Last year we caught up with Birdman before his album was set to be released to talk about some of the projects he was working on, the state of Cash Money Records and to get his thoughts on the success of Lil’ Wayne. The story was featured in a recent issue, but here is the interview…
Not many locations serve as a better inspiration and more appropriate location for the creation of hit records than the Hit Factory in the heart of Miami. Once inside the majestic building Gold and Platinum plaques align the walls of the entire lobby, stretching up to the towering ceilings. Notable names on the wall include DMX, Will Smith, Wyclef Jean as well as legends Michael Jackson and Prince. Hovering over the mixing boards, behind the doors of one of the studio rooms is Bryan “Birdman” Williams, a man who has helped garner enough Gold and Platinum—music and jewelry—to fill an entire section of the wall in the Hit Factory all by himself.
It’s another day in the life of one of the hardest working men in Hip-Hop as Birdman stands plotting the formula for another successful project in Hip-Hop. Even after 20 years in the business, he still can’t bother to sit, much less take a break though his success and longevity has afforded him the time to relax. Ironically with the magnitude of success Lil’ Wayne has been having over the past couple of years and the breakout year Drake, Nicki Minaj and the Young Money movement are having, the pressure to deliver is at its highest for the Number 1 Stunna. These days with the stakes so high in the music industry and Hip-Hop going through more downs than ups, Birdman faces more pressure than when he came into the game with no industry backing in 1991 co-founding Cash Money Records with his brother Slim carrying Uptown New Orleans on their back. This year packs more pressure than he felt after his label spawned hits like “Bling Bling,” “Back That Azz Up,” and “Tha Block Is Hot,” from the members of the legendary Hot Boys. Even more pressure than when Birdman released his solo self-titled debut in 2002. In fact, right now Birdman probably faces more pressure than he felt after Juvenile, B.G. and Mannie Fresh left Cash Money subsequently leaving Lil’ Wayne and himself as the only two original artists on the label. Yep, the pressure is surely on, but standing there, fingers intertwined with a freshly rolled piece of heaven, stealing a pull every few seconds and perfecting the final touches on his album, one couldn’t imagine that he was phased by pressure even the slightest bit.
Parlé: When did you know you wanted to get into hip-hop music?
Birdman: Music, man 88, 89’. I been doing this sh*t 20 years.
Parlé: You’ve had so much longevity, what do you think is the key to your longevity?
Birdman: Focus, focusing on my music and doing music for the people. Not doing music for us, not ever writing no crap. I put a lot of time into it. Faith always first and just believing in what you say and do and believing that people support you. And believing in your swagger and sh*t you know.
Parlé: When you first came out were there any models to how to do what you do?
Birdman: I was really observant, I studied Suge, Easy-E, James Smith, Tony Draper. I studied all these dudes for a while before I was able to do, because I knew I was probably going to be faced with the same type of sh*t, since I was in the same type of position. That’s what I was doing so I studied that sh*t and hopefully I made better decisions.
Parlé: Who do you look at now in the game? Or do you look at anybody in the game?
Birdman: I mean I just look at a lot of sh*t like what n*gg*s who did it before me and people who made it before me and n*gg*s who I don’t wanna go through sh*t like. Cause a lot of n*gg*s sh*t f***ed up. And I wanna be able to say we done this a long time and stayed wealthy.
Parlé: I feel like you’re one of the best in the game as far as the business side is concerned. Do you think you get enough credit for what you’ve done?
Birdman: Nah, not at all in no type of way. But I guess sometimes it takes death and certain things for a mo**erfu**er to realize, but if they can’t see, we the ones making the most money.
Parlé: Let’s talk about the new album. Priceless.
Birdman: Strapped, Always Strapped, life is priceless.
Parlé: I’ve heard you mention that a few times but what made you title the album that?
Birdman: Well I live by “always strapped” and I feel like life is priceless and the price you put on your life is beyond a value. Your life, your family life, your kids, your loved ones and what they mean to you. So I say life is priceless.
Parlé: Usually with Birdman albums its straight forward, baggers, club joints. Did you change the formula at all?
Birdman: Umm, just upgraded our basic formula. Been following our base, it never changed ni**as just upgraded our sh*t. Did more things and tried more formulas. You know created a swagger. I think with this album here I just kept our base and following from what we been doing, ain’t nothing changed. I’ma continue to create my music and keep it trendy.
Parlé: Any other surprises to expect from this album?
Birdman: I never work outside my son, Wayne and really Young Money, Cash Money, but this time I also worked with T-pain.
Parlé: Mainstream music has changed a lot since you first got involved. Has it affected you at all?
Birdman: Ain’t nothing affect us as far as music, but the game changed, the business changed, but our grinding didn’t change.
Parlé: For you what’s the difference? Or what do you enjoy more? The business or being an artist?
Birdman: I like both. My business I do that sh*t, I make it look easy I been doing it for so long. But the artistry is always a challenge. Because you gotta give the people what they want. You got to roll the dice and gamble. You got to feed them what they want and have them follow what you feed them. Both of them a challenge, I like them both though.
Parlé: What other projects you got working on?
Birdman: Really I been following my son. Getting the Young Money sh*t together. They about to pay us off a lot of sh*t. Me and Ross got an album coming so look out for that as well.
Parlé: In the past you did the Like Father Like Son album, you had the joint with Kelz that never really happened. What made you want to do this joint with Ross?
Birdman: I fu** with Ross. Ross CMB (cash money billionaire) to heart. I think he got a big future in this business and a long future in this business. I believe in the young ni**a, he gonna be great—he already is great, he’s gonna be a legend in this sh*t.
Parlé: Ever since Katrina you been down in Florida. Last time Khaled was on the album and you obviously stay connected in Florida, how’s Florida been treating you?
Birdman: With respect. Everybody, all of them, all the artists, the whole time with respect. With open arms. I fu** with Miami so it was nothing but respect.
Parlé: How much are you involved with Young Money or is that just Lil’ Wayne?
Birdman: We’re involved with each other on it. My son is my business partner, that’s my child. We about to release a lot of music.
Parlé: I recently saw an interview where you were talking about Master P and the 36 albums he released in one year, are you still trying to match that?
Birdman: Of course
Parlé: Is it possible to do that in the state of the industry?
Birdman: Yeah, but it can’t just be you. Universal (records) has a hundred and forty four acts. I know I could get forty. Not collectively, but we all got to be strong as individuals. It’s really a family we strive off of blood, I was taught that as a youngster. Family that’s how we operate and that’s why we do sh*t like that.
Parlé: There’s talks about a Hot Boys reunion, is that definite?
Birdman: Uh huh.
Parlé: Realistically you didn’t have to do that, what prompted you to get back together with the other guys?
Birdman: I aint never stop it. We grew up together on this sh*t I brought them into this sh*t. We ain’t tripping, young boy (Lil’ Wayne) ain’t tripping, so when Wayne said he wanted to do it I was cool with it. Sh*t like that when he want to do it, I’m going to support it, plus I’m cool with B.G., I fu**s with him (Mannie) Fresh.
Parlé: What advice to have for young artist’s coming into the game?
Birdman: It depends on what they want out of it. If they tryna do it big, then go for it. You got to put it all in. You got to put your life on the stake and put god first.
Parlé: When people look back at Birdman’s legacy what do you want them to see or say?
Birdman: That was something. That’s incredible and it’s never been done by nobody.
Parlé: You found so much success from the Hot Boy’s days to now, what have you found the most enjoying? Has there been a moment when you’re like this is that moment?
Birdman: All the moments have a different moment, but right now to see what Wayne is doing is the highlight of my life. That’s a joy for me. To see what he’s doing I’m good with that. He’s gonna be a hundred times bigger than I’ll ever be…