Wayne also relies on his children. “My four jewels -- when I FaceTime one of them, man, everything goes away,” he says. “I didn’t let it get to me too much,” he continues, addressing how he pushed through the legal drama. “Just the confidence in knowing that there’s always a tomorrow and I’m going to make sure that tomorrow is bright. Some people can’t go on [like] that, like, ‘OK, tomorrow will be better.’ They need it to be better right now. And thank God I didn’t, and I never did.”
“We from New Orleans, man, a place where we strong,” says Maine. “We got through Katrina. We had to keep going and figure it out.”
It was after Wayne recovered from his gunshot wound, when his mother saw how serious he was about his rap dreams, that she allowed him to join the Cash Money crew -- as long as he didn’t swear. (His 1999 solo debut, Tha Block Is Hot, is, as a result, squeaky clean.) Wayne signed his first solo deal with Cash Money Records in 1998, the same year the Williams brothers secured a historic $30 million deal for Cash Money Records: major-label distribution through Universal Music Group, a $3 million advance and ownership of their masters and publishing. In 2003, Cash Money handed Wayne his own imprint, Young Money, a 51-49 percent joint venture; the following year, Wayne released Tha Carter, which went on to sell 1.36 million albums in the United States.
Young Money would eventually sign Drake and Nicki Minaj, and the Williams’ deal with Universal’s Republic Records continued to grow with each renegotiation. The last time the two sides re-upped, in 2012, Cash Money received a $100 million advance. The same year, Wayne extended his solo deal for four more albums, which guaranteed him $10 million per album -- $8 million up front, then $2 million when he delivered -- and extended the Young Money venture through June 2015.
But beginning in 2013, court documents show, Cash Money’s monthly accounting and payments to Young Money and Wayne became erratic, stopping altogether in February 2014. Drake’s accounting was also in disarray. By the time Wayne delivered the masters for what was to be Tha Carter V in December 2014, he had only been paid one-fifth of his guarantee. “As the deals got bigger, they got more complicated, and our money slowed,” says Ron Sweeney, Wayne’s attorney and manager.