Mogul Talk: Birdman on Schooling the New Generation, Starring in BET's 'Music Moguls' & Forthcoming Albums
BET’s new series Music Moguls takes an in-depth look into the daily grind of four music veterans: Jermaine Dupri, Dame Dash, Snoop Dogg and Birdman, highlighting their past successes and current boss moves in episode one. For Bryan "Birdman" Williams, viewers follow him as he orchestrates a meet-and-greet for his new Cash Money artist Jacquees. In between scenes, Stunna shares how he got hip to the Atlanta native’s music and why he decided to make him his next protégé.
As one of the executive producers of Music Moguls, the 47-year-old YMCMB CEO is passionate about passing down the knowledge amassed during his influential career since entering the rap game at 19 and signing a $30 million deal with Universal Music Group. His stacked resume includes platinum-selling albums as one-half of the Big Tymers with Mannie Fresh as well as memorable features -- and mentorship -- with just about every famous rapper including Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. Never satisfied with his last win, he’s continued to build artists on his budding Cash Money roster.
Twenty-four hours after the BET Awards, Billboard spoke with Birdman about spotlighting his story on Music Moguls, why he wants to school the younger generation of artists and meeting Jacquees for the first time. We also get an update on his projects, including the tentative release dates for his documentaries, his final solo album Ms. Gladys and Rich Gang’s The Lifestyle 2.
Why was it important to shed light on your story for a wider audience?
I looked at it as an outlet for some of my new talent. I think we really have to school these youngsters on the business 'cause I don’t think [they know about it]. A lot of them want to jump in this game on some rap shit but I think you should know the business before you get into the business. I came into this business with no knowledge—just knowing how to make records. I think they need to be taught about what they getting themselves into. Everybody see the fame but they don’t see the pain that come with this shit.
You wanted to teach the youth about how to move in this industry?
Yeah, how to make records and deal with corporations. You gotta wear a lot of hats. I always wore a lot of hats in this game even when I was young. I looked at myself when I was young and what I didn’t know, and if I knew better, I would have been better. Now that I am older, I think these youngsters should know what they're getting into. Everybody want to grab a microphone but don’t know the game.
What’s your role as an executive producer for the show?
[It’s] really just maintaining my part of it. I wanted to be involved with the music of it — the scoring, the editing, just giving everybody the freedom. I just wanted to make sure Dame [Dash], Jermaine [Dupri] and Snoop [Dogg] had their freedom to do what they want. That was most important for me.
How was it working with them?
It’s been super cool. The first time we got together was this weekend [at the BET Awards]. Everybody did their own thing on the show. I’ve been known all them guys damn near all my 20 years [in hip-hop].
With all your success as an artist and Cash Money Records, what’s your motivation?
I just love the game. I just love the challenge of it. I love the fact that what you did last year and what you’ve done in the past gon' have nothing to do with what you gotta do tomorrow. You have to change with it, know it and be a part of it. You have to stay focused to survive in this shit. I wouldn’t do [anything] else with my life than what I’m doing with music and helping youngsters who don’t have nothing, have something. If they have a vision, we turn their dreams into realities.
Do you think you have to stay hungry in this business to win?
Yes. I look at it like any other professional sport. You have to be talented and creative to survive as long as we have, with the smarts, know-how, dedication, sacrifice. How much do they really want it? How much will the world give to ‘em? Time will only tell that.
On the show, you talk about new talent like Caskey and Jacquees. What do you look for in artists before you start developing them?
Well, with Jacquees, I’ve been working with him for two years. I wanted to make sure he was ready. He’s on the [Mood] tour right now. He’s got his own little movement going on. Now it’s time for me to bring it to the big leagues. I really think he’s super talented and smart. To me, he’s a full package. Anybody can make a hit record but not everybody can be a super star. They are totally two different things. I think he have the super star ethics. He’s intelligent, smart, knows how to talk and he’s talented. You gotta be able to deal with people. You can’t be an asshole out here. You gotta be smart on how you move, when you move and where you move.
You rarely collaborate with other artists, but you recently did a project with Jacquees called Lost at Sea. How did that come together?
I just like working with Quees. I just like working with them youngsters. Quees really pulled that out of me. It was his idea to do a project called Lost at Sea. You know, the youngsters bring something different out here. I enjoy working with ‘em, definitely Quees because he sing-rap. I’m asking these young n---as, "What the f--k is this new R&B? Y’all n---as rapping and singing?" Shit changed for real. Now, you got rap n---as that are singing. They really f--k the game up. It’s a new wave.
I know you have Music Moguls going on right now but you’re also working on two documentaries, one about your life and the other on Cash Money. What’s the status of those projects?
I got a documentary about me growing up -- how I was raised until I was about 17 but the story starts right after that 'cause that’s when I started with music. I’ve been working on this project for like three years. I wanted my script to be perfect. We also working on a movie for the Cash Money story. You’re gonna get the documentary this year. We should start shooting the Cash Money story later this year or top the year.
Ms. Gladys was supposed to come out last week but it got pushed back. What was the reason behind that?
I was really thinking it would be dope for me to drop my solo album on my momma’s birthday. She was born in August. I’ma put it out on her birthday.
Is it near completion or are you still working on it?
You are never finished. I feel confident about the music I have. I got a solid 10 to 12 [tracks] that I’m confident about.
Is Rich Gang: The Lifestyle 2 still coming on July 1?
I wanted to push that to the end of July. Still going to be this month though. I worked with Thug a lot on this album.
Drake’s Views has been No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and “One Dance” is No. 1 on the Hot 100. Does his success still surprise you?
It’s new. It’s the first time Drake did this so it is an experience. You can’t ever underestimate him. I knew he was going to be a superstar from day one. I see him get to where he got. He worked real hard. He had to go through a lot to get to where he at. There was other people before there was Drake. Now, he there and I think he gonna hold it down. It’s just his time for him to do what he do. And we planned for him to do these things. We just blessed to be able to have the artists on our label that’s doing it. He know how to handle it. He a smart man. He move right. Stays out of trouble. He built for it. He the perfect person for it.
Earlier this year, you did a lecture at the Brooklyn Law School with your brother Slim. Do you plan on doing more lectures at universities this year?
I would love to. What I did at Brooklyn Law School was because my attorney is a professor. That’s his class. I would love to go around to schools and talk business with them, let ‘em know what they up against and what to look for. I really think they should be educated about the game before they get into the game. It’ll be a better turnout that way. I think they need it and I would definitely take the time out to do it.
One thing that stood out to me during that lecture was when you said, “In hip-hop, people do die. We lost a lot of people in hip-hop so I just wanted to figure out a way I could be a somebody without being a nobody." Is that a code all music moguls should live by?
I can’t speak for them and what they went through in life. That’s from my heart and what I been through and what I’ve seen in this game. I try to protect myself. I try to make sure when I go on these tours, everybody come home like everybody left, and the shit do happen out here in these streets. The team gotta know how to conduct themselves. All it takes is one person for shit to pop off. I always ride with n---as who respect the leader first, and we gonna go out there and be men about what we doing. We ain’t out here raging at people. It ain’t gonna be none of that shit. We gonna go out here, take care of the business and go back home.
Music Moguls makes its debut on BET on Tuesday, June 28 at 9 p.m. ET.