Birdman takes his music seriously — and why wouldn’t he? The Cash Money co-founder and CEO turned an independent New Orleans record label into a rap powerhouse, thanks to raw, unapologetic rhymes from acts like B.G., Juvenile and, of course, Lil Wayne.
What’s more, the #1 Stunna feels so strongly about his current artists and their music that on Wednesday’s episode of “RapFix Live,” he revealed he’d considered a boycott against Mountain Dew and Reebok, when the companies dropped Wayne and Rick Ross, respectively, over controversial lyrics. (While Ross is not signed to Cash Money, he and Birdman are close friends and frequent collaborators.)
“Really, we could’ve reversed that [termination of endorsement deals] because my whole take was, ’Since they wanna clown, I can clown and group all my people up.’ But on the respect I have for Swizz [Beatz, a Reebok partner], that’s why I didn’t clown,” Birdman told Sway. “I could’ve put all my people together and say, ’Now my culture and my community, we’re not supportin’ y’all.’ ”
Back in April, Reebok broke off their deal with Rick Ross after he spit some lyrics on Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.” that conjured up images of rape for some listeners. The sneaker deal was one that hip-hop producer and Cash Money friend Swizz had helped to broker. PepsiCo.-backed Mountain Dew also severed ties with Wayne after outcry over his sexual reference to Civil Rights icon Emmett Till on Future’s “Karate Chop.”
Both Ross and Wayne expressed remorse after their respective incidents. Tyler, the Creator was also taken to task for a trio of Mountain Dew ads he directed that some called racist. The spots were eventually pulled and his manager apologized on his behalf. On Monday, J. Cole became the latest MC to issue an apology after spitting a lyric that made light of autism on Drake’s “Jodeci Freestyle.” Drake, himself a Birdman-backed artist, also offered his own heartfelt apology for Cole’s rhyme on the song and vowed to have the line removed.
Birdman remembers a time when rap lyrics weren’t under the microscope. “I think sometimes these people looking at every measure, every line. I come from the old school, what we said was what we said and we ain’t care how you felt,” he explained. “This is music, man; all we doin’ is makin’ music. But when it affects like it did Ross and like it did Wayne — when they got dropped, it makes you look at it different.”
On Tuesday, Birdman released his Rich Gang album, a compilation that unites his YMCMB stable with artists like Ross, Meek Mill, Future, Chris Brown and R. Kelly. Stunna raps on the album, as well, but said he didn’t let all of the controversy affect his creative process inside the studio.
“Does it make you be more conscious of what you say? It shouldn’t because we should be able to say what we want, man,” he reasoned. “We look at it different, but apology-wise? I don’t know about all that. It’s not nothing we’re intentionally trying to do — harm or hurt — we’re just considering ourselves. When we’re in the lab, we’re just doin’ music, not conscious of what I say might affect you or a deal.
Birdman says he wouldn’t apologize for any of his lyrics and the next time one of his artists come under fire from a corporate entity, he’s ready to flex his muscle. “Next time, we’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna shut that sh– down,” he threatened.