His iced-out grillz need no introduction. For more than 20 years, Bryan “Birdman” Williams had been a force to be reckoned with as a businessman and artist in Hip-Hop – first with the Hot Boys, consisting of Lil Wayne, B.G, Turk, Juvenile, and producer Mannie Fresh; and then with the Young Money roster of Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Tyga, Lil Twist, Mack Maine, Jae Millz, Cory Gunz, Gudda Gudda, Jay Sean, T-Streets, Shanell, Lil Chuckee, and Short Dawg. These days, his team is unstoppable, and along with brother Ronald "Slim" Williams, he will likely go down in history as one of the great visionaries of the rap game.
Certainly, Birdman has done something very right. In 2011, as Forbes magazine noted him as one of Hip-Hop's richest players, his entrepreneurial endeavors spill beyond Young Money Cash Money Brothers into book publishing, movie deals, and more. Just before Thanksgiving, Birdman made another big power move – this one either showing his genius in deal making or displaying the risky side of that has, for the most part, showcased his great instincts. AllHipHop.com spent some time with Birdman this week while on his way to the airport headed for the Down Under – Australia. Read ahead in Part 1 about his plans for becoming the first to put nine zeroes to the left of his dollar decimals:
AllHipHop.com: Birdman, what’s up? Thanks for checking in with AllHipHop. OK, so, seriously, do you feel like “King of the World” right now or what? You guys can’t seem to stop winning right now…
Birdman: I don’t feel like the “King of the World.” I just feel like people are finally recognizing our hard work and dedication to the game, and we gon’ keep doing whatever possible. I want to be the biggest, we want to be the biggest ever. I want to the be the first billion dollar brand in Hip-Hop, and that’s gonna take a lot of people and a lot of staff and teamwork. We’re just going at our goal. That’s about it, basically. I’m very appreciative to God everyday for everything.
AllHipHop.com: Well, it’s like, love you or hate you, the numbers don’t lie – Tha Carter IV just went double platinum and Drake’s album is well over a half million. What is there, a secret Boot Camp at Cash Money that’s cranking out all of these winners right now?
Birdman: [laughter] The secret is the ethics. I started with a certain ethic that this is all we do is music; our lives are surrounded by music. And, the bond that me and Wayne have, the bond that me and my son have had for years and the ethics that I poured into him – the ethics have become a disease around here. Everybody know this ain’t no game. Ain’t nobody playin’, folks are serious.
And I think what we bring to our younger team is…when we was young, this sh*t was a party. Even though we was doing great music, it took some time for us to get over that little hump, as far as this ain’t just a party, this is a business. I think the younger crew under us understands that this is a business first and party coming after. And I think they’ve inherited the hard work ethics. All of us, we’re really striving to be the best. N*ggas are working hard, and that’s all we gon’ have a push for. You know, they young, but Slim and me, we’d rather be in the studio than anywhere else in the world outside of God and family. So, that’s the only vacation. Just work hard, and let God do the rest.
AllHipHop.com: OK, well, there are quite a few on Young Money right now that the fans are loving. But for you…be honest. Out of all of them, do you have a favorite?
Birdman: I really like all of them, but I think Drake and Nicki really stand out. Drake is a different type. He’s something that the industry has never seen before, the way he does his music, the type of music, the style of music. Just his swagger with music, people ain’t never seen before. That’s why I think he’s so special to the game.
And Nicki’s something that the game has never…well, we’ve had a female, but we’ve never had a female Weezy before. She can rap with anybody, she can sing, she’s beautiful, she’s a great person. She just all around handles it. I think, Tyga, he’s special. All of ‘em are special in their own ways. I just think those two [Drake and Nicki] have something that the game has never seen before.
AllHipHop.com: I would definitely agree with that. I interviewed Busta Rhymes right before Thanksgiving, and he couldn’t say enough about his new deal, and how monumental it was that he, Google, and Cash Money were all coming together. Who was the real architect behind that?
Birdman: WhenI came in, that was something he had already orchestrated, something that was in the making already. The Google situation is something that he had already put together. We’re just coming in because we’re fulfilling our obligations to Busta, which I think is a great situation between him and Google. I think it’s great that Google is even doing that.
I do a majority of my business with iTunes, and I have nothing but love and respect for iTunes. I do a tremendous amount of business with them. But, I think the Google situation with Busta is the first time he’s doing it and we’re doing it and they’re doing it. I think it’s great for the business, and any outlet for income for the business is great, for anybody and everybody who’s doing business. So, I think it’s a great situation, and it was something that he put together, something that he and Chris Lighty, who is his manager, put together. We just came in to play our position and our role, and we’re here now.
AllHipHop.com: Busta has a lot of respect for you guys. He mentioned that over and over to me. Why did you ultimately think he was right for Cash Money?
Birdman: First of all, talent-wise, he’s a great artist. I respect him as an individual, as a man, as a friend. I really respect his hustle through his hard times, how he rolls and never lays down. He always got his grind on. You can’t do nothing but respect a hustler, everything he has done. I just think now that he’s with us, he’s gonna be on a different platform, and we can put Busta where he needs to be at as far as what he did for the game, and what he’s got to do to be in the game. I like his hunger…right now, he’s in Miami recording. We got an album coming out in April, and we’re looking forward to it. We’re all excited, and he’s super excited. I think he’s doing his best music ever right now.
AllHipHop.com: He wanted to make sure people knew that his style won’t change from what people know and love as Busta Rhymes. Who is Busta working with production-wise on the album? How will we see the Cash Money flavor added to the Busta Rhymes brand?
Birdman: Well, who he works with is really his decision. It’s not that type of feel where we’re like who he should work with. You know, the team is family, so I’m sure a lot of his production will be with the team, and he’ll be working with some of the artists on the brand. As far as in-house, I know he’s been working with a lot of the producers we work with a lot. And I think our sound for him and what he do, it’s great for him, ‘cause he’s been working in the studio, and I just love to hear him on that.
Whatever he wanna do is cool with me. I’m here to just fulfill his vision, you know? I would say he’s a visionary, and we just gon’ go hard and do the best music we possibly can ever imagine people hearing from him. So, however many songs that takes to be recorded, we just gon’ go hard at it. If it’s our sound or his sound, whichever’s a hit to me, that’s all that counts.
AllHipHop.com: I could hear him with like a Bangladesh, you know, that “A Milli” sound would go great with Busta…
Birdman: Yeah, yeah. He’s been working with Detail, Cool and Dre, Boy Wonder, a lot of the people we got around the house. He’s been in there gettin’ it in. Busta goes hard; he goes fast, too. Last night, he did three on it, and he played it for me. So, that’s just like, that’s what we about. He’s fully ready; he’s excited. That’s how you’d like for an artist to be – excited. You can’t work in a depression. That’s not what we’re about. I would like for all of our artists to stay excited and happy and keep making money – then you get the best of music out of everybody like that.
AllHipHop.com: He and I were both saying you can’t really count the number of rappers on more than one hand who have had sort of nine lives in the game like he has. For you, you also just signed Mystikal. That was a surprise, too. But, is there another veteran rapper out there that you’d seriously consider signing if the timing and the sound were right?
Birdman: Ummm, wow. To me, if it makes money, it makes sense. I don’t really like to focus on that, because really, if they’re signed to somebody, I don’t play with other people’s property. There are a lot of them I’d love to work with, but if they’re already in a deal, I don’t touch that. I’ll wait for the time to come, and if he’s still there, I’ll be there for it.
Right now, Mystikal, you know we just signed Mystikal. I think he’s a great artist. I’ve been a fan of his music for a long time. For me to have an opportunity to work with Mystikal is really great for us. But there’s a lot of them I’d like to work with. It would just have to be in due time.
AllHipHop.com: Mystikal was definitely a surprise last week when that news came out. Nowadays, people have all kinds of opinions about this stuff, especially with the Internet now being so interactive. People had opinions about both Busta and Mystikal signing with Cash Money; it didn’t seem like the right fit to some people, so what do you say to that?
Birdman: Music tells it all. Time tells it all. I just want to give out good music. I mean, Mystikal will give us the best he has and Busta will give us the best he has, and at the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie. I’m gon’ definitely put them on the highest plateau I can put them on, at the superstar level that I know they’re at. We’re gon’ let it do what it do and keep working hard at it. Whatever we do this year, we have to do better next year, so for me, all of it is a growing pain. Everybody’s growing; everybody’s trying to expand, so ain’t no use of me looking at it like that. Whatever happens, happens. We’re growing, and we’re trying to continue to grow. Opinion and hatred – that’s a part of life. We accept that with motivation. That’s just life. We live through it, and keep it moving.