WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Veteran producer Mannie Fresh says Lil Wayne may have outgrown his record label. The rapper filed a lawsuit against Cash Money Records in New York last week, claiming the label owes him $8 million and seeking to nullify his contracts.
Fresh, Cash Money's resident producer until 2005, says Wayne is a prodigy whose talents transcend hip-hop.
"I just think Wayne is growing as an artist," Fresh said in an interview Saturday. "Wayne has given us some great albums, but he has never given us that album with like a Justin Timberlake on it — with features where like, OK, this is what we expect from an artist of your caliber. ... Like you went out and got Cher on the song, because you are that dude. You're on that level."
Fresh said Cash Money may have been creatively limiting for Wayne in that it tends to feature its other artists exclusively. Wayne has released his 11 studio albums on the label, often collaborating with label mates Nicki Minaj and Drake.
"I think he's going — real talk — 'I could probably use Drake and Nicki, but I've done that so many times,'" Fresh said. "Let's get out there and do things so I can show that I am bigger than life."
Fresh said Jay Z expands his relevance by continually partnering with top-level talents from different genres.
"He's going to get somebody with star power that can bring other people to the table. If I did do a song and I got Justin Timberlake on it, I got Justin Timberlake fans as well," said Fresh, who has also crafted hits for Juvenile and The Notorious B.I.G. "I think Wayne is starting to see it in that way. Hip hop can only bring you so far."
Fresh spoke to The Associated Press before appearing alongside fellow hit makers at a pre-Grammy event, BMI's "How I Wrote That Song" panel at 1Oak nightclub, where he continued to praise Wayne from the stage.
"He was always the first one there and the last one to leave, and he had a tablet full of songs," Fresh said. "This kid is way ahead of himself. Even when he was young, he was four grades up."
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at http://www.twitter.com/APSandy .