Above: Entertainment attorney Vernon Brown (far left, black tie), recent Cash Money signee Aziatix (center), Cash Money CEO Ronald "Slim" Williams (far right, black hat)
If there was any question that Young Money Cash Money Billionaires lives up to its high-rolling moniker, then one would need look no further than the annual pre-Grammy party thrown by the New Orleans-bred, currently Miami-based label group that brought us hip-hop superstars like Lil Wayne and Drake. The annual party has become one of the premier Grammy Week events: in 2012, it was held at Paramount Studios, while this year’s edition took place at The Lot, another massive Hollywood film-soundstage complex. Appropriately, the theme for 2013 is “vintage Vegas,” according to John Berke, president of event-planning/design firm Colin Cowie. “It’s ‘Rat Pack’ mixed with Crazy Horse: classy and elegant, but a little bit wrong.” That’s clear from the authentic ’51 Cadillac at the end of the red carpet, exclusive V.I.P.-only cabanas that could’ve come from Caesar’s Palace during Elvis’ fat years, and the omnipresent weed smell. Hey, it’s practically legal in California, right?
Inside the cavernous makeshift ballroom, burlesque dancers gyrate above a high-tech, LED-bedecked stage, where DJ Telemitry pumps beats for the boldfaced likes of Paris Hilton, Afrojack, Ashanti, Mya, Christina Milian, Kelis, Meek Mill, and much of the YMCMB roster -- in addition to an elite ground of label chiefs, A&Rs, branding execs, publishers, managers, and all around biz power players. “We’re the tastemakers, and this is the congratulations for our accomplishments,” explains producer Detail (Lil Wayne, Pussycat Dolls, Beyoncé) before firing up a blunt. The evening really kicked off around midnight, finding Ace Hood spitting on the mic, DJ Khaled storming the stage to spin Drake’s new single, “Started from the Bottom,” in honor of the double-Grammy nominee’s presence, and YMCMB co-founder/artist Bryan “Birdman” Williams receiving a car-shaped birthday cake. We can’t make this stuff up.
Alas, YMCMB queen Nicki Minaj was nowhere in sight -- not that her absence slowed down the proceedings. “The Grammys have been going on so long, usually you get an older crowd,” explains Birdman. “We wanted to bring a different flavor -- a younger vibe.” “This is the ‘cool’ party,” says Mike Horton, head of urban radio promo at Universal. “They’ve been doing it a while, but it’s never become the mainstream focus. When it started, you had to be in the know to get there; then it got bigger, and now it's back to being even more exclusive.” That’s why this get-together from the former Hot Boy$ is the best place to take the industry’s temperature during Grammys insanity -- from predictions to who will (and should) triumph at music’s most prestigious awards extravaganza to the trends we’re going to see play out across the charts in 2013.
“After the awards, I’m doing 19 different parties,” says Joshua Berkman, Cash Money's A&R for Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Chris Richardson, and Kevin Rudolf (whom Berkman also manages). “I don’t know what they are -- my assistant booked them all.”
Indeed, during Grammy Week, parties become the zone where the real business of music goes down. “Roc Nation did a very good job of getting interesting people together [at their event],” says Paul Adams, owner/founder of Bang The Drum management, which reps top producers like Ben Allen (Gnarls Barkley) and Jimmy Douglas (who collaborated on Justin Timberlake's new album). “Of course, Jay-Z and Rihanna were there, and Kylie Minogue, who they’ve just started working with -- but there were also a lot of publishers, A&R people, and managers. I got to see colleagues I don’t normally see.” YMCMB artist Jay Sean, meanwhile, was happily blinded by the event’s star power: “The Jay-Z/Roc Nation event was great fun. At our table was that Kardashian guy, Scott Disick -- he’s quite a character -- and Kanye’s crew. I’m sad I didn’t see Kylie: I had a mad crush on her growing up, and she’s become quite a MILF!”
Cash Money president and artist Mack Maine
Ron Perry, president and head of A&R for Songs Music Publishing, cites annual Grammy mainstays like Atlantic Records’ big fête and the Friends and Family gathering as where to see and be seen; PJ Morton -- keyboardist for Maroon 5 and signed Young Money solo artist -- had a great time palling around with BET head honcho Stephen Hill at VIBE’s first-ever Impact Awards ceremony this past Friday honoring Mary J. Blige. As well, there’s great anticipation for another new entry on the circuit: Maroon 5’s post-awards show hang at the Soho House. “If I go to anything, it will be the Soho House Maroon 5 party,” says Janina Gavankar, the sexy, leatherbound True Blood/L Word actress who was once signed to Cash Money as part of girl group Endera (and currently records as a solo artist for Randy Jackson’s Dream Merchant 21 imprint). “One of my best friends is Questlove from The Roots, and he’s DJing, so that seems like the move.”
The event that’s on everyone radar, however, has nothing to do with the Grammys: Justin Timberlake’s semi-covert return to the concert stage at famous Los Angeles venue The Palladium, immediately following Sunday’s awards ceremony. “Everyone’s talking about Justin Timberlake’s performance -- that’s absolutely the party to go to, says Larrance “Rance” Dopson of smash production team 1500 and Nothin’, who helped create Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1, nominated for this year’s “Best Rap Album.” “Shout out to our partner, James Fauntleroy -- he co-wrote Justin’s whole album with Justin and Timberland!” According to Jay Sean, the Timberlake Palladium show “is the hottest ticket in town, and super hard to get. Everyone wants to go there.”
“Justin Timberlake stole all the Grammy buzz,” says Detail. “It’s a timing thing: first he came with his single with Timbaland and Jay-Z, which is a phenomenal record, and then there’s this exclusive concert.”
CAN’T STOP THE HUSTLE
“Grammy week is time to work, not party -- this is only party we’ll be at,” explains 1500 or Nothin’s Dopson. “We’ve just been studio hopping: yesterday, we had a session with Drake, then we worked with 2 Chainz, and next did a song for T.I. That was all just this week -- we’re not playing games!”