Bidding wars for Lil Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj

[33:21] Connection with New Jack City 

[40:56] Cash Money catalog valuation ?

[43:00] Lil Wayne’s beef with Birdman 

[45:48] Can Cash Money strike platinum again? 

[50:44] Birdman’s love for music 

[56:08] Hopes for a Cash Money reunion tour and biopic 

[58:24] Who “won” the most in Cash Money’s history?

 

 

TRANSCRIPTION:

[00:00:00] Zack: You know, some of the subsequent deals that they worked out with Universal, you know, maybe some of the deals where they were able to get universal to, to tackle some of the back office stuff. I mean, it’s very unsexy, but you know, that’s clearly an area where they needed to improve. So, let’s say,to give some cash in terms of like higher distribution fee in order to have Universal, you know, cover some of this stuff. It’s kinda like a boring, dark horse candidate, but you know, I mean, you could say that, that’s probably useful in terms of buttoning things up.

[00:00:37] Dan Intro: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from the executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.

[00:00:57] Dan: All right. Today’s episode is all about the one, the only cash money records. I got the one and only Zack Greenberg here who has reported on this company many times before we ran to this company and the business moves they did in our Top 10 Revolutionary list last year. So Zack, welcome back. I’m excited for this one.

[00:01:18] Zack: Always good to be here with you, Dan. 

[00:01:19] Dan: Yeah. So for the folks listening, we are gonna do this in a few ways. We got a bunch of categories here that we’re gonna run through, just evaluating Cash Money as a business, some of the highs, some of the lows, and just where they stand overall. But I think it’ll be great to kick it off with the question that we often hear from folks is Cash Money, the greatest hip hop record label of all time? What’s your point? What’s your take?

[00:01:44] Zack: How, man, you know, I mean, I think it’s sort of like, any of these greatest ever are you talking about, overall body of work or sort of like, you know, The label at its peak. But you know, I think you gotta take it in an overall body of work, you know, type of thing. You know, it’s hard to top Def Jam, I think, you know, if you were gonna go with an overall body of work, hip hop, legacy. But, you know, I don’t know other than that, I mean, it’s hard to say that there’s anybody who you’d put above cash money, I’d say. Especially something that is, you know, really artist founded in that same way. I mean, you could talk about Bad Boy, you could talk about Rockefeller. But I think that, you know, Cash Money has staying power. You know, through Drake and Nikki and Lil Wayne and so forth, you know, in a way that, you know, I would argue that a lot of these other labels haven’t, and, you know, who else can say that they’ve had Drake for that long? And I guess he’s not there anymore. But man, that was pretty recent development and it’s been a pretty great run. So, you know, to go all the way from the early nineties, you know, through basically now being relevant, stacking up all that catalog, you know, it’s certainly, if not number one, it’s, you know, gotta be top three, if not top two.

[00:03:00] Dan: Yeah. So my answer is Def Jam as well, and we’ll get to Def Jam in a minute. But, the case for Cash Money is this, and I know a few people have said it. Irv Gotti recently said it. Russell Simmons himself said that Cash Money was the greatest hip hop company that has come through. But the case for cash money, you mentioned it earlier, the fact that they did it while owning the core asset and the music and still doing that moving forward says a lot. Not something that can be said about Def Jam, many of the others that would be even in the conversation. I think even with a newer label at Quality Control, they’ve still done it while owning it. Well, at least up to this point from some rumors that are happening. But I think that’s one case for Def Jam. But then I think of the continued run of success from everything that happened in the nineties from I guess we could start with like juvenile drop in HA in 98 and then pretty much everything from Drake’s last Cash Money album, which I believe was Scorpion. So if you’re looking just at like that run from everything there, that is such a strong hit rate. And I think that’s the thing too that I would give them over Def Jam is the hit rate of who were the artists we signed and what was their likelihood of success and they were just able to do it. Even with the imprints, I mean, I think major record labels. So wrong with so many imprints. I just never worked out and for them to have, whether it’s Young Money or even the smaller moments with the best music or with Rich Gain, there was always something there. And even though there was some conflict, and we’ll get to that, I think that’s the Cash Money case. The Def Jam case though, I think this is where I think of course Def Jam did end up becoming a major record label, so it’s a little bit nuanced there, but I do think you have that eighties run Beasties LL Public Enemy. You got the nineties run with all those artists too. Especially looking at what Red Band met the man DMX. I feel like they had New York on Locke and then two thousands, the Rockefeller partner. Murder Inc. The video games, I mean, it’s, I know the last decade hasn’t been there, but it would be tough to not put Def Jam up top, but I understand if some people would consider Def Jam a major as opposed to, you know, an independent. So, I get the nuance there. 

[00:05:10] Zack: right, right. And, and being, you know, fully owned by a major as opposed to Cash Money, which really has distribution agreement. You know, and you could look at, you know, I guess Def Jam was sold in chunks, but the total amount that sold for, you’d have to adjust for inflation and stuff. But I wonder how that would stack up against the current value of cash money today, which, you know, it’s incredibly driven by the copyrights that they still control and, you know, definitely hundreds of millions of dollars. You know, if you look at, Lil Wayne kind of quietly sold his The Young Money, Cash Money Partnership for a hundred million bucks a couple years ago, that was before the catalog boom, got really crazy and then kind of died down again. So, you know that that’s valuing what Birdman and Slim Own, you know, just on the Young Money, Cash Money side of the business, you know, at nine figures. So there’s, you know, there’s a lot more to the company than that, although that’s, you know, that’s kind of the gold line. But still, you gotta think that, you know, this is still, you know, sent a million dollar business and, you know, I’d be curious to see what a proper valuation, you know, what it would look like against the total value that Def Jam got, you know, in terms of dollars over the years. But, you know, when you think about who was hottest and what record label was hottest at any particular point, Yeah, I think probably the peak was there was that year that Def Jam was, you know, getting sold or the second half of it was getting sold. And, Lyor basically said to Jay and D M X, like, let’s have two albums this year. And, you know, because the valuation is gonna be based on revenues, not earnings. And like, the more you can sell, the more we get. And so, you know, that moment at D M X at his peak, and you know, Jay, I think, I’d say at least at his commercial, you know, record Sales Peak, you know, as an individual artist, you know, that was about as hot as, as it could ever get for, for any record label, I think. 

[00:07:08] Dan: That’s a good point. So I guess if we were to compare Def Jams 98 and 99, like that run to Yeah. Cash Money, and I know there’s a few runs you could put in there, but from an overall commercial perspective, it would have to be 0 8, 0 9 20 10, I would probably assume, because you get. Carter three, and then you get, you know, Drake’s debut, Nikki’s debut. I feel like it would probably be somewhere in there. 

[00:07:34] Zack: Yeah, that’s probably pretty close. I mean, that was a lot, you know, that was a lot of concentration within a couple year period as well. You know, and I think the other thing about Cash Money, that maybe people sleep on to some extent is, you know, just like the efficiency of the label, especially in the early days. And, you know, of course we can get into some of the issues with paying producers and so forth, but, you know, they really had a system and you know, it was going and finding artists that were bubbling up, you know, first in the New Orleans area. I mean, this is in the nineties, and, you know, and then kind of just plugging them into the machine. Right. You know, put them with stable producers in-house, get Manny Fresh on there and, you know, it was not like a, you know, high expense kinda situation. Like maybe you would’ve seen with Def Jam or, you know, some of the New York, LA labels, it was just like, you know, you know, probably low, low cost, high output. You know, like there’s a high margin business, low overhead, you know, it’s lean and mean. So I think from, in that regard, Cash Money, you know, it might have been, it might have been the best business, you know, out of any record label. Right. In terms of sort of like efficiency and profitability and stuff like that.

[00:08:47] Dan: That’s a great point because if you look at that vibe, I think that was the vibe for the South overall. We saw that with no Limit as well, just with in-house production sheep, that production does almost everything and the music videos aren’t flashy and the fact that I think they stuck with what they do and what they work with well, and eventually I think collaborations came, but that was something that they were hesitant about as well. Just thinking about juvenile dropping 400 degrees, and I’m going back to that just because that’s the first album that comes after that 1998 Universal deal, which we’ll talk about soon, but, that album, I’m pretty sure the entire production value for those music videos probably costs less than one of the suits that Puffy and Mace wore in the music videos. or, yeah, Jay-Z’s Sunshine Music video, which I know has been talked about for years on end, but that’s what the vibe was. There were no Hype Williams music videos coming through Cash Money. Right. At least at that point. I know they came later when Wayne blew up further, but that’s what they did. They stuck to what they did and it worked. It worked so well. 

[00:09:55] Zack: Warren Buffet would love Cash Money. 

[00:09:59] Dan: Oh yeah. He loves little cost.

[00:09:59] Zack: Cash Value. Value, cash value investor. Right. Early cash money would be the Warren Buffet play.

[00:10:06] Dan: Yeah, absolutely.  Definitely. And the thing is too, you talked about it earlier, just some of this things leading up to the big deal that they had, but even back in those early days, even before the Universal deal, Birdman and Slim, the co-founders of Cash Money Records had a history of legal issues with artists and not paying artists on time. And I actually have a list here, and it’s probably an incomplete list, but artists that have had some type of dispute or issue with Cash Money records when it comes to payments. So I have Lil Wayne, Pharrell, Clipse, David Banner, Bangladesh, the producer, at least five or six artists before 1998, Wendy Day, who’s not an artist, but one of the attorneys and people that helped make this deal happen. Behi Turk and Shal and Jazz Prince, of course himself. Tiger, Manny Fresh, and I’m sure I’m missing people from that list. 

[00:11:01] Zack: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s a long and storied list of people to have disputes with and, you know, it really is something that goes, you know, hand in hand with success.You can’t ignore that history. So, you know, I think it is important to remember some of the context. You know, these guys were coming out of a completely different world. You know, and they were hustlers. They were legit hustlers in New Orleans. And, you know, in doing some reporting, you know, I verified it.  I mean, you know, they were the real deal. They moved things over. They went legit. They became record moguls and Bird Man’s Case became a rapper himself. And, you know, they were not people who had dealt with, you know, sets of books, right? There was not really necessarily like bookkeeping apparatus in their form of business. So, you know, I think there was an adjustment period that, you know, let’s say perhaps went on for too long in terms of, you know, getting things papered up and straightened out. But, you know, I wrote a big story on them in 2019 for Forbes, where I went down to Miami and spent some time with Birdman and Slim. I talked to their lawyers a lot. I talked to Wendy Day. Spend some time in the studio with them and you know, I mean, everybody of course has, if you ask people in the Cash Money camp, they’re gonna have their side of the story. If you ask whoever they’re having the dispute with, you know, they’re gonna have their side of the story too. And you know, obviously when there’s smoke, there’s fire, there’s a hell of a lot of smoke when it comes to not getting paid on time. But… 

[00:12:29] Dan: What would you say is the Cash Money side of the story, though? The Cash Money is this it?

[00:12:33] Zack: They, you know, started out as people who had not had formal training in business, doing business with a lot of other people who had not had formal training in business, who were represented by people who had not had formal training in business. And so when you go back to some of these early documents, it was not properly papered over on either side. And so there’s a lot of question over, you know, who owns what, you know, I don’t know that anybody who was involved in some of those early deals really, you know, had a full grasp of sort of, you know, music copyright and publishing and, and master recordings and all that. I mean,  you know, it’s not like an intuitive business, you know, it’s like, wait, what? There’s two writes to every song. They’ve like, there’s a publishing and a recorded music. It’s separate. How does that work? So I think a lot of that was, you know, kind of like if you go back the nineties and early nineties, especially when they’re getting started, you know, before the Universal deal there was just really like, you know, I would imagine a lot of handshake deals, a lot of just, you know, kind of like, let’s see how, how it goes sort of stuff. A lot of, you know, here we’re gonna give you a bag of cash and you do you give us this beat or you give us a verse or whatever. So, you know, it makes sense to me that it might not be papered up properly. But, you know, the fact that that’s continued, you know, so far into the future, you know, that’s another story. So, you know, what they did say was that, you know, after, and we can talk more about this Universal deal, but after the Universal deal started and then, you know, as it continued to evolve, you know, to where Universal got an even bigger cut of, you know, distribution fee or like an even bigger distribution fee than it had signed up for in the beginning. Universal took on more and more of sort of the back office function. And so, you know, some of the more recent stuff is, you know, a little bit more papered up properly. So that’s the Cash Money side. But, you know, it’s funny, I mean, when I did this story and I reached out to all these folks, you know, what I got was like a no comment, which says to me that, you know, things have been settled up and they kind of don’t want to get into it anymore. Right. Or maybe there was an NDA involved. But yeah, a lot, a lot of smoke. A lot of smoke in that area, for sure. 

[00:14:42] Dan: Yeah, the NDAs are key. I remember there was one of the people that I had mentioned earlier that I was going to have on the podcast of Trapital, the interview timing didn’t work out, but that was one of the first things they said. If you have any questions for us about Birdman and his relationship with this artist or anything like that. No, we’re not answering it. And I was just like, all right, noted. Like, and I feel like that’s kind of RANE with a lot of this, but I think they and Birdman and Slim specifically in an odd way. It wasn’t even just to them alone. I feel like there was this ethos of, you could almost put Suge Knight into this same category as well, but these people that were cut throat with business folks that they were doing major deals with, whether it was Suge Knight with the folks at Interscope or Birdman with Universal, I’m like, Hey, I’m gonna take what’s mine. And rightfully so. They kept ownership over what worked for them and they did that, but they kept that same energy with a lot of the people that like worked with them on the other side too. And that’s the piece of it that while it was frustrating to see there are actually some other sides of this too, because even the fact that I think we can get into it in a little bit, but just some of the artists, they were able to sign how they went about that. As frustrating as it was about them not paying artists, like there not every aspect of the business was and is predatory. So that’s one thing that you know started to come up more and more as once you get past the salacious parts of the details and stuff, you’re like, okay, no and no different than why you went down there to report them. Right. There is nuance and there are a number of things to dive into. For sure, for sure. So shifting here, one of the other things that I’ve thought about, we talked a little bit about what set Cash Money apart. We talked a bunch about the backstory and the bad rep, but the next thing up here is about Cash Money itself and whether or not you think that it succeeded cause of Birdman and Slim or it succeeded despite them. So thinking about this hypothetical world, if it even is possible, other folks that would’ve had this label in their hands and what things would’ve looked like, what’s your take there? If we’re really isolating them as business leaders.

[00:16:52] Zack: I absolutely think it succeeded because of them. I mean, did they get in their own way some of the time? Absolutely. But I think, you know, anybody who can run a business that goes from like the early nineties in an informal economy, you know, in like the Louisiana area to being this global thing, to this day that is still, you know, very much at the forefront of an industry. I mean, you know, like they gotta be doing something right. You know, 30 plus years on the staying relevant and, you know, from like the early days Hot Boys to like the late nineties and, you know, remember Big Timers and Oh yeah. Still flying, all that, you know, heyday as we were alluding to, and sort of like the late s apparently, you know, 2010s, you know, of Cash Money, Young Money with Nikki and Drake and Wayne. Even coming through to, you know, to you to say Scorp. I mean, that’s a really long run of relevance and you know, have that, I mean, yeah, like I said, they gotta be doing something 

[00:17:53] Dan: Right. Yeah. I think it’s because of them too. I will. Because as much as there are issues, and we’ve talked about a lot of them here, There’s so much of this that would’ve succeeded with folks, other folks in charge, because there are a lot of record labels from the South that tried to do what Cash Money did as well. And a lot of them came and then most of them went. And the fact that we’re having this conversation and not having it about them is part of it. And a lot of those record labels had talented people as well, but things just didn’t carry over. They may have taken, you know, a bigger deal to get more money upfront, but then the hypothetical is, let’s say it was in the hands of someone else that wouldn’t have been able to push it forward, then it becomes part of the Island Def Jam conglomerate and then just kind of gets mixed and mixed. And then it becomes one of the many labels that you hear about where it’s like, oh yeah, whatever happened to this one or that one. And I think it took what could have been easily, because there would’ve been enough meat on the bone if we just talked about Cash Money from the early nineties up until, let’s say the mid two thousands. Right. And I think that’s, inflection point that we can talk about in a little bit. Even that itself was a great run itself. And then you look at the second half of the career from like the mid two thousands on, that’s a whole other historic record label. They have two of those under the same house. I think it’s because of them and as much as it can be frustrating to hear and see and, you know, unlikely there’s some critical things. But let’s jump into that now though, because I think one of the questions we have here is the biggest signing that this record label has had. What do you think is the biggest signing for Cash Money?

[00:19:29] Zack: Oh man. You know, I think probably easy answer is Drake, but you know, I would actually say Lil Wayne because if you don’t have Wayne, I don’t think the Drake thing happens, you know, and really Lil Wayne from such a young age going all the way back to the hot boys and, and you know, coming through. All those Carter albums, you know, like he’s the backbone of this whole operation, you know, musically, sonically. And I think without him you don’t get  everything else that comes along. What do you think?

[00:19:58] Dan: Yeah, it’s Wayne too. That’s who I have. I know that Drake is the highest commercial artist. If you were to look at all of the numbers and I think without him, the past decade would’ve looked very different. But we would still be having this conversation in some form. Likely if it wasn’t for the past decade of Drake, it may be a bit more truncated. But we may not be having this conversation at all if it wasn’t for Wayne. So I think it has to be Wayne there. What do you think is the best business move for Cash Money?

[00:20:29] Zack: You know, I’m gonna go back to that first deal that they struck with Universal. I was in the early nineties at Wendy Day, who he mentioned earlier. It was sort of like a go be who helped, you know, really get them, you know, kind of set up properly with this deal. But you know, they negotiated it and they wouldn’t take anything less than something that they felt was an incredible deal. And, I remember the story that Slim told me as they went in, they sat down some mid-level executive at Universal and low-balled them to straight up buy half the company. And so he and Birdman just got up to leave. Then Doug Morris walks in and he was the head of Universal at the time. Comes in with another colleague, Mel Lo winter and Slim members, you know, Doug saying, Hey, if I were you, I wouldn’t sell my company. He comes in and offers him 30 million advance just for the privilege of doing business. And, what does Universal get a 7% distribution fee, which is not a lot. So kind of almost doesn’t make sense from Universal’s perspective unless you think about it in terms of market share. Market share is so important when you’re the biggest record label because there are all these great things that happen when you have the most market share. There are all kinds of rights that are assigned based on market share. Like anytime there’s, you know, a mislabeled song that gets played or gets spun,and this happens a lot, the metadata in music is a disaster. So if, you know, there are these huge pops of sort of like unresolved money and you know, what they eventually do is they get resolved down by market sharing. So if you’re Universal, you know, you get the land share of that and there’s a lot of other things, a lot of other places where calculations are done based on market share. You can also brag and say that you’re the biggest stuff like that. So, you know, certainly it was worth it for Universal to come in and especially, you know, you think about at the time, You know, hip hop was still at a nascent stage and particularly hip hop in the South was like, not even really on the map for Universal to be able to come in and have this connection was really great for them. But, yeah, I mean, what a great deal. 30 million bucks. You don’t have to give up anything. You just give, you know, just give a distribution fee and frankly, you would want your stuff to be distributed by this, you know, enormous record label anyway, so that you could expand and get bigger and better. So I think hands down, that’s it. You know, that didn’t stop, that there were rumors, you know, that they were even bootlegging their own music, like out the back or wherever, so that they didn’t have to pay the 7%. But I, you know, I don’t know. I mean, that’s that talk about, you know, efficient business. But, you know, I think you go back to that deal that kind of laid the groundwork. Cause if they had given up half of their company way back then, I mean, you see what happened, Jay-Z he up, you know, a huge chunk of Rockefeller early on and. And I think was never really that incentivized, you know, to make that his main thing anymore because, you know, he’d given up such a big chunk early on.

[00:23:29] Dan: Yeah, it’s one of the best deals we’ve seen in music and one of the best deals we’ve seen in hip hop over the past 30 years without question. And the fact that they were able to get everything you mentioned, plus 2 million advance for three years. They kept ownership of the Masters too. And that’s the thing that, as we talked about, Birdman and Slim are still collecting on that year after year. So it’s up there. It’s incredible. And I know that there were other labels that tried to do the same, but just couldn’t. I think part of the reason is that this goes back to them focusing odd, what works for them. They had a unique sound. Universal saw this as their entryway to the south in an authentic way because back then, you know, the south was still vying for dominance. And I know that, you know, things were happening at LaFace, but this was different. The New Orleans sound was different from what was happening in Atlanta at the moment. And this gave you an entry path into that. So it was big time. 

[00:24:27] Zack: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, I think, you know, also 30 million back then, I mean, probably more like 50, 60 million when you talk about inflation. But you know, I would, to our earlier point, you know, did Cash Money succeed? You know, or despite Slim and Birdman, you know, that’s situation where, you know, obviously I wasn’t there and there wasn’t a video of it, but, you know, when you sit down with Slim and Birdman, like you can get the sense that it would be tough to negotiate with that.You know? I mean, Slim’s sitting there, he’s like 10 feet tall. He doesn’t really talk very much, you know, and Birdman, he can get pretty loquacious, but like, uh, he, you know, when he wants to, you know, be kind of stone based, you know, I mean, he can, he can have a great poker face. So I think, you know, if you’re some executive, you’re going in and you’re trying to get them to sell, and they have really no incentive to sell, and they’re sitting. Just like, Nope, we’re good. You know? I think that that leads you to offer them some crazy deal, like the one that Universal offered and so I really would chocolate up to some very good negotiating, on their part as well. 

[00:25:31] Dan: Yeah. You need to be able to negotiate to pull off hip hop’s Louisiana purchase. Got to at least one half. Absolutely. At least one half of it. Yeah. So, yeah. The other thing that I did have was a dark horse move and a move that doesn’t get talked about as much, and as much as that move does get focused on the one dark horse that I did have is the, well, I guess too, but let me focus on this one. I would say that the mixtape strategy that they had with Lil Wayne in the mid to late two thousands, even though cash money had ownership of the music, even though this, I think that worked so well. One of the questions that we have is just how well did this company record label transition from different stages of music, whether it was from the CD era, ringtones or ringtones, to streaming it, Cash Money knocked it out of the park. With each of their albums sold, especially when they did this deal at the height of the CD era, when the music industry was struggling in the mid two thousands and they were trying to get people to buy CDs. They were just like, Hey, let’s give away the music for free. And Wayne was rapping over other beats. He was in his bag more than anyone, and from dedications to Drought, all of those, just so many classics in there that I think real Hip Hop fans and folks that were following Wayne were following even more so than the next album. So all of that speaks. Lil Wayne being able to sell over a million albums in the first week when the Carter three drops in 2008, which is still a very tough time for CD sales to even happen. So that whole run and just the thought to do that. And granted, I think some of this may have been a bit more on Lil Wayne’s push himself, especially because at that point he had his own young money imprint. But all of this is happening and you know, Birdman and Slim had a problem with it. They could have said no. But I think the fact that they leaned into the change that was happening, you already saw what 50 Cent did with his mixtapes in the mid two thousands. You get drama, you get the other folks in the south to be able to help make this happen. And I think it worked out well for them.

[00:27:34] Zack: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a really good point too. So, you know, I mean, I guess when you have a label that has been that successful, that long, Yeah, there should be a couple different options for what the best move was. Yeah, I like that as a sleeper pick. 

[00:27:47] Dan: Yeah. And Lollipop is the best selling ringtone of all time too. over 5 million ringtones sold, and I mean, ringtones, were selling for like three bucks each to that point. So I mean 15 million just from folks wanting to, you know, have, you know, that little jingle on there, Motorola razors or whatever the hell people were using at that point. But, what was your dark horse? Oh 

[00:28:10] Zack: Oh man, that’s a really good question. I don’t know. I mean, I guess it was just so clearly the Universal deal to me. But, you know, and Drake wouldn’t really be considered a dark horse candidate, I guess you could say. As time went on, you know, some of the subsequent deals that they worked out with Universal, you know, maybe some of the deals where they were able to get Universal to tackle some of the back office stuff. I mean, it’s very unsexy, but you know, that’s clearly an area where they needed to improve. So, let’s say,to give us some cash in terms of like higher distribution fee in order to have Universal, you know, cover some of this stuff. It’s kinda like a boring, dark horse candidate. But you know, I mean, you could say that that’s probably useful in terms of buttoning things up and you know, there was a lot of smoke, like we said, but you know, nothing ever, like the house never burned down. So, you know, maybe, maybe those kinds of arrangements really kind of help prevent something like that from happening.

[00:29:03] Dan: And I think that back office piece also just makes me think about the broader partnership and the expertise that they were able to lean on. And a question that I actually didn’t explore, but now I’m thinking more about it, is how different do we think that the Universal partnership would’ve been, let’s say Cash Money had partnered with another label under the Universal umbrella? Because obviously part of this is very close. There was Universal Republic at the time and they’ve been hand in hand working with Monte and Avery Lipman ever since, and they are two of the most highly regarded executives in the game that have now being, year after year after year, the label with the number one market share. And part of that is because of Cash Money itself, but it’s also because of all the other stars, even outside of that label, they have been able to bring it to, as opposed to many of the other labels in the Universal Umbrella or the umbrella of Universal Music group labels that have not had that consistency. So I also think there’s a dynamic there where, let’s say there’s another world where cash money was under capital or cash money was under some of these other labels that have struggled to stay relevant, what that would’ve looked like.

[00:30:10] Zack: Yeah. I mean, I think if you, if you kind of need to go back to Def Jam, you know, some of the back and forth that Def Jam has had over the years. It gives you an idea of, or even as like a top label, the kind of trials and tribulations you might go under. But you know, when you’re coming in, you know, going directly to Doug Morris, you know that that gives you a lot of leeway, a lot of leverage. You got that line straight to the top. And, you know, even with somebody like Jay, it took him, it wasn’t until, you know, I don’t know, when he was dealing directly with Doug Morris, when Doug, this is, I think around the time of Blueprint three, and Jay had that line. I gave Doug a grip. I lost the flip for five stacks. He could have the album. They bet 10 million on a coin flip and like, you know, one way or the other. So, you know, but Birdman we’re doing that like, you know, 15 years earlier, having that kind of direct line. So, you know, again, I think going straight to serve them incredibly well.

[00:31:09] Dan: Definitely. Yeah. Another, another piece too. So, two other, like sonically three other dark horse candidates, I’ll bring ’em, but they’re all under the same thing, was Bird Man’s ability to win bid wars and win huge bidding wars, I think is an underrated piece of this record label. So I’ll bring up three of them. First one, go back to 2004. So this is around the time thatCarter came out and Wayne was considering to leave Def Jam, and this was around the time that Jay-Z had just became president and Jay-Z pushed hard, make that happen and couldn’t leave cash money for Def Jam. That was the thought, right?

[00:31:43] Zack: Yeah. Yeah. Carter boys, and there were all these, you know, kind of …

[00:31:49] Dan: Yeah, they’re trying to push the whole Carter board thing and yeah, Birdman was like, all right, come through. I’ll give you your own imprint and you are the president of that imprint and let’s continue this thing. And that obviously sets up young money and then the next 15 years after that, right. So he does that. Yeah. And I think that’s huge because then that sets the stage for the bidding war for Drake, because Drake drops so far gone beginning of 2009. And this is like, you know, everyone is trying to, it’s like when Yaba sweepstakes we’re seeing in the NBA right now everyone wants this person and everyone is going after them. I mean, truly Greenwall Lior, everyone was trying to get ’em. And it was that connection that Drake had with Cortez, Brian and Jay Prince Ja Prince and that whole crew that I think eventually helped keep him on the cash money roster there. So that was a huge one. And I think we saw something similar with Nicki Minaj as well. A couple months later. Everyone wanted her to beat me up. Scotty the mixtapes were hot and he and Wayne, Wayne was like, no, I want her to be the, the first lady of the label. That was the whole thing in the two thousands, right? Everyone wanted to have the first lady. You saw it in the nineties, right? But like everyone wanted to declare and elevate this person and rightfully so, but like that’s who we had. And then we obviously saw the beginning and the middle part of that next decade. Just go on one of the all-time runs. So Bird Band’s ability to win against the biggest people in the industry for record label that his men, you know, his brother own is really impressive for sure.

[00:33:21] Zack: And you know, it served Lil Wayne well in the end because Young Money became something that he was able to sell for, you know, about a hundred million dollars for his stake later on too. So, you know, keeping that ownership as opposed to just chasing the biggest advance time and time again we see in hip hop. You know, it’s so important. But, you know, I was thinking the other night, it is funny, like everyone has watched New Jack City, and it had been ages, ages, ages. And if they reminded me, I mean, how much of the whole Young Money, Cash Money situation is modeled after elements of that movie. I mean, even just like, The name Cash Money or C M B Y M C M B. The shirts, like the shirts, are incredibly similar that, you know, a lot of the lines, even the Carter, you know, the albums are named. I mean, the Carter was the building, you know, where Wesley Stein’s character was like running this whole operation you know, that’s kind of like another interesting element to the whole, you know, to the whole narrative. Like, you know, these guys coming out of Louisiana, you know, had their eyes up on this very New York kind of, you know, almost role model, for a business. And, you know, they had been hustlers. They were kind of modeling themselves after these, you know, fictional hustlers in New York and, you know, and then in a way out hustled sort of like the New York record label establishment. So I thought that was kind of an interesting, you know, little side bit of color to the whole story. And, like a bit of irony as well, you know, when you talk about, South versus, New York kind of situation too. 

[00:34:59] Dan: And I think that also speaks to some of that mentality too, because here you have Birdman that was getting inspiration from a black crime movie. And I think a lot of the ways of him doing business are very much central on, okay, I wanna support and uplift the black community, do what I can here and grid. And I think, you know, part of how he was able to do that has, you know, been quite controversial just with certain artists he’s had on. Yeah. But still, I think that ethos stems back from ownership in trying to keep things in-house as much as you can. And it took them a lot to even partner with other artists from other parts of the countries and stuff like that, that I think you saw with Dino Brown and how he was in that movie and how he carried versus I think someone like Jay-Z who record label Rockefeller named after one of the great white business magnets that you had in this country. Right. And so many Jay-Z bars, whether it’s Black Axl, Rose Black, Kirk Cobain called me this. I feel like, you know, people always get on Kanye for some of that. Like always trying to like be okay. I’m, you know, the black version of whatever X person. But I think Jay-Z, you know, also had a lot of that too. And then I think also looking at his business mentality, a lot of his success came from his huge and lucrative partnerships with established companies in this space. So the inspiration I think also became kind of telltale sign for the type of businesses these types of folks ended up creating too. 

[00:36:23] Zack: Yeah. And you know, I mean, you know, brown was a really ruthless character. And you know, I think there’s like the money and the success that’s glamorized. But you know, it’s a gritty movie. I mean it seems like he is not a likable guy in the end. You know, without giving too much of the plot, I’m sure everybody’s seen it, but like, I was like, wow. Yeah. I don’t know if I’d be wanting to model myself after this dude. You know, he’s pretty brutal. But, you know, even on the, you know, kind of the lighter side, there’s a scene where he’s like giving out turkeys at Thanksgiving. Yep. And you know, the Cash Money guys always give out turkeys in New Orleans at Thanksgiving and I wonder if they got that directly from the movie. You know, cuz so many of you know, from the Carter. You know, the c n b kind of, kind of like whole, you know, ethos there. I wonder how much of that they just pulled directly from the movie, so…

[00:37:16] Dan: Oh, yeah. I could definitely see that mentality too. And speaking about it, you know, full circle. I could also see Birdman having a bit of that cancel that bitch mentality too, in short situations.

[00:37:28] Zack: Right, right, right, right. Exactly. So, yeah, I mean, and they won’t talk about that part of it, the interviews maybe, but you kind of get the sense of like that’s where the negotiation and the cash element of the Cash Money comes in. Yeah. 

[00:37:42] Dan: The aita literally held people over the balcony of a building to get what he wanted. Right. Yeah. Yeah. A lot of that came through to fruition. But next category up here. So missed opportunity. Is there anything that you look at that you’re like, man, obviously it’s an overall successful company. Is there anything you look back on about what if they did this differently or what if they did that differently?

[00:38:02] Zack: I think the number one thing I wonder is what if they had sold the whole thing, you know? A year and a half ago, could they have gotten just an insane multiple? I mean, you know, you’re seeing like Springsteen staying and all these guys getting hundreds of millions of dollars for their catalogs. So, you know, I get it.  And there’s, you know, catalogs, hip hop catalogs are valued differently from rock catalogs. And also one of the benefits of rock catalogs is they’re usually, you know, written and owned by, you know, all the rights are with the band. There’s not like a million different producers coming in. It’s not as complicated. So like, you know, they can sell the whole thing, you know, a hundred percent of the rights and you don’t have to, you know, it’s not like you’re just buying like, you know, I don’t know, 30% of this and 50% of that and whatever. It’s, it’s not this complex web, let’s say there may not be as many things that haven’t been papered over as there were with Cash Money, but man, you know, there were some pretty insane, numbers flying around and I really wonder if, you know, if they had, been applying some of, you know, 20 or 30 x multiple. To whatever they were pulling in, you know, which is, you know, they can just sit there and make, you know, tens of millions of dollars a year, just off of this catalog. I mean, so what would the market have been if they had went and sold the whole thing at the peak of the catalog? Boom. That’s what I really wonder. 

[00:39:21] Dan: That’s a good one. So I guess some high level back of the envelope math on that. So let’s say that the peak of the catalog boom was like December, 2020 maybe, and then like, you know, into the spring of 2021 and we definitely saw some 30 x multiples there and at least the last public number I saw, and I think you had this in one of your latest articles as well, but that Cash Money’s Masters generated around 30 million annually, or 20 to 30 million. Was that the number?

[00:39:49] Zack: Yeah, I think it was at least 30. And you know, cuz Bird, like most of hey Birdman, you know, has been making like close to 20 million a year, for a while, give or take. And you know, most of that is just, you know, the catalog. So yeah, I mean that’s just his cut. And then if you figure you double that for Slim, yeah, probably, you know, it was around 30, 35, something like that, so, you know. Yeah. I mean, are they gonna get a 30 x value even at the peak? I don’t think so because just hip hop wasn’t getting that kind of valuation. I don’t really understand that because everybody’s like, oh, rock and roll music gonna stand the test of time. It’s like if you ask the average 20 year old who Bruce Springsteen is, they’re not gonna know. I mean, so I would argue that hip hop is actually gonna be more valuable down the line. But just the valuation, you know, that’s not what people have been paying for. So even at the peak, you know, I, I don’t know that I saw any valuations anywhere near 30. I think Kanye was shopping his catalog at one point and wanted a 30 x multiple, but, you know, didn’t get any bites. So I think it comes down to like, yeah, what kind of multiple could they actually have gotten? 

[00:40:56] Dan: Yeah, because even more recently, so yeah, we’re recording this now. January, 2023, there was a report that just came out about Dr. Dre selling a collection of music assets that I believe are worth different multiples. But the number that I heard from that was, They generate around 10 million per year and that he wanted 250 and he’s getting just over 200 million or somewhere between that. So that’s around a 20 x multiple for a deal. That sounds like it was still coming underway in 2022. So if you were to put that multiple on, let’s call it 35 million for maybe what Birdman and Slim have collectively, then that is you’re talking $700 million. So that’s a pretty sizable number, not a billion. But maybe if there are some concerns about, maybe there’s a bit more of a split of who owns what. We didn’t even talk about publishing right now, but there may be a split too, especially if everything was captured. and even thinking about quality control, for instance, and I think they got around 400 million, 300, got 400 million, but this was last year. So I would assume that 500 to 750 sounds, if I heard a number there, I would be like, sounds about right. If I heard a number lower than that or higher than that, I would probably be surprised one way or the other. 

[00:42:15] Zack: Yeah. Yeah, I mean I think that makes sense. And it’s not just one artist, you know, obviously it’s a whole bunch of artists and a bunch of pieces of different artists. But I think another thing, and this is maybe one of the reasons why the hip-hop valuations are lower, is like when you have all those producers, it might not be as easy to get, you know, to get clearances for using stuff in commercials and that sort of thing. Whereas if you buy a hundred percent of the rights, there’s no question. Right. And so I’m not even sure if somebody owned 1% of, of something, whatever. Like I don’t think they would have some, like, veto right. About the song being played in a commercial. But, you know, when you start to have so many different parties owning bigger stakes, a particular song, it can get a little convoluted and, you know, I do wonder if that’s a big part of it as well.

[00:43:00] Dan: Yeah, no, that’s a good point. Yeah. Cuz I think sampling also is a huge piece of that as well. The missed opportunity for me, this is a bit more of a specific one from like a timeframe, not like a specific move, but Birdman and Little Wayne not settling and squashing the beef, the issues that they had in the mid 2010s. I think we lost out on Wayne. I know Wayne was in prison during part of this, but we lost out on his momentum. We lost out on a lot there because I feel like a lot happened from the Carter four coming out in 2011 to the Carter five coming out in 2018. I believe. There was so much back and forth. There was so much drama. You know, Drake was going on his all time run at that point. Nicki was doing the same. And the fact that the signature biggest artist is literally tweeting out, I want off this label, but it’s not that easy. Or sending these messages out in the middle of Wayne and Drake having their tours and him still being on albums and trying to figure out how to drop things.

I think it was obviously a great decade in run, but I think it could have been even greater if they were able to solve some of that stuff and figure it out. 

[00:44:11] Zack: Yeah, a hundred percent, you know, that that was like, it’s a long time to be going between, proper albums, you know, so, and I think that was a really interesting time in the music business. And, I mean, the music business changed completely right from, from 2011 to 2018 from being, you know, oh, this new streaming thing is gonna be important to like, you know, it is the entire business basically. So, you know, and I think that an artist like Wayne, you know, as somebody whose music translates really well to, you know, to that medium. And, you know, as we know, hip hop is a monster on streaming and, you know, tends to do really well. So I would’ve been really curious to see if he had been able to continue that momentum, you know, just how much bigger he could have gotten in that period of time too.

[00:44:57] Dan: Yeah, definitely. The next piece we add too, I think we talked a little bit about this just in terms of how did the label handle the transitions? And I think you just mentioned it there. They were able to do a lot of it well, especially the mixed day piece and the ring toes. And then I think a lot of it laid the work for streaming and Drake is streaming, did a lot of that, the Cash Money labels. So I think that worked. But this next question is interesting though, because it’s been around three years, I think it’s been at least three years since you did your deep story, the Forbes cover story on Cash Money, where you went down and interviewed them. And then I know it’s been four years since I had written a piece around the time that Drake had completed Scorpion and we knew that it was going to be, or at least I thought the future may be bleak. And I think the question that you pose into the piece was, can they strike platinum again? It’s been three years since now. What do you think? 

[00:45:48] Zack: You know, I don’t know. I mean, the rules for platinum, like what constitutes platinum have changed so much that, you know, all it takes is, you get, you know, one hot signing and they do really well on streaming and suddenly you have a platinum whatever. And, you know, it’s like, okay, I think that, you know, Drake is gone. Wayne is gone. When I went down there, they were really big on blue face and Jack Reese, you know, I don’t know what either of them are turning out to be like, I mean anywhere near Drake, Nikki, Wayne, et cetera. Jack Reese is the king of R&B though,  right? That was the whole thing too. So what I’m gonna go with, no, I don’t think they will begin Drake Platinum. But I would caveat that by saying it doesn’t matter because they can just sit back, and collect these checks. And that’s gonna happen. That’ll happen even if, you know Drake and Nikki and Wayne retire. I mean, their back catalog stuff is still gonna be a gold mine. And you know, when I was down there, what they said was that they’re forever in business with Drake. But they wouldn’t get more specific. And so what I took that to mean was, you know, at the time, you know, he was kind of an ex extra kidding himself. But even once he’s gone, they’re still sitting on these, you know, their share of the copyrights that will be, you know, Drake is a streaming king and they have a big piece of that. So, yeah. Do I think they’ll strike platinum again? You know, probably not, but I don’t really think it matters. I don’t think so, what are they gonna do? Like what are they gonna do? They’re gonna sit back and collect those checks. Yeah. 

[00:47:26] Dan: Yeah. I came to the same spot as well. I guess platinum in the purest sense of having a chart hit. Sure. There could be a legacy hit that gets, you know, some viral thing on TikTok and then that becomes a hit. Like, I don’t know, I don’t know if I like slow motion singles, like juvenile when platinum, but I feel like that’s the type of song I could see go viral and some TikTok thing and then bring new, that’s one of my cat favorite Cash Money songs. And I feel like I could see something like that happen. But I feel like you were kind of posing it more so in the moment of looking at these runs of like late two thousand, late nineties, early two thousands, that Cash Money is like a platinum moment or mid two thousands. Wayne’s mixtape ran late two thousands, early 2010 or to mid 2010s. Young Money rises to the highest of heights. I don’t think we’ll see that moment again. And it’s crazy cuz I think there’s times where maybe things could have happened. You had the rich gang moment where he looked like he was so close with Young Thug. And I feel like especially in 2014, people expected Thug to go on to that superstar level and still be very successful. But I think that the stock for Thug at that moment was a little higher than it may be actually reached. And I think some of Thug’s proteges kind of reached the heights that we thought Thug would’ve reached at one point, just in terms of a commercial success perspective. But it just never quite happened. But again, they own this. It’s not like they missed some opportunity. This is something that is literally generating tens of millions per year and that’s not changing anytime soon.

[00:48:54] Zack: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So, you know, it’s funny, they have, I guess just to sort of like switch gears a tiny bit, but you know, last moment when they said when Birdman and some said they’re forever in business with Drake. It wasn’t in Miami, but I met with them for some follow-up questions in New York. and they have, like within Universal’s building in Midtown, they have a Cash Money conference route. Like there are actually these, I mean I don’t think it’s diamond play, but the door handles are giant dollar signs, like the Cash Money logo. And, and it looks like they’re diamonds in the dollar sign and whatever it is. But, you open up the thing and you go in and there’s like all these plaques on the wall and it’s just a conference room that’s always there. And it’s sort of like their designated conference room when they, when they cut the tat. And I remember, yeah, we sat down in that conference room and I really tried to press them on the Drake thing. And I mean, if you dig up the Forbes story, we did a video too. And there’s this great kind of tense moment where I’m like really kind of pushing them about it and they’re like, we’re forever in this with Drake. And like, that’s it. And it’s clear that’s all you’re gonna get out of that. But, you know, so, in terms of striking platinum again, yeah, I mean, I could almost envision a scenario where Drake like does the Super Bowl and he plays some, you know, catalog hit that never went platinum. And just purely by the exposure of people hearing it be like, oh man, listen that again, it just suddenly goes platinum again. You know, or for the first time. But yeah, short of that, I know I’m gonna agree with you. I think probably not again, but that it doesn’t matter anyway. 

[00:50:32] Dan: Yeah. So we have a couple questions left here. This one, and I think it’s maybe similar to the fourth you’re bringing up, but if you were in Birdman and Slim’s shoes today, is there anything that you would be doing differently?

[00:50:44] Zack: You know  what, I think I go back to that question of like, would you sell the whole thing? Especially if the prospects are kind of dimming a bit and, you know, it’s like, I don’t know though. I mean, you know, it’s like if you’re getting up there in age, like would you sell you, you know, you got this great house that you bought, you know, you got this great penthouse apartment in New York that you bought. For like, you know, a hundred thousand dollars in, you know, 1982. And, you could probably get, you know, I don’t know, 10 million bucks for it. And then you could just like rent and do whatever you want and you know, for the rest of your life. But like, you don’t really need the money. Like, you’re fine as it is, like you sell it. Like what would you even do with the money that you got? You really love living in that apartment. Maybe you just stay. And I think that’s kind of the point. Like, just remember being in the studio with Birdman and he doesn’t need to be doing this. Like, he doesn’t need to be running around with Jack in Miami trying to make him the, the king of r&b or whatever. But he truly loves it. Like you, you can tell that he’s passionate about it and. After the interview was over, and I wish I had this on tape, but we’re just like a dozen of us sitting there in the room. And, Birdman, he goes, Zack, why do people think I’m scary? And I remember he said, he was like, really pointy moment. He’s like, I’m respectful. You know, I’m not a clown. I don’t turn tables over. I don’t scream and yell. I’m respectful. Why are people so afraid of me? And I thought for a minute and I said, you know, as like, look man, like, to be honest, I think the base tattoos really are kind of like off putting some people who are not used to that sort of thing. And, he was like, yeah, I’ve been thinking of getting them removed. You know, I think it’d be better for business. So, you know, it’s like there’s still this element of, you know, even though he’s made it and he’s got everything he wants, there’s still this part of him that came from a different world. That, you know, he’s kind of like still stuck between two worlds, between the world that he came up in and the world that he can afford to live in. And, I think, you know, where he feels at his best is in the studio. So why would you sell that whole thing? Why would you, you know, I mean, why would you kind of give that up? And I think Slim likes it too. And you know, they have this really funny relationship and, you know, Birdman’s in the studio and Slim does live the business. And that’s kind of the breakdown of it. And I just remember, like after this interview, you know, after leaving the studio, I went and we were all supposed to have dinner together and I went off with Slim and we waited for like a half an hour in the parking lot for Birdman. And he just never showed up. And then we went to dinner and he just never showed up. And it’s cuz he wanted to stay in.He just stayed in the studio all freaking night. Cuz that’s what he really loves. So, yeah, I guess it’s a long way of saying, what would I do if I were them? I mean, you know, probably like the financial advisor advice would be. Sell this big thing and then you’re totally set for the rest of your life. But you know, if it’s throwing off enough, more than enough money, tens of millions of dollars every year for you to live on, what’s the point? You know, why not just do that and do what makes you happy?

[00:53:59] Dan: I think that’s a piece that often gets for guys and understands what some of this stuff is, that some people really just love the craft. It makes me think too about someone like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg and these directors that are now in their seventies or eighties, they’re not doing these movies to try to make more money. Well, granted, yes, I think they’re bought into the financial success. They want fair terms. But this is what they enjoy doing. They’ve been doing it since they were kids and they wanna just find outlets to be able to do this in the best way possible. And I think the same could be said about Birdman of wanting to be in the studio and just wanting to have that energy. And if you sell that, then what do you do? I think especially for someone like him that’s stuck to the thing that he does well. And you know, like he isn’t out here like Jay-Z trying to be mogul in the sense of having different things. I mean, there’s a mogul aspect in terms of media ownership, but not in the sense of like, yes, I own this, I do this, I do that as well. Sure. Maybe there’s some smaller things that are in the, you know, new Orleans or, or the Louisiana area, but not in that same way. So I do think that speaks a lot to that. 

[00:55:06] Zack: Yeah. And I think they have dabbled in other stuff for sure. And you know, real estate, and I think there was some period of time where they had like some oil rigs or something like that.They had a vodka called G T V. They were trying to really build up Y M C M B as like, as a clothing line type of thing, rather than just merch. But, you know, none of that really kind of like ever went viral in the way that any of their artists did. So, you know, and maybe because it was that they just didn’t have the passion for it that they have for music. Like that example of Birdman. So, you know, Jay clearly has the passion for the business. He clearly has the passion for, you know, doing the champagne thing or, you know, doing the VC thing. And you can tell cuz he’s out there doing it. He’s doing it cuz he loves it, and he makes money. But, I think it’s hard for something to do well if you aren’t truly passionate. Because consumers can kind of see through that. And also, you’re not gonna go the extra mile for something if you don’t truly care about it either. Definitely. 

[00:56:08] Dan: Definitely. And mine is a little different. And this may be more so from a selfish perspective of what I would do, but that’s part of the question, right? Yeah. As someone that is such a fan of the vibe and the culture that they were able to create, I want to be able to relive that in different ways. I wish that Birdman and the team could patch things up and there could be a true Cash Money reunion tour that goes across the country. I know there’s been different things here or there, but the same way that Didat did the Big Bad Boy Arena tour in 2016. I wanna be able to see that. I’d love to be able to do that. And I also wanna see a music biopic and the same style and the same budget and energy of Straight Outta Compton. I would love to see that about the Cash Money story. And to be honest, I feel like, I know there’s a lot of energy around these biopics, but like I may be biased because it’s the genre I like since Street Outta Compton came out, I just haven’t seen one that’s, you know, as good as that. And sometimes it’s a bit frustrating when I see movies like Bohemian Rhapsody or Elvis, which I think they’re fine, but I don’t think they’re as good as Straight Outta Compton and they’re getting all these awards and stuff. And it makes me think that okay, I don’t know whether it’ll get Gary Gray back again or someone that can, you know, tell this story in a great way. I would love to see that unfold, but I think you would also need buy-in from the artist because obviously the fact that the relationships are straight can make some of this tough. And the willingness to tell the story in an honest way and the fact that there’s kind of two sides to everything. Is Birdman gonna be bought in if he and his brother are being shown as, you know, like predatory loan sharks, like screwed people over. Right. Are the artists gonna be happy if it’s making it seem too favorable to Birdman? So I know there’s some contentions with how the story is told, but it’s still something I would love to see done in the right way. 

[00:57:56] Zack: Yeah. Not to mention, how would you clear all the music, you know, how would you handle that? Although maybe now it’s a little bit more streamlined, but you know, again, you know, a lot of different cooks in the kitchen there, so you never know. But yeah, no, I’d love to see that too. Oh man. That people asked. 

[00:58:13] Dan: All right, so last question here. Who won? If there’s one person, artist, executive from Cash Money, who would you say is the winner of everything that’s happened over the past 30 plus years?

[00:58:24] Zack: You know, I think there’s a lot of winners, a lot of losers, A lot of you get kind of a little bit of both, but I’m gonna go with Slim, you know, I mean, Slim has been in the background, like Birdman has gotten some more of the glory, but he is also taken a lot more of the heat. I mean, he has taken basically all the heat, I think, and Slim has managed to just sit back, run this like incredible business and make just a boatload of money without taking some of the heat that his brother did. So, yeah, I’m gonna go with Slim. How about that?  I wanna know, what do you think? I like that answer. 

[00:58:57] Dan: I’m glad you said that. Yeah, because I think it would be both, but Birdman is my answer. The bidding wars that he won over the years. The ruthlessness of just getting the deals done, staying true to what he knows. There’s a lot that I disagree with, and there’s a lot that I wish that he had done differently and a bunch of missed opportunities, but they did something that we have not seen done in hip hop before, and we may not see that again, just because of how things have changed and evolved over time. So it really is a credit to that happening. So yeah, I love the Slim take too, because the fact that he reaps the rewards without, you know, any of the backlash. Like I’ve never seen anyone tweet or get frustrated about like, oh yeah, you know, Slim’s really screwing these artists over. Slim’s really doing this. You know what I mean? It’s always a photoable Birdman, you know, like, right. But yeah. Oh man. Such a fascinating label. Yeah. Before we close things out, any final thoughts on Cash Money records? 

[00:59:57] Zack: Well, you know, I wouldn’t say also, About Slim. You know, there’s this, somebody had a great quote. It was some writer and they, it was some famous writer, and they said, a writer’s fame is the best fame because you are not famous enough to get bothered on the street, but you are famous enough to get a good table at a good restaurant. And, you know, in a way, I think that’s, that’s kind of what Slim was able to do. Like, he could get, you know, what, whatever he wants, he could have, but nobody’s kind of bothering him about it. And I think that’s how he wants it. And, you know, Birdman, whatever he wants, he could have sort of, but what he can’t do is walk outside without, you know, everybody harassing him, you know? So, you know, I think that to some extent he’s more interested in the spotlight. You get the good with the bad. But you know, I think that spotlight it’s important, like being able to turn it off is a really great luxury to have to turn it on and off. And, you know, once it’s on all the time, you’ll never be able to turn it off.  So I am going to Slim for that. Yeah, for sure.

[01:01:02] Dan: And Slim also did get memes made out of him from telling Charlamagne off of the Breakfast Club, either or that too.

[01:01:08] Zack: Yeah. Or the Birdman hand rub. 

[01:01:11] Dan: Is that the Birdman hand rub? Yeah, the No clap though. I mean, I need to put on that though, but man, what a moment. Yeah, yeah. All right. Toasted Cash Money. And this is a fun one. What a fascinating case study. And yeah, we’re gonna tell the stories that don’t get told elsewhere. So Zack, thank you for coming through and thanks again for this Young Money, Cash Money t-shirt for those folks watching the videos. You can see this is the one last time I was in New York, Zack came through, he was like, I got something for you. And yeah, I had to make it happen. 

[01:01:40] Zack: That’s right. I should have worn mine today. But, it was in the laundry. You know. It was in the laundry. . 

[01:01:45] Dan: Oh, yeah, definitely. All right, man. Thank you.

[01:01:48] Zack: Appreciate it. All right. Have a good one. Thanks again. Yep. 

[01:01:51] Dan: All right, cool.

[01:01:53] Dan Outro:  If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend and post it in your group chat. Post it in your Slack groups. Wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That’s how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you’re at it, if you use Apple Podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast, give it a high rating, and leave a review. Tell people why you like the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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