Breaking all kinds of rap fans’ hearts, yesterday Lil Wayne filed a $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money Records and Bryan “Birdman” Williams. Yes, Weezy sued the very man to whom he referred as his “father,” and who practically raised the younger rapper from his teen years.
The relationship—and Wayne’s general PR—had trended downward, publicly, for the past couple of years, which we traced earlier here. But it turns out the Wayne/Cash Money relationship weathered longer storms than many people thought.
And at the heart of one of the biggest disputes? Yes, Drake. Always blame Drake.
Lil Wayne—legal name Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.—filed civil suit on behalf of himself and Young Money Entertainment yesterday in Manhattan Federal Court. That makes it, yes, public record, and one that’s pretty easy to get. And luckily, Manhattan copyright lawyer Mark H. Jaffe, an apparent fan of sharing such public records, uploaded the whole filing earlier. (Click here to read the 19 pages of legalese.)
So after reading the whole thing, yes, it’s true Wayne is asking for $51 million in damages. Here are seven other highlights.
1. Wayne and Cash Money have been disagreeing over their agreements on and off for a decade.
This entire lawsuit is basically about a couple of issues: Cash Money allegedly not paying Wayne for profits off Young Money releases, and also allegedly not paying him enough for his own work. This last bit seems to have been a point of contention. The lawsuit lists amendments to the original contracts, most changing the amounts and percentage of money owed to Wayne, in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010.
2. Birdman allegedly forgot to pony up important accounting records, for either Wayne’s solo albums or Young Money’s profits.
So this was the deal with the agreement between Young Money and Cash Money, according to the lawsuit. Wayne, doing business as “Young Money Entertainment, LLC” owned 49 percent of Young Money Records, and Cash Money owned 51 percent. Both labels were supposed to be distributed by Universal.
As part of the various amendments to their agreements over the years, Birdman and Cash Money were supposed to provide monthly accounting of both earnings for both Young Money, the label, and Lil Wayne, the artist. The lawsuit alleges he pretty much never did that.
3. There were plans for Lil Wayne “duet albums.”
At one point, he owed Cash Money two; that later got amended to just one. If he get stuck in his contract as it stands (which now seems unlikely, given that this might end in some kind of settlement), he still owes one. Picture what that might sound like.
4. Birdman allegedly nixed several artists Wayne wanted to sign.
The lawsuit doesn’t name names, but it claims that Wayne suffered financial damage by not getting to sign the artists he wanted to sign to Young Money.
5. He and Cash Money also basically forgot to pay for “Tha Carter V,” and has been sitting on the finished album since December.
“Tha Carter V” is actually all done, y’all! It’s just sitting there! But oops, Bridman forgot to actually pay for it, according to the lawsuit. According to one of the latest agreements between Cash Money and Lil Wayne, Wayne still owed Cash Money four solo albums and that “duet album.”
For each solo album, he was supposed to get an advance of $8 million at the front end, and $2 million at the end. The lawsuit alleges that Birdman didn’t pay the advance, and coughed up only (only) $2 million total over the album’s recording. According to the lawsuit, Wayne and his camp will only allow Cash Money to release it if they pay the total they still owe, plus, possibly, interest.
6. Here’s where the $51 million figure comes from.
They want the $8 million still owed for “Tha Carter V.” They want $5 million for missing royalties for and various other damages incurred against Young Money. They want $13 million of profits they claim Cash Money unfairly withheld. Then they want another $25 million for money lost by Lil Wayne and Young Money for not being able to sign those new artists he wanted.
7. And finally, Drake’s involvement. There’s something called the “2009 Drake Letter Agreement,” and it’s a huge deal in this lawsuit.
We all know Drake and Nicki are the biggest things to come out of the Young Money camp. And in 2009, Cash Money and Wayne inked the “2009 Drake Letter Agreement,” which promised that Cash Money would provide a monthly accounting of Drizzy’s profits. According to the suit, they never did:
“Cash Money has failed to provide a single accounting in respect of the exploitation of Drake recordings, despite Drake being one of the bestselling recording artists in recent years.”
Whether any of this makes it to trial or not, or how many millions of dollars actually change hands, remains to be seen. In the meantime, we can chalk it all up to yet another relationship broken up (at least indirectly) by Drake.
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.