By Rahul Lal
Cortez Bryant is the man behind the man: he is been a long-time friend of Lil’ Wayne, dating back to childhood and when Bryant graduated college, he became Weezy’s manager.
Bryant sat down with Elliott Wilson and Brian “B-Dot” Miller on Rap Radar (part of CBS Radio’s Play.it podcast network) to talk about the status of Tha Carter V, his relationship with Birdman, and how Wayne has been dealing with the recent drama with Cash Money Records. For roughly two years now, Wayne and Birdman have been feuding over money that Weezy says the record label owes him, and it has created a delay in releasing any music.
“It was rough because the situation was outside of just business,” he said. “We built this organization on family so when things get rough, you see who’s really by your side and how they move. I think that part of it hurt the most and I think that’s the hardest to deal with.”
Bryant was referring to the close bond Wayne and the rest of Young Money had, specifically commenting on the relationship with mogul Birdman. Wayne and Bryant have recently revealed that the delay on the much anticipated Tha Carter V is because of a check that hasn’t been issued since before the release of “Believe Me” by Lil’ Wayne featuring Drake. Since then, Bryant says, he and Lil’ Wayne have continuously tried to work with the label but their patience has run thin.
“We were ready to put our Carter V,” Bryant said referring back to their mindset in 2014. “We put out ‘Believe Me’ as a single before we put out the record… it’s never been a situation [with Cash Money] where I would have to worry about anything financial. They were great with the checks because we’d come with a plan, I’d lay it out to them, they cut the check… this time, once we put it out, the check didn’t come.”
The money was necessary to get Wayne in the studio and to create further songs for the upcoming album. He says they were repeatedly assured that the money would be coming, though they never received it. It got to the point where Wayne told Bryant to put the album out on different streaming platforms and that he would be able to make the money back through those sales and deals.
“I presented it to Slim and Baby,” Bryant said referring to Birdman and his brother Slim who co-founded Young Money. “They didn’t get it at the time. They didn’t ‘get’ streaming, they went to the powers that be and the label is against it because they had no control over it and they basically told me ‘Yo, we can’t put the album out.’ When I had to tell Wayne that, he was like ‘What? You can’t stop me, you can’t hold me back, I got to tell my fans because they don’t deserve this and I’m ‘bout to air it out.’ Before I got off the phone to call his lawyer to let him know we was about to have some s—, TMZ was on the other line.”
Once Wayne had revealed to the press and his fans about the issues that prevented him from releasing the album, everything escalated quickly. Fans began picking sides calling for Birdman to “free Wayne” as he referred to himself as a prisoner of the label. He released a studio album titled Free Weezy exclusively on Tidal and other streaming services later that would eventually be taken down and made the conflict with the label even worse.
“It’s probably more than [$50 million],” he said, discussing how much he thinks the label owes Lil’ Wayne. “It’s probably that number and more now. With Drake’s albums coming out this year? It’s probably more than that. That pot is big… I really just feel that it was a situation where they’ve never had more than one platinum artist at a time.”
Over the years, the label’s roster has included artists like Juvenile and Birdman’s own group with Mannie Fresh, The Big Tymers, but those groups don’t compare to the amount of cultural influence Wayne’s Young Money roster holds today with their catalog of superstars.
“Now, we come in and we have Tyga, Wayne, Nicki, Drake and those projects cost,” elaborated Bryant on the struggle to pay multiple superstars at once. “This is my philosophy and how I feel about it; it may not be true. I just feel like they’ll get an advance from Universal to run the company and they may have a little money to play with because they know it’s going to come right back and not have to have as many costs with just having one superstar at a time. I feel like they had more play money but, at this time, when they got their last advance, they might’ve played too much and it was time to cut checks for the Drakes, the Nickis and they don’t have it because they spent too much. I feel like they got caught in a situation where they just made some poor decisions and it put the company in jeopardy.”
Cortez says he tries not to take any of this personally. “I don’t think it was intentional. Before this situation, I give a lot of props to those guys because coming in just as Wayne’s friend and getting into the business, they gave me a lot of talks and I learned from those guys. I appreciate the people that taught me things and brought me in. For majority of those years, they were great partners. They just was really there to support the whole vision of Young Money… It’s no relationship for us like it was in the past when it came to marketing albums but it’s no beef or hatred, I just feel like they made some bad decisions.”
Bryant was sure to leave fans with the ultimate kicker and tell the listeners about how great the upcoming album truly is. He maintained that Wayne is a true perfectionist and spent plenty of time producing an album up to par with the rest in the series.
“He felt like it was important that this one be the one,” said Bryant. “The music is incredible, it’s done. It’s done. It is incredible so I don’t want to put it out until I’m sure that it could be properly marketed and supported the right way… The most important thing for Lil’ Wayne is having his music out the correct way. He cares about his fans, the people that built him. He’s giving back to them for the career that they’ve allowed him to have for 20 years.”
To hear the full interview where he goes even further in detail about the saga as well as the discovery of Drake and his newest platinum rapper, G-Eazy, listen to the latest episode of Rap Radar on CBS Radio’s Play.it podcast network.