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Lil Wayne v Birdman: How the friendship turned sour

Lil Wayne and Birdman were, at a point in time, business partners and friends. However, somewhere along the line, that friendship turned sour. To find the origins of this beef, you have to go back to the early noughties when Lil Wayne first appeared on the underground in his hometown of New Orleans.

It is not uncommon for crews to dissolve due to ongoing tensions. Many acts such as Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD, A Tribe Called Quest and others have disbanded due to friction between members. However, in the case of Lil Wayne and Birdman, their business together was more akin to a record label than a crew of friends. 

Lil Wayne signed to Birdman’s record label Cash Money as a mere teenager in the early noughties.  He signed a record deal as part of the New Orleans rap crew The Hot Boys, but after the crew disbanded with their producer Mannie Fresh abandoning the label, only Lil Wayne was left at Cash Money. However, with his classic mixtape series ‘The Carters’ shaking up the underground, Lil Wayne became Cash Money’s face and its new star before long. 

In the early noughties, Wayne had one of the most successful mixtape runs in rap history, and by the end of the noughties, the rapper had his own imprint of Cash Money, Young Money. The label launched the careers of Nicki Minaj, Tyga and Drake, to name a few. However, with Young Money being a subsidiary of Cash Money, a lot of the money was going to label CEO Birdman.

However, according to Wayne, he has been cheated out of millions of dollars by Birdman and has alleged that the label executive is guilty of siphoning off his money and restricting his creative control when it comes to his music.

Tha Carter V is supposedly where this beef begins. According to Wayne, Birdman was constantly postponing the release date and messing around with the singles. In 2014, after his album was again delayed, Lil Wayne took to Twitter to call out Cash Money Records, tweeting, “I want off this label and nothing to do with these people but unfortunately it ain’t that easy,” the rapper wrote. He continued to write, “I am a prisoner, and so is my creativity.”

During a performance for Vice, Wayne vented to the crowd as he declared, “I’m f**ked up in a bad situation, but I will be out of it soon.” The performance took place in December of 2014 and by January of the following year, Wayne had announced a $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money, alleging that Birdman had violated the terms of his contract by repeatedly withholding his album’s release. Following his legal action, the rapper did an interview with magazine RollingStone where he declared that the album was finished but had been shelved by Birdman.

Detailing the album’s status, he revealed, “It’s super-done. Cake baked, icing on top, name on top, candles lit. I would have released it yesterday if I could. But it’s a dead subject right now. It’s a jewel in the safe. It’s that stash-house money.” Furthermore, in a 2015 Young Money cypher, fans heard Wayne fire shots at his former friend, calling him a “b***h a**”. Later that year, Wayne attempted to detach Young Money from Cash Money, claiming that Birdman had a history of not paying artists their royalties.

Fuelling the fire even further in 2016, Wayne accused Birdman of embezzling some of the $100 million advance Universal gave Young Money. When media outlets obtained the court documents, they showed that Birdman took upwards of $70 million of the advance. Following this, the judge sided with Lil Wayne. 

However, with Lil Wayne’s lawsuits against Birdman, Cash Money and Universal Music Group still pending, only time will tell if the two legends call a truce.