The other night, at the BET Awards, I ran into the entire Cash Money Records crew as I was entering the show. It got me thinking about their incredible journey to the top. One of Cash Money Records’ more recent songs “Started From the Bottom” is my favorite song from last year. Their true reality is they started from UNDER the bottom. When we talk about surviving despite difficult personal trauma we are talking about Baby and Slim – the founders of Cash Money Records. They are by far the most inspiring record company hip-hop has built to date. When I was watching Nicki Minaj receive her fifth consecutive rap award on the BET awards I was almost brought to tears when she spoke about her Cash Money family. It reminded me of the very best corporate culture we built at Def Jam that we were fortunate enough to hold onto for a number of years (though not nearly as long as Cash Money has enjoyed).
I remember when there was a discussion about making a deal with them, but they politely passed on our offer to “ joint venture” with them. I remember thinking how much of a mistake they were making because they were missing out on our “great” offer. I guess they fooled me. Turns out, all these years later, they are the only owners and the only real triumphant hop-hop company fully owned and operated by the true pioneers that started it.
I know I’m hip hop. I learned to be an entrepreneur selling drugs when the highest aspiration in our community was to be school teachers, not even owners of our own businesses. We set up shop in front of the grocery stores selling drugs which seemed to be the brightest entrepreneurial option in our ‘hood. But with that education, an entrepreneurial spirit was born. We saw hip-hop penetrate the mainstream record business with a sport of ownership that always made me proud. If that’s hip-hop and it IS, then the best company in the history of hip-hop is Cash Money Records. They built it, developed and nurtured their artists while treating them fairly, held it together, and continue to make more money than everybody.
All of my respect to the entire Cash Money Records family who “started at the bottom” and “now are here.”