“Walk in the label like ‘where the cheque though?’”
The question Drake asks on “Star67”, an early standout from his surprise mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, makes him just one of the latest in a long line of Cash Money Records artists to ask.
Chief among the artists who have raised this question is the label’s flagship artist, Lil Wayne, who has called himself a “prisoner” because of Cash Money’s refusal to release his already completed album Tha Carter V. Wayne is currently preparing a $51 million dollar lawsuit against Cash Money and its figurehead; Wayne’s one-time business partner/father figure Brian “Birdman” Williams.
Should Wayne get his wish and leave Cash Money, the label he has worked with since he was 11 years old, it is alleged that he plans to bring his Young Money imprint artists Drake and Nicki Minaj wherever it is he lands next. When anyone thinks Cash Money, they think of Birdman rubbing his hands together. After that they think of Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj, the label’s three breadwinners.
So what exactly do the three mean to Cash Money in terms of sales? A quick look at Cash Money’s list of albums shows that since their first release in 1992, they have distributed 93 albums, 17 of which have gone platinum. Among that 17 are five Lil Wayne solo albums, one album by Lil Wayne’s former group, Hot Boys, three Drake and two Nicki Minaj albums. In total, the trio are responsible for 11 of the 17 platinum albums. The label’s 13 gold albums tell a similar story, with four Wayne solo albums, a Drake EP, and the now ironically titled Lil Wayne/Birdman collaborative album Like Father, Like Son.
The last Cash Money artist other than Drake, Wayne and Minaj was Juvenile in 2003 with his album Juve the Great. Since the founding of Young Money, Cash Money has relied on its imprint for superstars. Cash Money’s first release in 2009 was Drake’s So Far Gone EP and since then the record label has all but been a three-person show.
Since the release of So Far Gone, Cash Money has sold an estimated 17,083,200 albums. Drake’s three albums, one mixtape and one EP account for 6,949,000, or 40.67% of these sales. Lil Wayne’s four albums since then account for 4,553,000, or 26.65% and Minaj’s three albums total 3,511,000 sales, or 20.55%. The trio combine for a staggering 87.87% of Cash Money’s sales since 2009.
These figures won’t be news to Birdman, but with Lil Wayne saying he is “numb” to the situation, it seems the onus will be on him in finding new superstars rather than keeping his current ones.
Odrán de Bhaldraithe