Cash Money Billionaire: Birdman Speaks On How He Built His Brand, Rumors About Signing Rick Ross And The Game & Jay-Z “Baby Money” Line
Music mogul Bryan “Birdman” Williams is a true hustla and professional businessman. In the late 90′s, he secured a $30 million distribution deal with Universal for his Cash Money label. In my opinion, Birdman is one of the greatest visionaries in music’s history. His label sold over 150 million records worldwide and he also has a winning team. The 43-year-old mogul, who’s known for flashing diamonds, cars, planes and yachts, had already made enough money where he could be kicking his feet up, but instead he keeps putting in long hours a day and sleepless nights to turn his brand into a billion dollar company. Complex magazine caught up with Birdman for an interview. The New Orleans native talked about how he built his brand, rumors about signing Rick Ross and The Game, Nicki Minaj being the biggest female rapper ever, Jay-Z “baby money” line and much more. Below are some excerpts:
What is the difference between the music business today and 10 years ago?
Time changes time. Everything about the game changed from 10 years ago to now. You never had none of the things that we have now, like the Internet. So many different ways for us to make money now in music. And it’s so digital. We’re a digital-driven brand, we’re an Internet brand. We global nowadays. 15 years ago, when we first jumped on the scene with Universal, we had gotten too big as artists to be independent. But I still look at us as an indie company because we’re self-contained, we’re self owned. We came in the game self-contained, we probably the last independent label that lasted as long as it did. We our own bosses, run our own ship. For years we did it all off our own money. [The Universal deal] was a risk from day one, but I refuse to let somebody take something that we work hard for and just take half of it. I couldn’t see myself doing that.
How many records has Cash Money sold so far?
We sold 150 million so far. Our track record runs deep. We’ve been the most dominant force of 2011, we gonna be the most dominant force of 2012. We have 16 releases in the first six months of this year. Our goal, as a brand, is to put out 100 albums a year. So I’m trying to figure out how we gonna reach that…
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NEXT PAGE: BIRDMAN SPEAKS ON HIS MOTIVATION, RUMORS OF SIGNING RICK ROSS AND THE GAME,NICKI MINAJ BEING THE BIGGEST FEMALE ARTIST EVER, KANYE WEST AND JAY-Z’S “BABY MONEY”.
What was the hardest lesson for you to learn?
Staffing and being able to run your machine. For years, I was so dependant on Universal to do things but the way we work and the way we drop records—they don’t work like that. It’s hard to with with a label because they’re not used to a brand like us who will just drop a record in the morning and work it [the rest of the day].
We had to have our own staffing to do our own things in conjunction with their staffing so they can get the feel of what we do. Its more understandable now that we’ve been working together for a long time. Now they allow us to do what we wanna do, how we wanna do it.
What is your proudest moment?
My proudest moment was watching my son [Lil Wayne] emerge. I’m proud of all our accomplishments, but when I see my son do what he do, that shit means the world to me.
One interesting thing about you is that you’re 42 and you’re still hanging around with the young kids…
They’re my motivation. I wanna see them be all they can be. My son is like the world to me. We got a strong little team. They’re very talented and I dedicate my life to their future and what they wanna be in this music game. My motivation in this game is trying to make the most superstars as possible for our team.
What kind of advice do you give them?
If you can’t see us as a motivation, I don’t really know what [it] would be. Focus and grind cause we not gonna stop. Wayne ain’t gonna stop, I’m not gonna stop. Your leader is your motivation. Your leader be lazy, your team gonna be lazy. There ain’t nothing lazy about us. Hard work pays and that’s all they gonna ever see us do is work.
We’ve got Nicki Minaj on our current cover. Do you think Nicki Minajis the biggest female rapper of all time?
I say she is, but if she’s not today, within time she will be. No female ever will be able to sell more records than her, have more singles than her, have more number one singles than her, have more awards—no more nothing. She had the most singles by a female last year. Her accomplishments are gonna speak for themselves.
Cash Money is an army but is there any artist in the game that you see that you wish was on your team?
Wow. There’s a lot of acts I’d like to work. I got a lot of respect for Rozay and what he accomplishing with his brand and his team. DJ Khaled. I like Jeezy. I like Game. In time, I’ll be working with some of them.
It’s interesting that you mention Rick Ross. A few months ago there was some speculation that he would sign to Cash Money. When his next album drops that will be his 5th album for Def Jam, and his contract will end. Have you and Rick Ross ever had the discussion about him coming to Cash Money?
Nah, not at this point. Ross signed to Def Jam and you know Ross is a close friend of mine. But if the time ever came, we gonna G up and make it happen. Right now he signed to Def Jam, but when the time do come, I’m gonna be right there waiting.
You also mentioned Game. He said that you and him had been in talks about him coming to Cash Money. Is that true?
Game is signed to Interscope—I don’t really know his situation. I don’t like to get into talks with other people who are signed to other labels because I wouldn’t want them niggas fucking with nothing that’s mine. So I show respect to whoever they with.
I know that I told Game, if the time come I would love to sign Game. I think he’s a very talented artist. But right now he’s signed with Interscope, maybe he’s got another album. But when time comes, I’m gonna be there for him too.
What other teams in the music business today impress you?
Khaled’s We the Best. Rozay’s team.
What about G.O.O.D Music?
They’re doing what they’re doing too. But I think Khaled and Rozay are doing a little more. They’re a little more active with their acts. I ain’t talking about them as a brand, but their acts. You got Kanye doing him, but what acts do they have that are active and doing a lot? I’m looking at how much your team is doing.
What mistakes did you make?
I was an artist at the time, I should’ve been more about my business and made sure that their business was straight. We all did this shit so young so when shit got fucked up, everyone pointed the finger at me like I was doing something fucked up.
I didn’t know no better myself. Until all that happened and then I figured it out, I wanted to straighten it out and make sure we never go through that again. Whatever business I had with them I took care of it and we’ll never go through that again. Not with no artist.
Jay-Z said that line about “Baby money” and you were on the radio like “Man, we’re going to keep spending this baby money.” Instead of side-stepping it, you addressed it.
I thought that was funny for a nigga to holler out “Baby money.” I was like, “Wow, fuck, what do you mean ‘Baby money’? Nigga, that ain’t no little money. We around here getting it.”
It wasn’t nothing, we ain’t trip. I was like, “Yeah, since it’s such a big deal, fuck yeah we got ‘Baby Money.’ That Bugatti and that Lauder jet comes from ‘Baby Money.’”
So when Wayne spit that line on “It’s Good” about “Kidnap your bitch, get that how much you love your lady money” what do you have to say about that?
I don’t think that’s a diss record. It wasn’t more than what he said. Niggas was G’ing up about what was said. We did that, done that, off that brother. We’re on our money train.
Read the full interview over at Complex.