There have been many interesting collaborations this year but one that caught us off guard was Juvenile teaming up with Lil Wayne and Birdman for "Picture Perfect." To casual fans, this probably seemed like a good look—a reunion of sorts between three of the original Cash Money Millionaires. But it seemed strange to us because just a few weeks before dropping the song, Juvenile was in the Complex offices talking about his last days at Cash Money.
Although our conversation was supposed mostly about his 25 Essential Songs, we wandered off to a topic that Juve clearly still has very strong feelings about: Cash Money. Although he wasn't angry, Juvenile had plenty of venting to do about how and why he left his label.
His main gripe was that the label refused to pay him what he felt he was owed as a major part of its rise. He also talked about how Ice Cube did him a huge favor in the midst of the drama, found time to dish out advice to younger artists, and revealed that he suspects Lil Wayne isn't getting all of the money he's entitled to.
Leaving Cash Money
“My reason [to leave Cash Money] is the same reason most artists leave their label—money. The music business is like the sports business. We use entertainment agents, entertainment lawyers. The only difference is they play sports. We all try to operate a certain way.
“When you put in that much work, you should be compensated for it. I’m number one on this station, number one on that station so I checked the contracts and went back over the paperwork. I was naïve in the beginning, I didn’t want anybody telling me anything because, hey, you didn’t help me get this situation and you’re on the outside. I should’ve listened because they had me in a contract that I’d still be in. There was no future for me in the contract.
“So I went, ‘Well, damn. I’m working like a slave and I’m getting nothing.’ So I got an entertainment lawyer and found out Cash Money weren’t who they said they were with me. One thing led to another and I said, ‘Pay me this and we’re cool’. They ain’t pay us and we went to court. They lost in court. Simple as that.
“I wanted $4 million. I didn’t want to go to trial, but they felt like they didn’t owe me anything. That $4 million wound up going to $11 million. Of course I didn’t get all with court fees and lawyer fees, but it put me through the ringer where I didn’t want to do anymore business again.
“I had to do all that to get money that I earned. I kind of paved the way for all that you got going on right now. If you were gonna pay anybody, me and Mannie should be the first two people the check was cut to. Mannie is still trying to get his money right now, it’s crazy.
“What’s crazy is I got I wise to it and I tried to be a good Samaritan to my group and warn them. ‘Hey man, my paperwork not right. Didn’t y'all receive the paperwork? What kind of lawyer do you have?’ They was like, ‘Yeah, I got a lawyer.’ I’m like, ‘Do you have an entertainment lawyer [or a criminal lawyer]? There’s a big difference. Criminal lawyers don’t know shit about contracts. You might wanna get a real lawyer and backtrack.’
“One thing lead to another and somebody repeated what I said because at the time I was the number one person on the label. I guess they wanted to be the number ones. They went back and told [Baby and Slim] everything I said, so that made it even worse. They ain’t want me around no more.
“When I left Cash Money, I left not liking anybody. I tried to be good to ya’ll and ya’ll telling motherfuckers what I said. I’m trying to show y'all where y'all getting ripped out of your money at. It’s all love now. They come to me now, even Mannie Fresh, and he’s like, ‘Man, you told me. You tried to tell me.’
“After I beat them, B.G. pops up, then Mannie pops up and I’m like, ‘Oh, now you wanna see my case files?’ I’m like that’s cool. This case went on for three years, where were ya’ll? I didn’t get a phone call. Nobody checked to see if I was okay. Three years of no shows, no nothing. Three years. I’m not saying they owe me anything, but don’t expect me to help you out when you’re part of the reason I’m gone. And you’re not who you said you were.
“We had made a vow to each that no matter what happens we were gonna stick together, because we didn’t have a record company. We don’t own a company, so if a finger is going to be pointed, it ain’t going be pointed at us because it ain’t our fault.”
Why Did Lil Wayne Stay?
“When Wayne was trying to leave Cash Money [in the mid 2000s], same thing. He was trying to find out how did I leave, what did I do, he wanted to see my paperwork. I was like you can see it, but you’re gonna have to pay me for it now because now I know you ain’t with me. You’re own your own because I’m definitely on my own. If you want the paperwork and help from my end, I need to be compensated for it. [He never paid for it].
“Still up to the day, Wayne really got beat out of all his money and took another contract. That’s part I never understood. I was signed to Atlantic and Jay-Z was excited about that because now we was about to get our own money. That’s what I really wanted. I wanted him to leave. All of a sudden he signed back I’m like, ‘Damn, what type of deal he got working?’
“If you notice the Young Money/Cash Money imprint, some of the stuff that need to say Young Money don’t say Young Money. I know Baby and I know Ronald ["Slim" Williams]. They ain’t giving up power of their company. They don’t care how big Wayne gets, they not giving up. If I didn’t getting it, he ain’t getting it.
“[Tha Carter III] album did great. But I don’t think Wayne collected a dime on royalty side. I don’t think he’s gonna be able to because some of the cats he was dealing with wasn’t doing straight business on the producer side. You’re under the impression that the guy you got the beat from was the guy who made the beat. It was situations like that that Wayne got caught in.
“It’s all backfiring on him because you got other cats who made these tracks who stepped in and said, ‘I made that.’ It happened with the Deezle record. It happened with three of his songs off that album. Everything is on a standstill because of that.
“I thought he was scared [that’s why he stayed]. That’s how I took it. I was like, ‘You don’t have to be scared.’ I’m really from the projects. No disrespect to them, but I’m 10 times more street than they are. They would never go to some of the places I’d go, they’d never turn some of the corners I turned because they’re not like that. It’s two different ballgames.
“So I’m like, ‘Don’t let them niggas intimidate you. Don’t let that looking hard shit intimidate you because nigga I’m really with it. If you wanna leave, leave. You’re with me now, not them.’ One thing led to another and he signed back, but I took it as he was scared.”
“Wayne is doing good right now, but if you go off of capital and off of who made the most money, he still ain’t top my numbers yet off one album. He’s still doing good, but he still never topped my numbers. If you go off of who could benefit most at the end of the day, in my book I feel like I’ve lost everything. They won. These niggas ate off the house I built.
“I ain’t mad about it, I’m gonna build me another house. But don’t make it look like I was the bad guy. Don’t make it look like Juve came here and said, ‘Ah man, I’m leaving.’ The situation will always be, ‘Fuck you. Pay me.’”
How Ice Cube Helped Him
“When the hurricane [of Cash Money drama] hit, Ice Cube sent me $50,000 and I don’t even know Ice Cube. You know why? Because I was going through the same exact thing he went through [with N.W.A.].
“He told me, ‘Knowing your future, just know good things are gonna come to you.’ He said, ‘Man, I lost everything. Friends, family, everything. Nobody wanted to be affiliated with me, do no business with me. I only call on Chuck D and them to help me out.’
“He said, ‘As long as you’re not messing over nobody and you treat people right—treat people how you wanna be treated—it’s something big out there for you in the future.’ That really touched me. I don’t know if he knew it, but he’s one of them cats that I really put on a pedestal. I thought Ice Cube was one of the most successful rap artists ever.
“He took it from one thing to another thing and he was real good at it. So I always said that if I was gonna try to follow in somebody’s footsteps in the music industry he would be the guy, because I liked how he do things.”
His Advice To Younger Artists
“Just know that it's 95 percent business and 5 percent talent. If you can learn about the business and what you're worth, know what your mechanical percentages is...Cats don't even know what publishing is. Cats don't even know how to break a song down. Learn those things and you'll pretty much be alright.
“If you can't learn it in lawyers’ languages, learn it in layman's terms. Tell your lawyer that you got or whoever you working with, ‘Hey man, how much money am I making A, C, D.’ You making 75 cents? 50 cents? A dollar? These are the things that you need to know because then what if you sell three of four million records and you over here sitting there trying to figure out, ‘Well damn, how much money did I make?’
“You’ve got to learn the difference between gross and net. People don't understand these things and they really get killed in this music industry. Sometimes you learn from taking your losses. And I've taken my fair share of losses.”