Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Birdman: Top Seed

Birdman Birdman Birdman Birdman

A man who has without doubt changed the face of Southern hip hop, Birdman - aka Bryan âBabyâ Williams - this month precedes the release of his fourth LP âPricele$$â with the infectious single âWritten On Herâ. A sexy, uptempo joint, which sees Williamsâ tough Southern swagger smoothed-out by the melodic pop/R&B tones of British-Asian US chart-topper Jay Sean.

Indeed, since founding the legendary Cash Money Records (alongside his brother Ronald âSlimâ Williams) in 1990, Birdman has risen from humble New Orleans origins to become a bona fide Southern rap icon, as well as one of the most successful hip hop entrepreneurs ever. In fact, having gone on to sign Cash Money to a record-breaking $30 million distribution deal with Universal Music in 1997, Williams has since seen his label go on to sell over 30 million records. Much of its recent ongoing success emanating from his superstar protege and âsurrogate sonâ, Lil Wayne - whose Grammy-winning âTha Carter 111â prestigiously ended up Americaâs biggest- selling album of 2008.

Meanwhile, with Cash Moneyâs roster having, in the last 15 months, expanded successfully to also now include highly-touted new Canadian rapper Drake, globally-charting rocker Kevin Rudolf, plus British urban-pop crooner Jay Sean, a heavily-tatooed and blinged-up Birdman shoots the breeze with Pete Lewis amidst the opulent surrounds of his luxurious Knightsbridge hotel.

Titling his forthcoming, fourth solo LP âPricele$$â

âI chose âPricele$$â âcause I feel life is priceless, my family is priceless, my kids are priceless, loyalty is priceless, love is priceless⦠You know, to me anything that money canât buy is priceless⦠Plus the track âPricelessâ in itself is a very different record for us. Itâs rock/rap - and the reason I wanted Timbaland to produce it was because I knew heâd bring that different element to the project.â

What we can expect musically from âPricele$$â

âIf youâve been following Cash Money Records, if youâre a fan of our music, youâre definitely gonna hear GROWTH! Because we always try to make the next album better than the LAST one. And musically this album just represents me being MYSELF. You know, I donât consider myself a rapper. My SONâs a rapper (Lil Wayne), whereas I consider myself more a game-spitter. I basically just enjoy myself giving great music to the fans.â

How London-born-and-bred pop/R&B hit-maker Jay Sean has become the first UK artist signed to Cash Money Records

âI learnt about him the first time we came over here to London. Then, when I seen him perform, that was when I got turned ON to him - because I thought his music was fly! I felt he was already accomplished, that he already had the swagger⦠And I knew that, once he got around us and seen our ethics and how hard we work, that I could just take his craft to another LEVEL⦠And I think thatâs exactly what we DID! âCause in The States, with âDownâ we got the Number One record in the country.â

Birdmanâs early background growing up in the notorious streets of New Orleansâ 3rd Ward

âOh shit, we came up in the ghetto amidst all the poverty! I mean, a lotta youngsters get killed in New Orleans and donât make it to being too old. So first you gotta win THAT war - of surviving all the gangsta life - before you can win any OTHER battle! You know, you gotta survive just beinâ IN that mothafucka! But, you know, it is what it is - and we canât complain about it.â

The reasons behind Birdman (alongside his brother Ronald âSlimâ Williams) first forming Cash Money Records in New Orleans back in 1990

âI just wanted to do something different, and to bring MUSIC to the town. You know, I always wanted to get enough shit together to MAKE successful rappers - I never wanted to be a rapper MYSELF. Though, because the other rappers were so young, I ended up HAVING to become a rapper! But to me it always was - and still is - all about making all these young boys into millionaires, making these niggas into stars, and letting them be their own bosses.â

How he looks back on Cash Moneyâs early days as a local New Orleans independent rap label

âI was independent for seven years before I signed the deal with Universal. And looking back now, I realise I NEEDED all that experience to be able to go deal with that whole Universal situation, âcause that was a whole other machine that I wasnât USED to. And I think my hand-to-and combat with the independent side of things did help show me how to HANDLE that. âCause during that time of independence I also read a lot about the other cats that did it before me - Russell Simmons, Diddy, Suge Knight⦠You know, I STUDIED the game too. So, when I got my chance to get in the big league and sign Cash Money to Universal, I felt like a veteran ALREADY! Even though I was a rookie, I just felt like a vet - âcause I came IN like a vet! You know, I owned everything, I didnât have to give up nothing... So, when we came in to the Universal family, we was already ready for the big stage!â

The reasons behind Cash Money Records signing that groundbreaking $30 million deal with Universal Music in 1997

âThey had the most money on the table, and to me they made me feel like they believed in us the most. I mean, I coulda went to any label I WANTED to at that time. But I liked the way Universal was working with (fellow Southern rap pioneers) MJG & 8Ball, plus I liked the staff there. And looking back now, Iâm really glad Universal was the one I picked. âCause I still have a great relationship with them.â

Birdmanâs ongoing working relationship with his âsurrogate sonâ and protégé, multi-million-selling Cash Money rapper Lil Wayne

âThatâs my son, my partner, my life, my world - thatâs EVERYTHING to me! I mean, we each got our own studio. But, while we both be doing our own thing, at the same time weâre always coming into each otherâs room to listen to what the other is doing. So we âpitch and catchâ all day. I might send him two tracks, he might send me three... I mean, we might do sometimes even eight songs a DAY! Thereâs so much recording going on at Cash Money today itâs CRAZY! I never SAW so much rappinâ! I mean, thatâs all Wayne DO all day, and I APPRECIATE him for that. Because heâs following what I told him at a young age - that if you wanna be the best, you gotta have the best WORK ethics, and then that legacy is gonna live for EVER! I mean, he and I are gonna put out a second âLike Father, Like Sonâ album for next summer. And the chemistry between us just makes everything come so natural! You know, we got 20/21 years experience in that shit. So doing that part of it comes almost TOO easy to us.â

How Birdman feels about the ongoing - and groundbreaking - longevity of the ever-expanding Cash Money Records

âWhen we first came onto the Southern rap scene, there was so many different labels, so many different acts⦠And now - with me having been with Universal for close on 13 years - when I look around, thereâs nobody THERE no more! All the labels, all the acts who was doinâ it when we started â¦.98% of them are GONE, or shit shut DOWN! Because the business can DO that to you if you ainât got your ETHICS right! You know, you gotta keep hustlinâ and you gotta keep on PUSHINâ! Because, if you donât make no money, you canât PAY nobody! And so right now the plan for Cash Money is to try to do EVEN MORE! Thatâs the whole GOAL! Because I just feel we can outdo ANY major label, I donât care WHO it is! You know, itâs us against the world! I really feel we can go up against ALL of them! I wanna outdo anybody that ever DID this shit! So right now for me itâs all about making sure we keep expanding our roster, that we keep opening up to different genres of music... And that we just go harder, go harder, and GO HARDER!â

The digital single âWritten On Her Feat. Jay Seanâ will be released December 7 through Cash Money/Universal Motown

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