The truth about Lil Wayne and Birdman’s complicated relationship

The music industry is rife with feuds and the long-standing, legal beef between Lil Wayne and Birdman is definitely part of that list. Although they’ve recently made amends, their strained relationship affected the highly anticipated release of Wayne’s 2018 record, Tha Carter V, and held hip-hop fans in rapt attention for years as they sorted out their business.

It wasn’t always like that, though. In fact, before Lil Wayne spoke out about his financial issues with Cash Money Records (which Birdman co-founded), the two were like father and son and collaborated on some of hip-hop’s greatest albums.

Birdman, whose real name is Bryan Williams, discovered Wayne when he was just 11 years old and signed him to his label. Together, they released hits like Tha Block Is Hot and Like Father, Like Son. In 2004, they dropped the first installment of Tha Carter, which gave Wayne — and Cash Money Records — mainstream success.

They were at the top of the world back then, with Wayne expressing his gratitude for the label to MTV News. “We signed a deal in I don’t remember when, and I been with Cash Money ever since,” he said. “So if you’re looking for integrity, I am the definition. If you’re looking for a person that’s gonna stay down, I am the definition. If you’re looking for loyalty, I am just that.”

Lil Wayne claims Birdman and Cash Money held him 'prisoner'

The peak of Lil Wayne and Birdman’s success together came with the release of Tha Carter III in 2008, which made hip-hop history by earning $1 million in straight album sales in its first week. And they went on to release many more songs and albums together, dominating the hip-hop scene of the early and late aughts.

In 2012, Wayne re-signed with the label, obligating himself to four more records with Cash Money. But Wayne wanted out after releasing just one, I Am Not A Human Being II, and he wanted joint rights to his music, which Birdman and Cash Money withheld. 

In 2014, the fallout between Wayne and Birdman became public when Wayne tweeted that the label was delaying the release of Tha Carter V due to him wanting to be released from the contract, per Complex. He tweeted, “I want off this label and nothing to do with these people but unfortunately it ain’t that easy.” In another tweet in the same series, he called himself a “prisoner.” 

Lil Wayne sues Birdman for $51 million

In 2015, Lil Wayne filed a $51 million lawsuit against Birdman and Cash Money. According to Rolling Stone, Wayne wanted off the label and contended that Cash Money hadn’t paid him money he was owed. The lawsuit also stipulated that he be declared as a joint copyright holder to everything he released under his imprint at the label, Young Money, which included songs by Drake and Nicki Minaj. 

After years of back and forth, the suit was finally settled in Wayne’s favor in June 2018. His lawyer, Ron Sweeney, told Billboard in a statement that the details could not be disclosed but that his client was a “happy man.” 

“He is his own man, a man that owns his assets, his music and himself. At some point, Wayne will let his fans know what’s going to happen next,” Sweeney added. The two were spotted in the studio together just days later, as reported by The Source, and Wayne released Carter V in October 2018 to critical acclaim. 

Birdman publicly apologizes to Lil Wayne

In addition to continuing to make music together, Birdman publicly apologized to Lil Wayne at the annual Lil WeezyAna Fest in New Orleans in August 2018. “It feel amazing, bruh, to be home f***ing with my son…I knew this day was going to come, but I didn’t know when it was going to come,” he said before the two performed “Still Fly.” 

In October 2018, Wayne told The Breakfast Club that he accepted the apology. He said that the two talked about it after and that he and Birdman were still in touch as friends. In fact, they were already back to texting about sports and anything other than money and music rights. 

Birdman told Complex (via TheGrio) in February 2020 that things were good between them both. “Everybody in a good space, we put the past behind us and we’re moving forward,” he said. Although it took over three years to settle their issues, Birdman and Lil Wayne are friends again and hopefully they keep the music coming.  

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