Birdman & Mannie Fresh Talk Big Tymers Reunion, 'Before Anything' Documentary & Status of Lil Wayne's 'Tha Carter V'
Birdman and Mannie Fresh, collectively known as the Big Tymers, hosted a homecoming bash at Bud Light Crew HQ for NBA All-Star Weekend in their native New Orleans, La. Saturday (Feb. 18). The Cash Money Records co-founder and the prolific producer doled out their hits like 2000's "#1 Stunna" and 2002's "Still Fly." Mardi Gras partygoers weren't the only ones to jam out to the nostalgic set, as Birdman's rumored girlfriend, singer Toni Braxton, also checked out the performance.
With the duo ushering in the 20th anniversary of their career -- an appropriate cause for celebration given Bud Light's "Famous Among Friends" campaign, Birdman (real name Brian Williams and also known as Baby) reflected on what made his bond with Fresh deeper than music. "Me and Fresh been through a lot together," he told Billboard backstage after the show. "Our relationship bonded even stronger when his sister got killed and my sister got killed. Fresh put the Big Tymers tour together. I always had a brotherly relationship with Fresh and I’ma continue to have that." Fresh added in a separate interview, "We had our disagreements on s--t but real talk, New Orleans cats are like this -- when something happens, we come together."
Last August, a source confirmed to Billboard that Birdman and Cash Money Records had signed a deal with Apple Music, which comprised of a one-off documentary about the controversial label's hood beginnings called Before Anything. When asked why the focus of the doc, arriving May 12, centered on Cash Money before its success, Birdman teased, "It just happened to be like that. Shout out to Apple and Larry Jackson. I thought it made more sense to put it out this year on our 20th anniversary. Anybody that been in this business and this industry for 20 years with the same company, it just don’t happen. We was honored, blessed and fortunate enough to be able to do it and I thought this would be the perfect time to do it." He added of their come-up, "[I remember] the fame that come with the glory, all the numbers and the sales but the struggle, the obstacles, the situations, the shit that we been through -- that would make a man."
Fresh noted that the documentary would feel familiar to longtime fans. "We told you early on that it was a hood business that was good business. It’s the American story. With a lot of young entrepreneurs, it always start rotten but then something good happens but do you keep it good? That’s our story."
While Birdman kept a tight lip about the specifics of the Apple deal ("[The documentary] is just the beginning of it," he said), the self-made entrepreneur has been keeping his plate full with several Cash Money Records releases slated for this year. "I got the Rich Gang 2 on April 14 and Ms.Gladys," he said of the collective's follow-up to the 2013 compilation album and his first solo album in seven years, an ode to his mother. "I was just focusing on that right now. We got new artists like The Money Man, Young Greatness. You know Drake, Nicki [Minaj], Wayne coming with their projects. This year, I wanted to break some new talent."
As for the label's Young Money counterpart, spearheaded by Lil Wayne, Birdman and Fresh said a reunion tour with Cash Money Records has been in discussion. "Really, Nicki been trying to do it, we all want to do it but we’ll see how it turn out around the summertime. It’s something we’re all discussing," said Birdman. Fresh also said it would take cash to get the rosters on the road. "If people pay people, then that shit gon’ happen," he laughed.
While Nicki Minaj is working on her fourth studio effort and Drake is putting the finishing touches on his More Life project, Lil Wayne has teased three efforts this year, including Funeral, Dedication 6 and Tha Carter V. The latter, which Lil Wayne claims to be his last album, has been in captivity since the rapper took to Twitter in December 2014, revealing that the project hasn't been released because "Baby & Cash Money Rec. refuse to release it."
Birdman echoed the same message he offered on Travis Scott's Beats 1 show in January when asked for The Carter V's release date. "You will get it this year," he said. "Me and Wayne will be aight. I’ma make that work. That’s my son and I love him, and we’ll make it happen."
Fresh, who was able to reunite Wayne and Birdman on wax with "Hate" also featuring Juvenile last year, says he would like a re-do of his contributions to the album because of the delayed release. "I have some songs on Tha Carter V but if I hear a song five times, I don’t like it no more. I’m ready to do new music," he added. "I think my songs should be revamped. I don’t know what the other songs are but I don’t like the songs that I did because it took too long to come out." Fresh also noted Wayne's relentless work ethic. "He’s still Wayne. He’s still hustling. Last time we got together in the studio, dude did six songs in one night so I was like, 'Oh my God, you still the same, dude.' I tapped out. I’m like, 'Bro, I’m older than you. I got shit to do like sleep. [Laughs]'"
Despite the family drama, Fresh is still hopeful that his "brothers" will all get along for a forthcoming project. "Everybody thought I could be the one to bring ‘em together and I proved that with “Hate” so the project is just kinda making everybody leave [their] differences behind. I’m good at doing that, I’ve always been good at doing that so you’ll see more stuff from me and that project."
He also believes Cash Money's legacy remains in tact thanks to the "timeless" records they've put forth. "It has survived 20 years later and people still jam to it. [Juvenile’s] “Back That Azz Up” is like a gospel song when it comes on." He adds, "People still love my music so I’m very happy and humble about what’s going on."