Backbeat: Annual Cash Money Party Brings Big Names, Big Plans and Blunt Smoke with Pre-Grammy Revelry
Alyson Aliano

“The business has come down to that,” agrees Birdman, who cites the label’s U.K.-bred hitmaker of Indian descent, Jay Sean, and an affiliation with influential English hip-hop authority/BBC DJ Tim Westwood; the first release on YMCMB’s recent label partnership with Lady Gaga producer RedOne’s 2101 Records is Swedish-Congolese act Mohrombi. “It’s important to have a full international impact, so we’re grooming and growing international superstars. I see an opportunity to do something no one has done in music business: be the first billion dollar-brand in music.”


The new trend making records in general is getting different genres together -- getting the hip-hop guy with the pop guy, and vice versa,” says Ron Perry. “I’m putting a lot of those pairings together. My client Diplo, who’s nominated for Producer of the Year, is working with Tinie Tempah and produced a new ‘Gangnam Style’ remix featuring 2 Chainz and Tyga. And now we work with Dev, who’s now being produced by DJ Mustard, who did ‘Rack City’ for Tyga, ‘I’m Different’ for 2 Chainz, and ‘R.I.P.’ for Jeezy. Those are some big records.”

This approach figures in the current YMCMB strategy, which includes pop acts like Kevin Rudolf, Chris Richardson, and teen group Savvy (who recently had the video for their RedOne-produced single “Young and Reckless” directed by Wayne Isham) alongside upcoming releases from crew icons Drake and Lil Wayne. This year, top 40 hitmaker Jay Sean also plans to release his fourth studio album, Neon, which builds on his traditional club-pop with tracks like the single “Mars,” which Sean calls “a straight R&B sex jam” featuring a verse from Rick Ross. “Cash Money are genre busters -- they've had success that goes way beyond hip-hop,” notes Republic Records president Monte Lipman. “These days, they're going into rock , they're going into EDM, they’re going into pop -- Cash Money is a full-service major label.” A&R Berkman notes the upcoming reunion album from Limp Bizkit exemplifies this thinking. “We’re treating it like a serious rock album,” Berkman says. “It’s a great blend: there’s the full, original band writing true Limp Bizkit songs, but we’re bringing urban stuff in, too. Boi-1da and Detail are going to do some production, and Birdman, Lil Wayne, and Tyga will be on it for sure.”

Branching out into different styles of music stems from YMCMB’s tradition of giving its roster artistic freedom. “Wayne's always been an artist that's never been put inside of a box,” says Cortez Bryant, Young Money’s “Chief Visionary Officer.” “Once Birdman granted him that right, years ago, to do what he wanted, he passed that down to everyone he's brought on.” “We give the artist 100% creative control, and try to bring their vision into fruition,” adds Young Money president/artist Mack Maine. “You want everybody to be different and unique; that’s what actually makes a brand. For example, Tyga's releasing his new record a week before Lil Wayne’s. I spoke with Wayne the other day and said, ‘I want to play you Tyga's record to make sure you like the direction it's going in.’ He was like, ‘I don’t need to hear it -- I believe in him.’”


Grammy season is as much about jumpstarting the future as it is celebrating the recent past: it’s no surprise artists and labels look to it as a key launchpad for next year’s batch of awards hopefuls. “My upcoming album will be the pinnacle of my work to date,” says Busta Rhymes. “Look forward to Busta Rhymes sweeping shit next year!”

YMCMB as well has an ambitious slate of releases coming as well. “We only put out four albums last year, so this year we’re going to try for twenty or thirty,” says Birdman. They include Tyga’s Hotel California, due March 19th; Lil Wayne’s I Am Not a Human Being II, out March 26th; and the first Rich Gang release, due April 3rd -- “a collaboration album featuring all the Young Money/Cash Money artists and friends and family like Future and Meek Mill,” says Berkman.” Then there’s Birdman’s fifth solo LP, Bigga Than Life, set for April 3rd, and the upcoming, inevitable smash: a new Drake album. “Even if Drake doesn’t win Grammys this year, it will still be incredible for him,” Berkman says. “It’s just another push.”

Cash Money co-chief Ronald "Slim" Williams

Likewise, Jahlil Beats is set to apply his studio savvy to new projects from Jay-Z, Rick Ross, DJ Khaled, French Montana, and Leona Lewis -- but one project is particularly close to his heart: “Next year I’m going to get a Grammy for Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares.”

As well, 1500 or Nothin’ has an impressive batch of releases they’re associated with in the coming months. These include efforts from T.I. and Marsha Ambrosius, as well as a surprise Chris Brown/Tyga collaboration set for release as a single on Valentine’s Day. “We’re going to be on every album -- they’re going to be competing with each other,” claims 1500’s Dopson. The production team has also been developing up-and-coming talent Young Marcus from Houston, Texas; the video for his debut single, “Send Me a Picture,” recently premiered on 106th and Park. “He raps as good as all the rappers we work with -- and he’s 13!,” says Dopson. “He went on a world tour with Lupe Fiasco when he was twelve! He’s just not human, man -- he’s going to be the next Justin Bieber, or Bow Wow in his prime. He’s got the swag and star quality.”


Despite the hoopla expense of surrounding the YMCMB’s  pre-Grammy gala it’s actually not even the label’s most exclusive get-together. “Tomorrow after the awards, we’re doing a Cash Money little thing,” says Detail. “We come together and play each other music -- stuff for this year, because we get records out fast. That’s the beauty about YMCMB -- if we get amped about a record, that bitch is going to be out!” “For me, Grammy time is important for everyone on the label and the team to get together and meet up,” explains Birdman. “I’m excited to hear what everyone’s doing -- some have TV shows, some have completed albums, some have just started recording. We’re just grinding.” “When I’m breaking bread with my brothers and business partners during festive events like this -- we’re celebrating a whole lot more than just the Grammys,” Busta Rhymes concludes.