Lil Wayne is facing a year behind bars in February, but don't expect either the rapper or his label, Cash Money, to fall off the radar in his absence.
Birdman, who is the co-founder of Cash Money, already has a plan in place to keep both the label and rap's top-selling artist in the limelight. Birdman recently released his own album, "Pricele$$," and a new Lil Wayne CD is planned for release soon; albums by rappers Drake and Bow Wow are to come early next year. They also have the hot singer Jay Sean, who had a No. 1 hit with Lil Wayne, "Down."
Still, Birdman's biggest concern isn't about Cash Money _ he's grappling with how to deal with the pending imprisonment of Lil Wayne, who pleaded guilty last month to an illegal weapons charge. Birdman discovered the 27-year-old rapper at age 11 and often refers to him as "my son."
The Associated Press: What is the premise behind your CD's first single, "Always Strapped," featuring Lil Wayne and Mack Maine?
Birdman: My philosophy for "Strapped" ain't just about a gun. You could be strapped about life. I think people just took to it. The music and beat was hot, the content of the song. All of it.
AP: Where do you see yourself fitting in the rap paradigm _ obviously Lil Wayne is on top. Do you care anymore?
Birdman: I love to still do it. I could be doing a lot of other things. But I love being an artist. I love the other things like dealing with my son Wayne and his music. It's half and half.
AP: Lil Wayne emerged as the best-selling figure in music after last year's success of "Tha Carter III." Now, he'll have to spend a year in jail. How do you think being incarcerated will effect his career?
Birdman: My son is the most rapping (expletive) on earth. But at this point, I don't care about that. Forget rap. It's about him right now. I got to deal with a situation I've never had to deal with in my life. It ain't cool with me, but we have to live through it.
AP: After Lil Wayne left the courthouse, what kind of advice did you give him?
Birdman: To keep doing what he loves _ music. That's the only thing we've got. You take that away from us, we really don't need to live. Music, that's the only thing that gets the stress off your mind to make you feel better. It's how good it sounds after you've done it. The enjoyment of it.
AP: Will Lil Wayne continue to release music while he's in jail?
Birdman: Of course. I don't know how many, bruh. It's up to him. It's his world. My son is his own boss. Whatever he wants to do, we'll back him up.
AP: Lil Wayne is easily the mainstay for Cash Money. When he's gone, will your record label suffer?
Birdman: Not as a company. But we will suffer in losing my son Wayne, who we love. Him as a person means more to me than anything.
AP: Up-and-coming rapper Drake is becoming more popular. Do you see him being a bigger star than Lil Wayne?
Birdman: Drake is already a superstar.
AP: But as big as Wayne?
Birdman: That's 20 years from now. Hopefully, he'll be bigger. That's what we're striving for. We ain't tripping. We're working hard for him to be bigger than anyone else. We want the best for him.
AP: How does Cash Money compare to other rap label empires?
Birdman: Now, I don't see any top labels. I look around and see all those people who did it before me. To me, the labels, I don't see no company with constant success with a clique. At some point, there was a lot of people doing this. It used to be crowded. I see a lot of people who have done it, and now don't see them.
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