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Power Players

No. 25
Ronald "Slim" Williams & Bryan "Birdman" Williams

Cash Money Records
Money. Power. Respect.

Cash Money is hotly rumored to be at the center of a bidding war. Why? The label's contract with Universal Music Group is about up. Will the label stay with UMG, its longtime home, especially now since one of the managers of Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Drake-Blueprint Group's Gee Roberson (see No. 59)-is now ensconced at Geffen? Or will Cash Money end up at Sony with CEO Doug Morris (No. 5), who brought Cash Money Records into the major-label system? Why the fuss? Because brothers Bryan "Baby" and Ronald "Slim" Williams (pictured) have had a hand in selling more than 75 million records.

In just the past five years, the Williams brothers have propelled their imprint into a chart-topping powerhouse based on a relentless release schedule packed with hip-hop superstars--and a lucrative financial foundation they laid a decade earlier. In 1998, the New Orleans natives signed a $30 million pressing and distribution contract with Universal that entitled Cash Money to 85% of its royalties and 50% of its publishing revenue. That deal afforded Cash Money a virtually unparalleled level of independence and ensured that as Lil Wayne emerged as a global pop star with smashes like Tha Carter III (3.7 million sold since its 2008 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan) and Tha Carter IV (976,000 first-week copies) it turned into an even bigger haul for the label. Today, in addition to Lil Wayne Cash Money's roster boasts ascendant superstars Drake and Billboard's 2011 Rising Star Nicki Minaj, as well as recently signed hitmakers Busta Rhymes and Mystikal, DJ Khaled, rapper/actor Bow Wow and singer Jay Sean.

Baby stresses that the key to Cash Money's success is teamwork, with Slim spearheading the label's corporate relationship with Universal Republic and Baby managing talent. "We got so much more we need to do," Baby says. "We dominate rap, but we need to dominate R&B. We need to dominate pop, gospel, country-we're a brand, so we should be able to put out all these different types of music. We just got to keep grinding."

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