Baby: The Evolution of Birdman

Listening to Bryan “Baby” Williams speak, you get a sense of a man who is at one with his inner and outer self. And if you’ve ever visited New Orleans, you’ll quickly see that he doesn’t lie when he tells you he is his city. He doesn’t ever get too agitated about any topic, even when it’s obvious he’s passionate about the subject. His laid-back Louisiana drawl, peppered with the signature drawn out “baaaby,” makes everything he talks about just seem cool and unforced. “Even the ease with which he refers to protege Lil Wayne as “his son” and expects everyone to know exactly who he is talking about. But at the same time, take one look at his track record and you know that he is a man about his business.

The more visible of the two brothers behind Cash Money Records, Baby made his major label debut as an artist as one half of the Big Tymers with Manny Fresh in 1997, six years after he had released his first and only independent album, I Need a Bag of Dope. Since then, he has consistently stayed in the limelight, with an uncanny longevity powered by appearances on hit after hit. Still, his success hasn’t come without its fair share of controversy.

The “5-Star Stunna” spoke to AllHipHop.com about what keeps him in the game.

AllHipHop.com: So what are we calling you these days?

Baby: I’m still Stunna, Birdman, whatever you feel. Baby, Bryan, whatever.

AllHipHop.com: We’re gonna call you Bryan today, is that okay?

Baby: That’s cool. Birdman would be even better. Bryan kinda more like… I don’t get to hear that a lot.

AllHipHop.com: Do you miss Bryan?

Baby: Really, I left Bryan about 20 years ago.

AllHipHop.com: Do you have days when you wish you could go back?

Baby: Not really, ‘cause Bryan lost a lot. So I try to keep moving. What I mean by lost [is] how I grew up. Somebody who grew up with me, they’ll know by Bryan. But besides that, I don’t really rock with it like that.

AllHipHop.com: Is there a difference between Birdman and Baby?

Baby: To me the names came with time and what we was doing. I always been Baby, that’s been like my real name. That’s all I ever knew is Baby, that’s what everybody call me. Birdman is just what you see on TV.

AllHipHop.com: So Baby is the evolution of what Bryan used to be?

Baby: Believe that.

AllHipHop.com: You’re about to drop your fourth solo album…

Baby: That’s my fourth one? It feel like more. I come from a group, so I look at all those albums too. It seem like a long time to just be done put four solo albums out.

AllHipHop.com: How is this one different from everything else that you’ve done?

Baby: I think everything we do, we try to grow with it. We wanna show progression and growth. That’s the only way, really, to survive. That’s the main reason why we survive: we show growth, we never dry, we try to be spicy, we try to be creative. With this album, ‘cause we been doing it so much, just tryna be creative, tryna stay above the rim. Growing. Still growing and letting the label grow; and us growing with the experience of life, we bring that to our music.

Birdman f/ Lil Wayne – “Always Strapped”

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AllHipHop.com: When Cash Money first came on the scene, it was almost like adding a chapter to Hip-Hop history. You guys played a big role in bringing Southern Hip-Hop to the mainstream. All these years later, how do you keep the sound fresh?

Baby: Doing new stuff, not trying to do what we done did. We let the “Bling-bling” era go. That’s one thing we had to do. We had to let go what we already accomplished. You know everything you did last year don’t count for what you have to do this year. And our motivation is that we really have a love and a passion for what we do. My son wanna be the best, I wanna be the best at what I do. So, just having them ambitions and feeding our family and loving what we do… We don’t like to be like everybody else, we wanna be us, just in ourselves. And we know music. We been doing it a long time. We try to stay in the club with our music, that’s one thing we do. And just keep upgrading it every chance we get, and bring new talent in.

“We know Youngin’ [Lil Wayne] is a beast, and that’s well accepted. But when you look at it collectively, we doing a lot. If you look at it individually, you missing the whole picture.”

-Baby

AllHipHop.com: How much of a role do the people who work with you on the music play in keeping the sound fresh?

Baby: Nowadays, when people work with us, they bring their best. Back in the days, we used to bring the best out of people. Nowadays, people coming to you with they best and they be having beats for days. Everybody wanna work with you, that feel good. And everybody give you they best. It makes you wanna go that much harder when people feeling what you doing.

AllHipHop.com: Who worked with you on the new album?

Baby: My son Wayne, you know I don’t never work without him. I did a song with Lil’ Mack Maine, Drake. Just the family, I worked with people on our roster.

AllHipHop.com: How about on the production side?

Baby: Some new cats. Mr. Beats, that’s the one that did “Strapped.” I did one with Timbaland, Alchemist, Kevin Rudolph. Just some new people that we feel that’s hot. That’s something we always do.

AllHipHop.com: What do you think is gonna surprise people most when they hear the album?

Baby: Growth. People been following us so long. I don’t think if you progressing people not gonna [notice]. When you hear our music, you always hear better than the last one. That be our whole thing: to do it better every time. Just great music. We keep the foundation as what it is, and we just work around it and try to do better than what we did.

“And my son [Lil Wayne] and ‘em, they keep me youthful. And I don’t look old, you know. So I guess people might think I’m younger than what I am. I feel like I’m younger. I don’t ever feel to be getting old.”

-Baby

AllHipHop.com: When you mentioned the roster, you didn’t make a distinction between Young Money and Cash Money. We know they’re two separate entities, but do you consider them one and the same?

Baby: Of course. [Wayne] is my son. He the president of Cash Money Records, we do everything together.

AllHipHop.com: So who’s actually just on the Cash Money roster these days?

Baby: Of course Wayne, myself. G. Malone, Kevin Rudolph, Jay Sean, Ashley, Two Pistols, Lil’ All Star. A lot of new acts. The whole Young Money roster. We just tryna branch off into not just Hip-Hop. We wanna do crossover music. We growing. That’s the whole process with us. We have room to grow. Jay Sean has the biggest record out right now with Wayne, it’s called “Down.” He from London, he’s a pop act, real big. Kevin Rudolph had a big record out, “Let it Rock,” with him and Wayne. For us it’s just growing, being able to do different things and expand the label. I want Young Money to grow, we growing, and really be the biggest company dominating the industry.

AllHipHop.com: When you decided to expand outside of Hip-Hop, what made you specifically choose those two artists?

Baby: I really liked their talent. And I think for Young Money/Cash Money as a brand, we have to be into different music. That’s why you see Wayne doing records with different types of artists. As a whole, we have the luxury of working with different artists. And I think that’s a big motivation for us because we never worked pop acts and crossover. We only doing it now just as much as we into rap.

AllHipHop.com: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned so far from navigating that arena?

Baby: I’m learning you have to have a system to work that music. We working with [Universal] Republic on that, and they have a great system. To me, it’s the same as rap, but it’s a different form. If music good, people gon’ tap into it; and that’s what we believe in. I think it’s about having artists who can be around; who got showmanship, not just in the studio. I believe in you still doing it in 10-20 years. And if you got it like that, you could be.

AllHipHop.com: How much longer do you think you have in the game as an artist?

Baby: My son [Lil Wayne] makes it a luxury for me: I can do it until I feel like [stopping].

AllHipHop.com: Have you thought about how much longer it’ll be before you move on to something else?

Baby: I’m just having fun. I mean, I’m always moving to something else. Just ‘cause I do this, doesn’t mean I don’t do that. With me doing the rap thing, I do it ‘cause I love it, I like going on the road. But that’s just one part of the hustle: I do the CEO thing, I do movies, we into everything. For us to grow, Young Money gon’ grow and everything that’s attached to us. And that’s why we doing this. We wanna be the best to ever do it.

Lil Wayne f/ Birdman – “Leather So Soft”

AllHipHop.com: We all know you ain’t 20. You came into the game already a seasoned individual with your life experiences, and now you’ve been in music in the public eye for the last 15 years. Obviously there’s a history behind it and you didn’t start at 12 like Wayne. But for some reason, you don’t get as much flack about your age as some other rappers do. Why do you think that is?

Baby: Maybe ‘cause they really don’t know. And my son [Lil Wayne] and ‘em, they keep me youthful. And I don’t look old, you know. So I guess people might think I’m younger than what I am. I feel like I’m younger. I don’t ever feel to be getting old. I don’t ever wanna feel like I’m old. And I don’t think I’m old. I run with my children. And I been doing it 21 years. I started when I was 18 turning 19.

AllHipHop.com: Coming from that standpoint, as an artist and as someone who could catch some of that criticism, do you feel like there’s an age limit to being an artist?

Baby: Nah. Never that. Look at Jay-Z and Dr. Dre.

AllHipHop.com: Right! But people are getting on Jay constantly these days. He even made the jab at himself. People do look at it, and Hip-Hop culture doesn’t seem to want to see people get older. Do you feel like there’s a time limit on how long you can make a certain type of music even?

Baby: To me, long as you making money in it, it doesn’t matter. If you ain’t making no money, you ain’t doing nothing but talking. If you making money, who could say anything if you’re progressing. To me, money makes sense.

AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like the Young Money brand takes away from what you’re doing on the Cash Money side?

Baby: No indeed baby, we one. I’m so proud of my son and what he doing. We the machine behind the brand. I wanna see it be as big as possible. I want my son to do better than what I did. That’s the plan. That’s why he took over, to do what he doing. The bigger he is, the bigger we is. I’ll never look at it like that. I wouldn’t be a father, I wouldn’t be a business partner, I don’t even think I’d be a man if I wouldn’t accept whatever goes on with my child.

AllHipHop.com: How involved are you in the day-to-day operations when it comes to Young Money?

Baby: We involved with each other day-to-day, every day, ‘cause we partners. Cash Money, we work the records together. We in the studio. That’s just what it do. It’s blood forever.

AllHipHop.com: Across the board, with most of your artists being newer artists, who are you most excited about?

Baby: I’m real excited about all my acts, I ain’t gonna say no one particular act. Some just be hotter than others. I wanna make all my acts, that’s what it’s about. But every act ain’t gonna shine like the others. But if we work together as a family, when one shining, we all shine. That’s how I came in the game, on family. That’s how Imma be in the game. That’s what I thought my son. Family morals, loyalty and love: that goes father than anything.

Birdman F/ Clipse – “What Happened To That Boy”

AllHipHop.com: When you’re album was originally scheduled to come out on August 11, were you still planning on releasing Drake, Wayne and the Young Money album around the same time?

Baby: I thought it would be something I wanted to do, we never did it. It’s a coincidence that all our records popped at the same time, ‘cause some of them been out longer than others, and they just rolled over like that. Honestly [the albums] should be out right now ‘cause the singles are number one. But we wanted to do more than one song on these albums. Young Money new, Drake new. So we wanted to give them as much vision as possible and bring them on a few tours. So everything worked out.

AllHipHop.com: Are the albums gonna be spaced out?

Baby: They’re gonna be about two weeks apart. Except the Young Money and Lil’ Wayne albums, those probably come out the same day.

AllHipHop.com: And do you think there’s enough of a demand to have you guys saturate the market like that? Because we’ve seen other labels, especially those run by an artist, try that method. And they’re marquee artist always outshines the others.

Baby: I never had the same problems as other labels. We going for it. We dropping a house on everything. We know Youngin’ [Lil Wayne] is a beast, and that’s well accepted. But when you look at it collectively, we doing a lot. If you look at it individually, you missing the whole picture. We look at it as a bloodline. When you look at our numbers, look at the whole picture. Look at everything we done accomplished. We building a team.Birdman…The Saga Continues

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