The official lawsuit Lil Wayne recently filed against Cash Money hit the interwebs a couple weeks ago, and sure, like a good hip-hop journalist I skimmed through it, but I didn't read it, not really. Who has time to pour over 20 pages of dense legal text when there's important work to be done?
But today I decided to go back over the lawsuit again, and as soon as I began truly reading it, HOLY MOSES THIS IS INSANE!!!
Full disclosure, I've very consciously tried to learn the business side of the music industry for years now, hounding artists to show me their contracts and annoying lawyers with questions, but I'm far from an expert, and I'm light years away from being a lawyer. Keep in mind that you're reading a legal summation from a guy who once drunkenly petted a ferret. But there are some really mind-blowing tidbits in this lawsuit that anyone could understand given some time and effort, and since you all have actual "jobs," I thought I'd have to be the one to step up and break this thing down.
As simply put as possibly, here are all the relevant points I could dig up, laid out all neatly and whatnot. Oh, and this is Lil Wayne's lawyer, which I find kind of hilarious; just the image of that white guy sitting down in the Young Money offices trying to explain to Weezy and Gudda Gudda why they're getting ripped off on mechanical royalties makes me chuckle, although I should probably assume that Lil Wayne is actually far smarter than a lot of people (myself included) give him credit for. Anyway, onto the show...
- November, 1998: Lil Wayne signs to Cash Money.
- February, 2003: Young Money is officially launched. Lil Wayne owns 49% of Young Money, Birdman and Cash Money own the other 51%. All copyrights, fees, profits, etc. will be similairly split between them. Lil Wayne is not able to sign artists to Young Money without Cash Money's approval.
- January, 2005: Disputes lead to contract re-negotiations. Under the new version of the deal (a.k.a. the "Settlement"), Wayne is obligated to produce additional albums and in exchange gets a higher royalty rate. This means that the rift between Wayne and Cash Money is nothing new. In fact, it's been going strong for nearly a decade now.
- July, 2006: Yet another re-negotiation raises Wayne's advances and obligates him to do two Cash Money "duet albums." And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Like Father, Like Son exists.
- June, 2008: Wayne and Cash Money agree that the release of Carter III fufills the obligations of his original 1998 deal. After the re-negotiations to that original deal, he now owes four solo albums and one duet album.
- 2008: Wayne and Cash Money agree to extend their Young Money joint venture an additional five years. As part of that agreement, Cash Money agrees to keep $1 million in an account at all times to pay Young Money recording expenses and overhead, and agrees to pay Wayne his 49% share of the Young Money profits monthly.
- June, 2009: Drake signs to Young Money/Cash Money. Under the terms of the deal, Wayne would get one-third of the net profits generated by Drake. This means Drake officially signed to YMCMB a few months after So Far Gone dropped, although he was certainly in talks with them well before. [Side note: Aspire Records, a label started by Wayne and Drake's manager Cortez Bryant, is also listed as Drake's label.]
- April, 2009: Yet another re-negotiation. Cash Money agrees to pay Wayne a $10 million advance for each solo album: $8 million at the start of recording, $2 million at completion. Also, they agree to extend the Young Money/Cash Money joint venture until June of 2015. Cash Money agrees to pay $200K a quarter for Young Money "overhead" expenses.
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- Cash Money has not paid the $200K quarterly or kept the $1 million expense account agreed to in the 2008 and April, 2009 agreements.
- Cash Money has NEVER provided Young Money with accounting of how much money Drake has made (and therefore the amount Wayne is owed under his 49% share). And yes, according the lawsuit, that's never, as in never ever, as in "has failed to provide a single accounting in respect to the exploitation of Drake's recordings." That's crazy talk.
- Under the terms of the 2003 Young Money/Cash Money joint venture, Cash Money was required to get approval from Young Money for any marketing expenses over 300K. They routinely failed to get that approval, spending millions in marketing expenses. Simply put, Cash Money allegedly spent millions marketing Young Money artists and projects without Young Money's approval, even though Young Money would owe 49% of those expenses under the terms of the 2003 deal.
- Cash Money has allegedly registered the copyright for Young Money music solely under the Cash Money name, instead of splitting the copyright between Young Money and Cash Money.
- Cash Money has allegedly routinely refused to sign artists Lil Wayne wanted to sign.
- Cash Money has allegedly failed to pay those involved in making Young Money albums, opening up Young Money to numerous lawsuits. No shit.
- In terms of Wayne's solo deal with Cash Money (so not Young Money), Cash Money allegedly refuses to show him accounting statements regarding money he's potentially owed.
- December, 2014: Lil Wayne turned in a completed version of Carter V. Cash Money allegedly refused to pay him the $2 million album completion advance, and had only so far paid him $2 million of the $8 million recording advance owed to Wayne under the terms of the 2009 agreement.
What Lil Wayne Is Asking For:
- A total of $51 million. That $51 million is the sum total of several parts: advances owed, money owed Wayne for his solo music, money owed Wayne for Young Money music, etc.
- Because Cash Money has so thoroughly failed to follow the terms of the original 1998 deal, Wayne's solo deal with Cash Money should be considered finished moving forward.
- Because Cash Money has so thoroughly failed to follow the terms of the 2003 joint venture deal, Young Money's relationship to Cash Money should be finished moving forward.
- Lil Wayne should have all proper copyrights restored to himself and Young Money, and should be paid adaquately moving forward for music recorded under the original deals.
I'll let you take some time to collect your thoughts, sweet baby Jesus knows I can barely follow all of it and I've been reading it closely for the better part of a day.
I have to say, even though I've heard more stories than I can possibly count about how shady Cash Money has been in its dealings, it's surprising to read about how thoroughly corrupt they (allegedly) were. It's one thing for a label to skim some money off the top and short an artist a few dollars, it's another to completely refuse to show them accounting statements AT ALL for years on end. And the business about (allegedly) not even registering the copyright correctly? That's some next level shadiness.
Given all that, it's not even remotely surprising that the Wayne/Cash Money empire has fallen apart, it's really only surprising that it lasted this long. In fact, it turns out that Wayne was never really royalty in the Cash Money empire at all; he's had to sue to even get his clothes back.
So enjoy it while it lasts Young Thug, but history says things will not end well for you.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]