Birdman: It's A Family Affair
At 38 years-old though, its worked. Its highly plausible that Birdman, off of the heels of his six-month single Pop Bottles, is more embedded in young ears than LL Cool J, let alone most rappers in their upper twenties. Wherever controversy has found Birdman, whether in photographs, questions about street gangs or just last month in a Tennessee arrest, hes never cowered from a question or sidestepped an answer. The president and CEO of Cash Money Records might just be what the next president of the United States refuses to be: accountable for his actions.
In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Birdman is true to form. His new ad-lib, bruh sounds like a Dog The Bounty Hunter impersonator and his conviction to his words are ripe. With his third solo album, 5 * Stunna dropping this week, many rap fans see the release as a fullback, making a clear path for Waynes inauguration next year. But dont entirely confuse Birdmans hubris for lack of heart. The multitalented mogul tells HipHopDX about his family, his formula and his views on fatherhood.
HipHopDX: Youve proven yourself as a rapper, a philanthropist and a mogul. In your eyes, how did you earn the stars to become a 5 * Stunna?
Birdman: Shit. I think Ive put it all the way down, homie. Ive put my life on the line with it. I left it all on the floor, homie from the music to the streets. I [passed] the test with that. I done took it in blood too, ya heard me?
DX: Youve been rapping for so long. There are so many people in their mid-twenties let alone their upper-thirties who struggle to connect with the youth. Youve got teenagers as a major part of your movement. What has allowed you to connect so well with the kids?
B: I think its a God-gifted swagger. Then again, Im into the things that they want, bruh. Flashy cars, the jewelry, etc. etc. I think everybody wants to be with a winning team. I think people realize, and I think the youth as far as the kids and the babies that love us like that, its kinda strange; I be seeing one and two-year-old kids hip to us like that. I guess its a God-gifted thing, bruh, cause everybody dont have that. We just do what we do; we dont try to aim at the kids. We aim at nobody. We just try to feed our music. Thats the only thing I can say to that: God-gifted.
DX: We all remember that Source Awards where it was said how unfavorable it was for label CEOs to be appearing in videos and rapping alongside their artists. That was 1995. Twelve years later, whether you, Jay-Z, 50 Cent or anybody else, what do you think changed in rap music where that became in vogue?
B: Really, being a center-fold of it, ya heard me? With us, with all the names you [mentioned], everybody has their time. With me, I think it was that I watched them dudes; I studied them dudes, from Master P to Suge Knight to James Smith to Diddy to Eazy. I studied my craft, and still today, Im a student of the game. It comes a time when I think we have to let somebody come through, bruh. There were eras when it was all about me, all about [Eazy] E, all about [Master] P. We have to know when to change and when to switch. Its fortunate that I have my son [Lil Wayne], so I knew when to just let him go, and just get out the way and let him do him, and let him bring me back.
DX: On the album, youve got the song 100 Million. As Jay-Z and 50 Cent get into Forbes and Fortune, do you want that kind of attention for Birdman?
B: Thats why we do it, homie! I do it for those things. I do it to be the best [and] get the most money. If havin the most money comes with thatI dont look at none of that; I dont care about none of that. I just care about being able to provide for my family and my friends. If that [publicity] comes with it, then it just comes with it. We dont aim at that.
DX: I was reading Lil Waynes interview in XXL this morning, where hes gotten three covers this year. In that interview, he said that he was not really concerned with sales. Thats refreshing to hear. But on your side, youre the businessman behind Wayne. As the most popular rapper in Hip Hop, how can you ensure that the popularity translates into sales?
B: Thats our whole goal and our whole challenge with him, bruh, that we make the popularity go with the sales. We always did platinum. Thats been our thing; weve sold over 40-50 million records in our 10 year span. But we know that Wayne is the hog of the dogs, so were looking to do whatever weve got to do to make sure that it evens off. That takes time, we understand that too. But were just gonna leave it all on the floor, like I said. We never know what to expect, but were expecting and wishin for the best. I think what he meant was, he aint trippin off [sales]. Mothafuckas be fighting for it, and we know were gonna get our numbers; we aint got to trip and fight for that.
DX: I think so. In early 08 we might see something that will really blow peoples minds too.
B: I believe that too. I think everybody thats watchin, we saw 2Pac to Jay to Biggie; its Waynes turn, so watch this era. Its gonna be really, really exciting to see.
DX: Universal Records has really worked hard for you personally and Wayne personally. To what extent though, do you still feel like an independent label? How has that independence been challenged or changed?
B: Its challenged every day, bro, cause they dont want us to be strong and survive. Im just fortunate, cause if they couldve, this shit wouldve been over. The Jacksons broke up, and they was brothers, ya heard me? Believe that, homie. You know bout a batch of niggas. Once they put that money togetherits a dirty game, homie, and I could talk to you all day bout that type of shit, ya heard me? Its definitely a dirty game, and the strong gone survive. And if you got somethin that God got, aint no man can take that.
DX: A good example of that is what went down two weeks ago in Tennessee [click here for story]. As you see it, are the misconstrued facts of your arrest an example of them trying to take you down?
B: I think thats all that was about. Cause they know I was legally with my guns. Thats the gift and the curse of a celebrity. They used the media. I never really thought thats how people operated. [The police] had their own media for shit like that. They sent that wire out! Bad! Like I had all these different types of guns and all this shit, ya heard me? WhichIm always with a gun; Im never not with a gun, but I have a permit, I know the legals of the guns. I know where your guns good and where your permit aint good, ya understand me? Thats something we should all have knowledge of too. We carry these permits, but in some areas, theyre not good like in Manhattan. As long as you know where youre good and aint good, thats all it is; aint nothin they can do bout that. I guess by me being who I am, they can put the shit everywhere, and thats the route they took. They took that route on their own, and Im watchin that shit. They sayin all that shit bad [sic], cause I was never charged with nothin.
DX: You jump on a lot of remixes, official and not. Youve done this for people outside your label, unsigned, etc. To what extent is that a benefit to you?
B: Thats the route Wayne decided. If a nigga wanna fuck with us, we fuckin with him. Definitely. A lot of niggas, we consider family; we been knowing [them] a long time. Like [DJ] Khaled. Ive been knowing Khaled for like 15, 20 years. [Fat Joe] and all these dudes. I consider them family. We ride for that shit. My son is my son, and the rest of these niggas I call my family. My family and internet is so big, its so huge right now in this business to where I can press a button and do whatever. Man, you dont understand the power Ive got in these streets with this shit.
DX: Like father, like son, is a powerful statement. Beyond all the music and celebrity, do you think that your and Waynes relationship has given people a tangible example of what fatherhood in the black community could or should look like?
B: Where we come from, theres very few dad and son relationships, ya understand me? My daddy died was I was young; Waynes daddy died when he was young. A lot of us lost our daddies young. Its always been Dear Mama. I loved it when Pac did that, cause my mama died when she was young. I think this era in time, I think its about Dear Father. I think that man-to-man bond is needed for a boy. Mama is gonna be mama, and we love em to death. I think mamas is there for love, but what I give my son, she cant. I think thats what me and Wayne bring to the game. I think its needed. Like father, like son. I was in the mall, and a man told me Like father, like son can be good and bad, which is true and I respect that. But I think when its good, its great.
DX: Just beyond you, your brother Slim and your son, youve got a lot family members working for Cash Money. How did the Williams family look at you differently after being able to provide so much for your extended ones?
B: Its an everyday struggle, cause the Williams family done lost so much. My sister dead, my mama deadwe done lost so much. The money aint gonna heal the losses, ya heard me? You live life even trying to figure out how to make it through this shit everyday. If it wasnt for the music, a nigga would probably be crazy as a mothafucka. But right now, I look past my family thats [gone], my heart and soul lies with myI got my nieces, I have my godchild, which is Waynes child. Its about them right now for us. To make them the nextwhatever-we-gonna-have. Thats where my focus is at: my children, my godchild, my nieces and nephews. I got 10 brothers and 12 sisters, so theres a bunch of us. When I go home, Ive got the most beautifullest little nieces. Theyre beautiful. Fifteen, 18 I got like 20 of em. Now Im thinkin, Ive gotta bring em in this world, whichever ones of em wanna come in this world. Waynes little daughter is so mothafuckin talented; shes so special to us, its unbelievable. Her and my daughter is like one the twins. Thats where my focus is at: Im tryin to see where I can fit my kids in this and what their routes gonna be. Thats what I live for now, its them. The family ties never stop. Thats what I always wanted was a family. Mines was broken as a child, so my family was my block, my neighborhood, my brothers and these niggas. And I still have that family love, but I got these little ones, nine and 10 and 11 and 15 and theyre my whole world.
DX: We were told last week that situation with signing Tha Dogg Pound wasnt gonna work. I wanted to hear from you, what happened? Can you expound on what didnt line up there?
B: I think it was a misconception. We was under the knowledge that was gonna be overseas. I just talked to Kurupt and Daz; I spoke if they wanted to do it, and they were bout it. Cause I respect them. I respect Daz and Kurupt; Ive known them niggas from way back in the Death Row days. I have a lot of respect for em. If we can do it, I would love to do it, cause I feel like I can help em. Im into building alliances. If you wanna be down, youre down. If youre not, fuck ya, cause we aint waitin on nobody. If you aint rollin with us, you got a problem, man. I dont give a fuck who ya is. Ya outside! You need to be inside! I got everybody down with this shit. If you aint, you a problem. I would love to have them. I talked to Daz this morning. We gotta clarify that. Im gonna be [going] to New York next week, and I will sign them. Id like to fuck with em.