On Wednesday, Young Thug previewed the nudist cover art for his debut album, which is titled Tha Carter 6, an apparently backhanded homage to Lil Wayne's Carter V, an album that may never even see the light of day. Now that Atlantic is releasing Thugger's debut album before Cash Money bothers to release Wayne's last, Weezy has finally, explicitly dissed Young Thug, who is generally regarded as Weezy's successor. (I'm surprised that Drake hasn't yet aggressively weighed in on that designation.) "Stop listening to songs of niggas who pose naked on their motherfucking album covers," Weezy says, as if he could ever shame me away from that second Trey Songz album, and also one-fifth of Prince's discography. Sadly, Lil Wayne is mistaken.
While Young Thug might have initially been a charter member of the Official Coalition to Save Wayne's Carter V From Being an Unlistenable Catastrophe, this divorce was a long time coming. It was perhaps destined from the jump. Ever since Rich Gang's releases eclipsed the rickety rollout of Tha Carter V, Wayne has taken on more of a supporting role, standing behind (rather than alongside) Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Thugger as if they were the A-list rappers and Lil Wayne were the short kid manning the craft services table. Wayne's most promising promo single from the Carter V is "Believe Me," which is, essentially, a Drake single that doesn't even feature a peep from Wayne until 100 seconds into the song, a la "Sanctified," a Kanye West song that's allegedly a Rick Ross song.
I hope this Lil Wayne vs. Young Thug beef is fake, staged for synergized promotional purposes. Best case scenario: Weezy drops Carter V and Thugger drops Carter 6 simultaneously, and the Internet collectively orgasm's due to immense gratitude. Worst case scenario: These guys get to dissing on wax, despite the fact that nobody wants to see post-IANAHB2 Weezy battle a codeine banshee who sounds 85 percent like him. Assuming this drama isn't staged, however, Weezy can't front like he's unfamiliar with Shakespearean backstabbing, or like he's never been a witness to karma. Mind you, this is the same goblin who named his third album 500 Degreez as a slight to Juvenile, his predecessor and Cash Money's prototypical star.
"Nothing really surprises me when it comes to the movements of [Birdman]," Mannie Fresh told MTV in 2013, after Birdman announced that he would reboot the Big Tymers with Wayne and Drake instead of Juvenile, B.G., and superproducer Mannie Fresh, despite Mannie's having defined the Big Tymers' sound and legacy. Even after the effective disintegration of the Big Tymers (but before Juvenile's second departure from Cash Money in 2006), Mannie Fresh gave Weezy a huge, formative solo hit in 2004, "Go DJ," one of the biggest songs of Weezy's career. Wayne and Baby nonetheless turned their backs on Mannie, who's been publicly wary of Cash Money since his departure in 2005, and Turk, who's now finna sue Birdman for backpay and dashed dream.
"I just feel like Baby stopped a lot of us," Turk told Charlamagne earlier today. "Me and Wayne thought about going to No Limit."
With more than a decade of contractual tumult and internecine conflict charged to Cash Money's reputation, it's a wonder that Slim and Birdman consistently manage to lure legit, potential superstars (also, Tyga) to their offices. When Juvie visited Power 105 last month to promote his first new Cash Money project in nine years, he told The Breakfast Club that despite his and Mannie Fresh's historic falling out with Birdman, Juvenile was confident to rejoin Cash Money since, this time around, he entered his contract negotiation with a (presumably) better lawyer than he could afford when he first singed to Cash Money in 1994. With respect, I ask: What caliber of legal counselor would sign off on a musician signing to Cash Money Records in 2015? Even if your starched lawyer has never owned a rap CD in their life, they should at least be reading NahRight, which recently chronicled Cash Money's fiscal malfeasance in an extensive interview with veteran music industry consultant Wendy Day.
Lost checks aside, Cash Money Records is a black hole of the murkiest karma. There's no escaping the hardship and bullshit of signing your publishing over to one guy who's signed to another guy who, etc.—Pusha T covered these bases in a series of disrespectful tweets about Wayne's ongoing contract dispute, which has pitted Wayne and Birdman versus one another in court. Mind you, Young Thug is caught in a contractual gridlock of his own, apart from his involvement with Cash Money; he's "affiliated" with Birdman via Rich Gang, but in fact he's an employee of Atlantic Records, which must be thrilled to have signed a rapper so canny as to exploit an indie label's back catalog for a major label's profit.
Like Juvenile after "Slow Motion," Young Thug is three feet out the door, yet ever susceptible to Weezy and Birdman luring him back into the bullshit.
Justin Charity is a staff writer for Complex. Follow him @brothernumpsa.