For as long as rappers have been laying down rhymes on wax, beef has always been part of the equation in hip-hop, and has manifested in some of the most epic battles between the greatest rappers of all-time. While many of these disputes were centered around rivalries between crews and amounted to bragging rights over who were the better emcees, as time progressed, beef also began to rear its head internally, causing legendary acts like Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD, A Tribe Called Quest and more to part ways due to friction between members. While those breakups occurred during the ’90s, 20 years later, tension within crews and between group are still very much part of the conversation. One of the biggest grudges of the decade was the bitter feud between Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records, particularly the label’s CEO, Birdman.
Signing to Cash Money as a youth, Lil Wayne was taken under Birdman’s wing as a preteen and groomed for success, eventually becoming a star by the time he was 18 and putting the label on his back after the departure of his Hot Boys groupmates and in-house producer, Mannie Fresh. Ushering in a new era for Cash Money as the new face of the label, Weezy evolved into a force of nature, unleashing a string of classic mixtapes and platinum albums that translated into one of the most successful runs in rap history for an artist. All the while, he was cultivating his Young Money roster, which eventually introduced future icons like Nicki Minaj and Drake to the public.
However, while Lil Wayne and Birdman—who have referred to each other as father and son publicly on multiple occasions—have become synonymous with one another as any other pair of rap figures, in recent years, the two have been at odds. Lil Wayne alleges that he has been cheated out of millions of dollars and stifled creatively. After announcing that his twelfth studio album, Tha Carter V, would be his last in 2012, Lil Wayne went on to wage war with Cash Money and Birdman. The reason? Cash Money continuously pushed Tha Carter V’s release date back, ultimately starting a present-day crusade for Weezy’s independence.
With all of the twists and turns in the cold war between the two, VIBE compiled a timeline of Lil Wayne and Baby’s beef, detailing its beginning and all that has happened in between then and now.
On December 4, 2014, less than a week from Tha Carter V’s intended release date, Lil Wayne hopped on Twitter to air his grievances with Cash Money Records after discovering the long-awaited album had been pushed back yet again. “I want off this label and nothing to do with these people but unfortunately it ain’t that easy,” the Young Money general wrote. “I am a prisoner and so is my creativity.”
Despite Lil Wayne’s former manager Cortez Bryant playing down the bad blood between Weezy and Cash Money, the rapper continued his verbal assault on the label during a performance at Vice’s 20th anniversary party on Dec. 6, 2014. While he didn’t go into details, Wayne told the crowd, “I’m f**ked up in a bad situation, but I will be out of it soon,” a foreshadowing of the eventual legal battle between the two parties.
On January 25, 2015, amid conflicting reports on the status of Tha Carter V’s release, Lil Wayne announced a $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money, citing Birdman’s violation of the terms of his contract by withholding the album from being released. The lawsuit also sought to terminate Lil Wayne’s contract with Cash Money, as well as his roster of Young Money artists.
In an interview with Rolling Stone published on February 19, 2015, Lil Wayne revealed that he and Birdman were not on speaking terms, but avoided giving details on his $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money. However, the rapper did give an update on Tha Carter V, announcing that the momentarily shelved album had been completed. “It’s super-done. Cake baked, icing on top, name on top, candles lit,” he said. “I would have released it yesterday if I could. But it’s a dead subject right now. It’s a jewel in the safe. It’s that stash-house money.”
On March 14, 2015, Lil Wayne and Young Money released their “Up Next” cypher featuring Lil Twist, Hood, Euro, Flow, Cory Gunz and Gudda. In in, Wayne aimed a shot at Birdman: “And sang ‘Hit Em Up’ to my daddy’s b***h a**,” Weezy rhymed over a soulful backdrop, closing out the epic succession of stanzas with another reference to his disdain for his former mentor and partner in crime.
The beef between Lil Wayne and Cash Money continued to heat up on April 2, 2015, when Tunechi made his feelings known about the label during a performance in Jacksonville, Florida. After shouting “f**k Cash Money” on stage, Lil Wayne’s words spread through the hip-hop community like wildfire, giving a clear indication that the rapper had full intentions of waging war on the label he helped build.
In early April, Lil Wayne had moved his $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money from its original filing in New York to New Orleans, where the label is based. “The claims previously asserted by Lil Wayne and Young Money LLC against Cash Money for substantial monies owed and breach of fiduciary duty have not been settled and will be prosecuted in Louisiana as expeditiously as possible,” a representative for the rapper said in a statement released shortly after the news broke.
In addition to pairing two of rap’s biggest stars, A$AP Rocky’s collaboration with Lil Wayne on “M$” was noteworthy for providing a platform for another Cash Money Records diss. By rapping, “I love my BMs/I love my YM/Ain’t no more CM/Let’s pluck out the stems,” Lil Wayne makes it clear where his allegiances lie by denouncing his label.
On June 14, 2015, Lil Wayne announced that he had signed a streaming deal with Tidal, which eventually released his highly-anticipated Free Weezy project the following month, on July 4, 2015. “Rest in peace to the Cash Money Weezy, gone but not forgotten,” the Hollygrove legend rapped on “He’s Dead,” one of the standout records from Free Weezy and Wayne’s latest jab at Birdman and Co.
On June 22, 2015, new legal documents surface revealing Lil Wayne’s attempt to remove Birdman from any future dealings concerning Young Money, as well as his claim that Birdman has a history of not paying artists their royalties.
During a performance at Club LIV in Miami on July 12, 2015, Lil Wayne was doused with drinks thrown from the VIP section of the club. That booth was alleged to have been occupied by Birdman and his entourage, accounting for yet another chapter in their heated feud.
On July 15, 2015, an indictment was released claiming that Birdman and rapper Young Thug conspired to kill Lil Wayne in the tour bus shooting that occurred earlier that year. On April 26, 2015, shots were fired at Lil Wayne’s tour bus as it pulled off from Compound nightclub in Atlanta. Many attributed the incident to the beef between Weezy, Birdman and his new protege, Young Thug. Although no one was injured in the shooting, Young Thug affiliate Peewee Roscoe was arrested in connection with the shooting and sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to six of the 27 counts. Despite Roscoe’s claims that the shooting was a result of Birdman and Young Thug’s beef with Lil Wayne, the two would not be formally charged with any crime in relation to the shooting.
A day after the aforementioned tour bus shooting indictment, the mogul filed his own lawsuit against JAY-Z and Tidal for $50 million, claiming that Tidal’s stream of the Free Weezy project was illegal due to Lil Wayne having no right to license his music.
After spending 2015 at odds and embroiled in a bitter dispute, Lil Wayne and Birdman reunited for the first time in more than a year while the two were at Drake’s New Year’s Eve party on January 1, 2016. Weezy appearing in an Instagram picture with Drake, Mack Maine, 2 Chainz and other members of the Cash Money/Young Money family. The moment resulted in whispers that the Baby and Wayne were in the beginnings of what could be a potential reconciliation between the two.
Rumors of Lil Wayne and Birdman attempting to work things out and bury the hatchet heated up after the two appeared onstage together at Club LIV. Birdman used the moment as an opportunity to profess his love and loyalty to Lil Wayne. “Family never die,” he wrote. “This my motherf**king son, and I’ma die for him, I’ma live for him, and I’ll motherf**king kill for him. That ain’t never changed. YMCMB for life.” The moment made it seem as though their beef was a thing of the past.
On January 20, 2016, Birdman further fueled speculation that the legal battle between him and Lil Wayne was close to being settled by posting a picture of the two of them in the studio with Yo Gotti.
Just when Lil Wayne and Birdman appeared to be patching things up, on March 28, 2016, Lil Wayne filed a $40 million lawsuit against Universal Music Group, seeking to reclaim profits made from Young Money artists Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga. The lawsuit also alleges that Universal reportedly used most of Wayne’s portion of the profits to cover the debt Birdman had built as a result of sizable advances given out at Cash Money, and seeks to reclaim those funds.
Months after filing his lawsuit against UMG, Lil Wayne made an appearance on Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book track, “No Problems,” where he publicly dissed Cash Money for the first time since him and Baby’s brief January reconciliation. Although Wayne doesn’t mention Birdman or Cash Money by name, the lines “And if that label try to stop me/There gon’ be some crazy Weezy fans waitin’ in the lobby/Mula, baby,” told listeners all they needed to know.
During a performance at the 420 Rally in Denver, Colorado, Lil Wayne disparaged Cash Money Records yet again, yelling “f**k the bullsh*t and f**k Cash Money” while live on stage. Wayne’s words coincided with rumors that negotiations to end Lil Wayne’s legal battles with Cash Money had hit a wall, resulting in Weezy’s renewed frustration with the label.
On September 3, 2016, Lil Wayne hinted at retiring from rap in a series of tweets, admitting that he’d been feeling “defeated” from his long-standing legal battle with Cash Money Records. Wayne later expounded on those comments during an appearance on Skip Bayless’ show, Undisputed, on FS1. He revealed that it followed an argument with Birdman and vowed never to work with the mogul in any capacity moving forward.
On September 18, 2016, Lil Wayne reportedly accused Birdman of taking over half of the $100 million advance UMG had initially given to Young Money, which the two had agreed to share. According to legal documents obtained by TMZ, Wayne alleged that Birdman took upwards of $70 million of the advance, when that money was truly for “royalties, marketing and recording expenses.”
On September 26, 2016, according to a report from TMZ, the judge in Lil Wayne and Birdman’s lawsuit ordered that Birdman detail exactly how he spent the $100 million Young Money advance, marking a legal victory for Team Weezy.
While Lil Wayne and Birdman inched close to a settlement in Wayne’s $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money, on November 21, 2016, news broke that the label owner reportedly called off negotiations in response to Lil Wayne shouting out Roc-A-Fella instead of Cash Money during his performance of “I’m Me” at Camp Flog Gnaw that same month.
On March 16, 2017, MMG boss Rick Ross sent shockwaves throughout the rap community with “Idols Become Rivals,” a scathing takedown of Birdman from the rapper’s ninth solo studio album. Taking offense to Birdman’s mistreatment of Lil Wayne and other Cash Money artists and producers, Rick Ross tore into the mogul. Lines like, “You would give us self-esteem and motivate our drive/But was in our pocket by the time we count to five/I pray you find the kindness in your heart for Wayne/His entire life he gave you what that was the game/I watched that whole debacle so I’m part to blame/Last request: can all producers please get paid,” mirrored the sentiments of a number of artists and fans in the hip-hop community. While Birdman didn’t immediately issue a response to the track, Lil Wayne publicly reached out to Ross via social media, thanking him for the gesture and considering it an inspiration.
On July 5, 2016, more than six months after negotiations between him and Birdman broke down, Lil Wayne filed an amended petition in a New Orleans court, which included Birdman and Ronald “Slim” Williams, as well as Universal Music Group. The petition sought over $40 million in actual damages and claims that Cash Money still didn’t pay him the $8 million advance owed for Tha Carter V. It also alleged that all parties are preventing him from receiving any profits he was due as a result of the success of Drake and Nicki Minaj.
With a number of hip-hop figures, most notably Rick Ross, pledging their allegiance to Weezy and his quest for freedom, Birdman went on Instagram Live to address the dirt being thrown on his name. “I be hearing all you n***as talking about this Lil Wayne sh*t. Lil Wayne this, Lil Wayne that. B***h, Lil Wayne my son. I raised him. He ain’t have nothing. I brought him to be something and got something. B***h, you don’t think I’m gonna make sure he straight? Suck a n***a d**k, b***h. I’ma show all you p***y a** n***as that ever got in my business.”
Around the time of Birdman’s IG tirade towards critics, Rick Ross poked his nose in his idol-turned-rival’s dispute with Weezy, hopping on Snapchat to share his thoughts. “It just ran across my mind. And I said, ‘Damn, I wonder if Birdman paid that man yet?’ Pay that man. Pay that man,” Ross said during the video, the second of two recent Snapchat videos disparaging Birdman.
On March 11, 2018, Lil Wayne and Birdman reunited once again at Club LIV, the latest hint that their legal and personal issues with each other have the possibility of being resolved. The moment, which was caught on video and posted on social media, captured the two embracing each other in a brotherly hug and engaging in conversation in their first show of solidarity in over a year.
On March 31, 2018, Lil Wayne further fueled speculation that he and Birdman were back on good terms by attending Birdman’s release party for the Before Anything soundtrack. Birdman posted a picture of himself with Weezy on Instagram, captioned:”#before anythang release party me and my son @liltunechi @birdman5star #YCMBEAST.” Birdman returned the favor with another public show of allegiance to his protege. However, with Lil Wayne’s lawsuits against Birdman, Cash Money and Universal Music Group still pending, only time will tell if their recent reconciliations will translate into an official truce between the two legends.