What can artists learn from Tha Carter V saga?
“Lord, free the Carter, niggas need the Carter
Sacrificin' everything, I feel like Jesus Carter”
- Lil Wayne, “No Problem”
Tha Carter V is finally here after nearly four years of legal drama between Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records, its boss Birdman, and Cash Money parent company Universal Music Group.
Whatever your opinion of Lil Wayne, there is no denying his successes both as a hip-hop artist and record label owner. If you want to debate his impact as an icon, look at the current roster of Lil-whatevers all over Instagram with millions of followers. Weezy speaks to this directly on Dedicate from his (finally) released album which ends with a sound bite from Obama saying, “They might think they've got a pretty good jump shot, or a pretty good flow. But our kids can't all aspire to be LeBron or Lil Wayne!” You know Drake, the guy who turns anything to gold? Lil Wayne signed him to his Young Money label and the rest is history.
So how did we get here? A quick recap. TCV is slated to be released Dec 2014 but is pushed back. Wayne claims he’s owed $10M in advances for the album and Birdman/CM haven’t paid it, hence the delay. A couple of $50M+ lawsuits including Wayne suing CM parent company Universal and Birdman suing Jay-Z’s Tidal, misuse of funds and breach of fiduciary duty allegations, and finger pointing by both sides later and things don’t look so good for this album. Then earlier this month, an out of court settlement is reached and Wayne is free to drop Tha Carter V without Cash Money involved. 9/28/18 Tha Carter V is dropped.
Lil Wayne was probably like most young rappers. He got the huge opportunity to sign to a label, make it as an artist, and make a lot of money. He put in the time and the work to build an empire for himself. Beyond his music, he helped launch the careers of some of today’s most successful artists as a label executive. I would imagine after the past four years, he has probably evaluated some of the business decisions that he made along the way.
So what can a young creative learn from this? Know your worth. Know your talent. Think about where you want to be at the end of your career. Often it is so tempting to jump at the first dollar that someone is willing to invest in your creative talent. Be discerning with who you decide to work with, who represents you, and the deals you enter into. Whether you are a talent on the level of Lil Wayne or not, the traps are the same for all of us. People are always trying to extract as much value from artists as possible while paying them the bare minimum. They have the dollars, we have the talent. For so long, the dollars won. It is time for artists to push back. We have already seen this shift in the music industry. Chance the Rapper won grammy after grammy while being an independent artist not signed to a label with streaming-only releases. His first #1 song, No Problem, alludes to the toxicity of the music industry with Lil Wayne lending his thoughts as well. Whether you have millions at stake or you are debating taking your first paying gig, do not let the money have the control over your talent.
“And if that label try to stop me
There gon' be some crazy Weezy fans waitin' in the lobby