Cash Money and Lil Wayne, a match made in capitalist heaven.
(ThyBlackMan.com) It is well documented that Cash Money has been the target of many lawsuits that show a clear and distinct pattern of not compensating people who help them. From Wendy Day, the woman who brokered one of the most lucrative record deals in history on their behalf, to countless artists and in-house producers, Cash Money seems to have a stingy penchant of only paying people when the legal system gets involved.
Which makes it all the more transparent that when Lil’ Wayne recently filed a multi-million lawsuit against them, for many in the rap music world, it wasn’t so much of a shock that it happened but rather that it took so long. In his lawsuit he alleges that Cash Money records have basically stolen from him, a la the character Big Red in the movie The Five Heartbeats. The father-son love overtures that he and co-CEO of Cash Money Records, Bryan “Birdman” Williams, have long professed towards one another are apparently a thing of the past.
And why shouldn’t it be? In the suit he is seeking more than $50 million in damages, a hefty sum indeed. From not paying promised advances to withholding royalties, the suit alleges that Cash Money is basically a legal front for the Williams’ brothers to fund an elaborately expensive lifestyle. Undoubtedly being able to pay $7.5 million in cold hard cash for the largest home near Ft. Lauderdale was a lot easier for co-CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams to be able to do when he wasn’t paying his artists or anyone else for that matter.
This is no reason to feel sorry for Lil Wayne. Alone he has a personal fortune estimated to be worth $140 million dollars. He’s an extremely wealthy man. Still $50 million dollars is a lot of money, and setting a precedent of walking away from that amount of money is not only silly, but it is also an incredibly dumb business move. Having amassed that level of wealth in the music business does not come as a result of habitually making dumb moves.
But this does not overshadow the obvious: what has taken him so long to leave Cash Money in the first place?
One of the things that a smart capitalist can bank on is taking advantage of, err, capitalizing on people who are not as smart or driven as they are. The Williams brothers began Cash Money back in the early 90’s and quickly became a regional label powerhouse. With their ear to the street and savvy marketing skills they pretty much dominated the unique genre of music originating from the streets of the New Orleans, Houston area. In fact by the time they were approached by a major record label they had already produced and distributed over 30 albums.
And just what were they producing? They made records about what their fan based wanted to hear. Being that this area of the country was quickly becoming known as the murder capital of the nation most of their artist glamorized a street version of the American dream. In short, hustling, drug dealing, prostitution; pimping, killing and life behind bars were the subject du jour. In other words the disenfranchised were happy to hear someone rapping about the life they knew about. But that’s what rap has always been about. Rap artists have, by and large, been the village laureate of what they know and not what they hope for.
Cash Money capitalized on that, and in the process became the default guardian of a cultural heritage. No one else, save Master P who, at the time was making a bid for mainstream acceptance, was distributing anything like the homegrown musical gumbo that was coming from this region with the swag and intention of The Williams Brothers. They knew this and, like many good capitalist, exploited the very people who were responsible for it. And yes, that included Lil’ Wayne.
The only reason that he left the ether cloud of the “family hustle” is because he became so over-the-top wealthy. Once money wasn’t an object anymore that’s when his business eyes opened and he began to realize that he was being treated like one of the….women…he so idolized in many of his songs. The strategic error that Cash Money made was that, as Lil’ Wayne’s star began shine that much greater, they didn’t adjust their street level savviness to incorporate one of their own homegrown into their empire fold. Young Money, as integral of a part of Cash Money as it is, obviously still isn’t sitting down at the family dinner on Thanksgiving.
And that’s where capitalism always wins and ultimately falters. It doesn’t care about family or friends, or culture, or heritage. Capitalism cares about one thing and that is conquering its prey. Therefore in order to be a good capitalist you have to be able to recognize who your prey is. In the case of the Williams brothers their prey happened to look just like them, which is an entirely more disturbing, yet common trend. That being said, it should come as no surprise that the Williams brothers have declared their ultimate business goals, and that can be summed up in two words: Cash Money.
Staff Writer; Steven Robinson
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