"I never seen no one around work as hard as Dwayne Carter." - Birdman
Bryan "Birdman" Williams says he and his brother Slim are the experience behind the success that Young Money/Cash Money has reached in the past few years. Some of that experience came way before the siblings ever stepped foot in a studio or signed an artist to a deal.
Part 1 of AllHipHop.com’s exclusive with Birdman focused on the diverse and talented roster of artists signed to his label – and how he believes their work ethic will help them reach unseen heights. In Part 2, we learn about Birdman’s many entrepreneurial endeavors under the Cash Money brand, and what he passed along in terms of wisdom to one of the top-selling rappers around. He also notes the one thing that will finally make him stop working:
AllHipHop.com: I definitely think people have always respected you as a businessman. Some guys in your position in rap say they translated some of their street hustle over into the music industry. But even before the street hustle, how did you and Slim’s business minds develop? Were you an entrepreneur as a kid?
Birdman: Nah, I was born a hustler! My daddy was a hustler. I was born with the blood of a hustler. My daddy was a great hustler. He did great in his life; he just was never rich. We were still living in the ‘hood, but I had more than everything ‘cause of my daddy. I was born a hustler. I didn’t have to learn how to hustle. I just learned by being in situations, born in poverty and the streets, but I was born with the blood of a hustler.
So, for me, doing this sh*t is common, natural for me…how to take advantage of my situations and how to build something and how to be dominant at it. This is a numbers game, and I’m just great at it. I’m just great at it – I don’t even have a word for it. [laughter] I just give all my praise to God, and I think I was just born with this blood of a hustler.
AllHipHop.com: OK, well, you say you were born that way, but is that something that other people can be taught if they’re not born that way?
Birdman: Yeah, you can be taught how to hustle. You can be taught, but it all comes with want, you know? Sometimes people don’t want as much. I just have the mindset of wanting a lot. Some people don’t be wanting a lot of money. Some people just be cool with what they have. I never tended to be satisfied. If I reach one goal, I always set another goal. As far as the business, that’s just because through my struggles and my times, I kinda figured it out. I understand it, and I’m a student. I learned on my own, we learned by trial, error, mistakes, and just going through things. Everything we’ve been through, I want the young ones to avoid that now. I think my experiences have a lot to do with our success right now.
AllHipHop.com: We’ve watched Lil Wayne grow into this larger-than-life character and brand over the past decade. I, for one, thought he was good as a kid, but I couldn’t have predicted this. So, how much of that hustler influence have you passed on to Wayne?
Birdman: He’s a natural, too, but he learned a lot from me. He took everything I taught him, and he put it in his game. He’s a modern day of me, you know? When I was young, I did great, but my son’s gon’ do better. That’s just how it’s supposed to be, ‘cause I gave him everything I got, my blood, my body, my soul, every part of me. We gon’ live together or die together – that’s the relationship that me and Wayne have, and that’s just what it do.
I think what he saw and what he learned…he’s a very smart individual. He just took everything and put it for today’s time. I think Wayne’s gonna be one of the best to ever be involved in the business part, from a rapper perspective and a CEO. When he stops rapping, that’s when I’ma stop. There ain’t no need for me to do it no more, ‘cause he’s gonna take it and bring it somewhere we never could.
AllHipHop.com: I would definitely say you guys have figured out some ways to weather this change in the sales model, the change in the business side of the industry. How do you stay one step ahead?
Birdman: Not giving up, just staying trendy, really making the right decisions. You know, walking through fire, and when it gets hot, we don’t fold. We stick together. Sticking together and being loyal to each other was and still is the key. I always wanted a team, so we have a strong team, and everyday, I’m trying to make our staff and our team stronger. But, hard work? That’s start and stop right there. If you don’t have that, meaning a start button, you’re finished already. It all starts with the work ethics. I never seen no one around work as hard as Dwayne Carter.
AllHipHop.com: And I would also say it has something to do with having your finger on what’s the next thing, the next hot thing, being a trendsetter. So where does that side come from?
Birdman: Knowing talent and really letting the talent be who they are. You know, when you’re signed to a major, they always got something to say, like they know sh*t and they really don’t know a f*cking thing about what’s going on outchea. So for me, just letting Drake do what he wanna do, be his own boss, you hear me, and we just do our part. Nicki…you know, they’re their own bosses, and you know, we just work together as a team. It all starts with a team.
No one does it by themselves, trust me. It all is about the team, the teamwork. The million, the two million – that was team. For Drake to do what he’s done, that’s team. It’s been accomplished, it’s been done with a team. It starts with the family, but the team’s gotta make it proper like it’s supposed to. So, letting the artist be an artist, more than anything.
AllHipHop.com: I would say, too, you guys are good at the risk-taking, becauseI mean, they’re not afraid to wear whatever they want to wear. They’re not afraid to rap, and then sing a whole album…
Birdman: It’s just 2012. These youngsters run the world. It’s about the youngsters to me.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I feel you…
Birdman: It’s a different fashion. It’s a different everything. It ain’t what it used to be at all. It ain’t the same people it used to be at all, so it’s a different, like, you got children. It’s a different world. They’re young, and they’re doing different sh*t. That’s what it all comes from, and that’s great for the game to me. To stay the same? It’s stale to get old. You got to trend it. If you don’t do it, it’s gonna do it for you, so it’s your choice. Either you get with it or get off it.
AllHipHop.com: Would you say the past few years have possibly been some of the best for Cash Money? What do you want your long-term legacy to be in Hip-Hop?
Birdman: Everything has been great for us. The past two years has been wonderful, and it’s been a helluva experience. But my future is what my plans are. Everything we’ve been through is setting us up for this year, and next year, I won’t stop, we won’t stop until we’re the first billionaire brand in business in this thing. And I don’t think anyone has ever did that…ever in the business. So I think that would be a big accomplishment for us, and we’re gonna die trying.
I’ma give everything I got in my soul, my body, everything in my mind, everything that I own, everything connected to us is what we’re striving for. And we know we’re gonna have to sell a lot of records to do that. And we gon’ keep grinding hard and keep growing, and I promise you, we ain’t gon’ stop [laughter]… we’re gonna keep grinding, keep growing. It’s just expanding our brand into other businesses outside of the music business, just being a part of everything with everybody. Not just us, just with everybody that’s part of the brand, just doing as much as possible. It all pertains to music, movies, and to just keep going.
AllHipHop.com: OK, well, beyond Busta and Mystikal, what’s coming up in the immediate future for Cash Money?
Birdman: Well, we got a big roster coming next year. Nicki’s coming out…Tyga, Twist, Bow Wow, myself, Kevin Rudolph, Jay Sean. Wayne got another album, everybody. I mean, we’re gonna drop 10 to 14 albums in the first six months of the year, so everybody’s cocked and loaded. It’s all about the music first, and everything else comes after that. It’s music with us and then whatever else.
We got other businesses that we’re doing, like the books, studio, buses, movies, touring. We’re out in Australia now, that’s why I’m on my way to the airport. Just gearing up for different adventures and trying our best to be the best and make money in different ways and the same ways.
AllHipHop.com: OK, does a hustler ever get to take a vacation? [laughter] What do you do for pleasure?
Birdman: I swear I haven’t took a vacation in 22 years! I wanna take one, but I don’t know, that ain’t never been in my mindset, you know? I try to be a family man with my kids and give them whatever they want. I try to be there as much as possible. I love my family, my grandkids, they mean the world to me. God and my family come before everything, then music, so I’ll be able to take one. I ain’t old, I’m young, so if I get that “B” [billion] within the next couple of years, I’m cool, I’m straight. And also, we living a hell of a life, getting’ that, so we playing with hundreds of millions of dollars, so ain’t nobody complaining!