“Stuntin’ Like My Daddy”, the lead single for the Lil’ Wayne & Birdman joint album Like Father, Like Son, dropped on July 18, 2006. Boy, that was a long time ago! Things have changed a lot since then.
Fast forward to today, Lil’ Wayne is threatening to shut down Young Money Entertainment, in another attempt to get back at his former mentor, Bryan “Birdman” Williams. Dating back to late 2014, there have been delayed albums, alleged unpaid royalties, lawsuits, counter lawsuits, counter-counter lawsuits, and a host of vitriolic words thrown back and forth...and this hat:
This issue brings to the surface many tough questions that cannot be answered right now: Will Young Money Entertainment still be around next year? Five years from now? Ten? Has Birdman done irreparable damage to the Cash Money brand? Who will win the battle in the courts? Have we already heard the last album of Weezy’s career?
However, there are a couple of other burning questions that are on the minds of many Hip-Hop fans. The answers could have a dramatic impact on the landscape. What happens to Nicki Minaj? And what happens to Drake? (Somewhere, Pusha T is sitting around laughing at all of this.)
Never say never, but something that is not likely to happen is both artists going the independent route. Although their teams could probably pull it off, both Drizzy and Nicki, in some respects, need that huge marketing army behind them. One of the reasons why they are the stars we know them as, and have so much influence on the culture, today is because of the millions of marketing dollars put behind them, thanks to Universal, parent company of Young Money/Cash Money. A major label has the outreach and corporate relationships that many indie artists and labels simply do not, or will never, have.
Another scenario that will probably not happen is the two signing with Diddy over at Bad Boy Records. Chris Mench, at Complex, detailed the very tumultuous relationship between Diddy and Drake over the years. The relationship between the man formerly known as Puff Daddy and Nicki is not that much better. Nicki cut ties with him and his management group back in 2011. Plus, her issues with Diddy-affiliated act Lil’ Kim might complicate things.
One potential landing spot that many will throw out into the fray is Roc Nation. Both Drake and Nicki have expressed a great deal of gratitude and respect for Roc Nation founder, Jay-Z, over the years. Roc Nation is perceived as the Holy Mecca of Hip-Hop, at least amongst a large segment of fans. Even though Rihanna, T.I., J. Cole and even Hov himself release music with relative consistency, Drake and Nicki would command top priority and a fair share of the company’s resources. Many rumors have made their rounds over the Internet about Drake wanting to sign with Jay.
There is an option that could trump everything else: Epic Records.
Epic Records was in dire straits until the signing of famed executive LA Reid as CEO in 2011. Under his tutelage, the company would make a major resurgence. Reid signed acts like Future, Ciara, Meghan Trainor, French Montana and DJ Khaled, scored multiple #1 albums and singles, including Khaled’s “I’m On One”. Epic made a massive market share growth under Reid as well, from 2.56% to 3.63%. (As a comparison, Amazon’s market share sits at around 5% as of this writing.)
Epic is still going strong after LA Reid’s exodus in early 2017, as sexual harassment allegations surfaced. Drake, who has close ties with Future and Khaled, has had workings with Epic in the past. His collaboration album with Future, What A Time To Be Alive, was a joint effort between Young Money and Epic. Drizzy signing with Epic would make him, easily, the top male Hip-Hop act on their roster, earning himself the lion’s share of the company’s efforts. Nicki, likewise, would be the top female Hip-Hop act on the roster, making her one of Sony’s (Epic’s parent company) top musical priorities.
A Drizzy/Nicki duo at Epic could be a “changing of the guard” in Hip-Hop. For decades, Def Jam was the hub for Hip-Hop talent. WIth the success of G-Unit/Shady/Aftermath, Interscope held that title. Then, Roc Nation was the hot spot for Hip-Hop acts. With two cultural icons on its roster, and DJ Khaled as Hip-Hop’s best hype machine, Epic could funnel in some of the genre’s top artists and up-and-comers. With such top-end, marketable talent, the possibilities would be endless when you take into account the gaming and technology side of the Sony business model.
One of the most popular entities under the Sony umbrella is Playstation. That, alone, could provide numerous opportunities for marketing an artist, such as having an artist’s song in a video game. There is also Sony Pictures, which currently holds a 9.4% market share. Sony Pictures films would have some of the best soundtracks in the industry, at least from a Hip-Hop perspective. These are opportunities that other record labels may not be able to match to the extent that Sony can.
While in the heat of legal battle, Birdman and Lil’ Wayne may not realize this, but the outcome of their debacle could have an epic ripple effect throughout Hip-Hop.