Cash Money’s Bryan and Ronald Williams Crowned ‘Leaders and Legends’ at YouTube Gala

“Don’t let no one tell you what you cannot do!”

So declared Ronald “Slim” Williams as he and his brother, fellow Cash Money co-founder/co-CEO Bryan “Baby” Williams, accepted YouTube Music’s Leaders and Legends Award. His comment also reflected the vibe that resonated throughout last evening (June 27) as the music industry celebrated the venerable label’s 30-year (and counting) legacy.

Guests arriving at Hollywood’s nya Studios West for YouTube’s second Leaders and Legends gala were greeted by a lively five-piece band (including a tuba) in homage to the brothers’ New Orleans roots. Black tie was in full effect as attendees imbibed specialty drinks like the tequila-laced Hurricane and visited a couple of booths featuring various mementos including Cash Money-logoed bank bags with T-shirts inside. To enter the venue itself, guests walked through a replica of a back-in-the-day record store featuring Cash Money “records, tapes and goods.” A huge, glittery Cash Money dollar sign was positioned on one wall behind album crates, while album covers chronicling the label’s storied history adorned another wall. 

Kicking off the festivities inside was a string of video montages that colorfully depicted Cash Money’s evolution from a fledgling disruptor to Southern hip-hop icon. Integrated in between were tribute clips featuring Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge (who values the Williamses’ “loyalty, warmth and humor”) as well as onstage salutes from the likes of producer/friend Polow da Don, BMI vp of creative Catherine Brewton, longtime Cash Money attorney Vernon Brown and UMG general counsel/executive vp of business and legal affairs Jeffrey Harleston. After noting that Cash Money is the “longest-running Black-owned label ever,” Harleston added that Baby and Slim taught him three important lessons: “Never forget where you’re from, never forget who your people are and bring them along on your journey.”

While Lil Wayne was spotted in the house along with LL Cool J, among others, there were no live performances. But music was a central force during the evening thanks to a rousing pre-dinner interlude helmed by DJ Trauma as the audience danced and rapped/sang along. They also took home Cash Money Forever cassettes and keychains (that when placed on cell phones provides a link to the music). The 25-track playlist features hits by Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Drake, Nicki Minaj and more.

Just as rousing were the salutes paid by Republic Records’ chief executives Avery and Monte Lipman plus YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen. Avery’s comments addressed Cash Money’s success over the years: more than 300 Hot 100 hits, with 41 top 10s and seven No. 1s, plus 80 Billboard 200 albums, including 15 No. 1s. He also reflected on his and Monte’s long relationship with Baby and Slim, saying in part, “The Lipman brothers started about the same time as the Williams brothers and we kind of thought we were hot stuff. Then along came Baby and Slim … These guys revolutionized the industry, music culture and even changed our vocabulary by having the word ‘bling’ added to the Webster dictionary. I also saw firsthand their true superpowers: how they could literally manifest things into real life without any fear hesitation and always with a clear intention.”

In his remarks, Monte noted, “The lessons we’ve learned from both Birdman and Slim as our mentors is forever in our DNA and have become part of our daily culture … I can’t remember having one conversation with Slim where he didn’t ask me, ‘What do you think?’ He always crystallized the importance of curiosity, patience, flexibility, and the value of saying no. Baby to this day continues to reinforce the importance of artist integrity, strategy, timing. He’s the consummate field general. But undoubtedly one of my favorite lessons from Birdman was simply never forget that we’re in show business.”

Cohen, who presented the award to the brothers, opened by saying, “A lot of people don’t understand how difficult it is to actually build a business, a sustainable business. But you have to do the work. That’s it. That’s what Leaders and Legends is all about: actually doing the work … Everybody thinks that you can do a shortcut to fame and fortune; [there’s] no such thing. You have to have really great music and you have to put in the work. That’s why I’m so thrilled to invite you, Baby and Slim, to the stage to accept this honor. And would everybody in this room please stand up and pay some f–king respect?!”

Indeed, the audience stood up for the entirety of Baby and Slim’s acceptance speeches, heartily applauding at various intervals. After thanking the room, Baby began by recalling his and Slim’s childhood in New Orleans. “Life wasn’t easy for us; living in every project in New Orleans. I was a real lost youngster trying to find a way because I’d been in and out of homes, in and out of jail, jumped in the streets at 12 years old; at 14 years old, I was wearing two Rolexes. I met some youngsters and didn’t want them to go my route, right? [Cash Money rapper] B.G. was hitting that route, and I saw that [Lil] Wayne looked like he was going that route too.  I wanted to save their lives. My whole mission was to try to spare a life. And I needed help too because I was reckless. The only person that I respected enough to spare my life was my brother. And my way of saving their [B.G., Lil Wayne] lives was putting them in the studio. The studio was going to be the new streets.”

Continuing, he added, “But all due respect to Jay-Z, I remember when he said he retired and Wayne shot a video and said since the best rapper retired, I’m the best rapper alive. And a lot of sh-t changed for us from that moment. At the same time n—as were saying hip-hop is dead. And we’re like honestly, what the f–k is they talking about? We ain’t know nothing about that type of sh-t. So we felt like this was our time to take over hip-hop. That’s when the birth of Young Money came, Nicki and Drake came. We kind of held hip-hop down. We survived the warfare in New Orleans. Now we’re surviving in life, and we did a great job at it. [When] we started, all I thought about was saving four lives, and we end up saving thousands of motherf–kers’ lives. I give all gratitude to my brother, who was like my father, for saving my life.”

Picking up where his brother left off, Slim said, “I want to say that I’m so proud of Juvenile, Wayne, [Mannie] Fresh because I saw them when they was in that studio. They were in friendly competition with each other. We started off doing two songs and would end up doing five songs a night. They were there competing like a basketball player for real. But what really makes me so proud that they’re going on in their careers with generational wealth, doing other things outside of music while keeping music going. My brother and I went through a lot to get to this point. Someone once told me growing up that I ain’t never going to be sh-t and ain’t worth a quarter. But you’ve got to do better than that to break me down. I ain’t breakable like that.”

Slim continued, “It made me want to go hard and work hard, so I’ve got a few more quarters now” as the audience laughed. “Don’t let no one tell you what you cannot do! You do your thing. That’s the only way you’re going to win.” Shouting out several names including Polow da Don, Mannie Fresh, Juvenile, Jeezy, Turk and Wayne, Slim concluded, “I love y’all. Ain’t nobody else alive going to do what we’ve done — ever.”

Kevin Liles, Co-founder & CEO, 300 Entertainment, Lyor Cohen, Global Head of Music, Google & YouTube and LL Cool J
Kevin Liles, Co-founder & CEO, 300 Entertainment, Lyor Cohen, Global Head of Music, Google & YouTube and LL Cool J attend YouTube Music Leaders and Legends at Nya Studios on June 27, 2024 in Los Angeles.
Lil Wayne and Bryan “Baby” Williams
Lil Wayne and Bryan “Baby” Williams attends YouTube Music Leaders and Legends at Nya Studios on June 27, 2024 in Los Angeles.
Lil Wayne, Lyor Cohen, Global Head of Music, Google & YouTube and Bryan
Lil Wayne, Lyor Cohen, Global Head of Music, Google & YouTube and Bryan “Baby” WIlliams attends YouTube Music Leaders and Legends at Nya Studios on June 27, 2024 in Los Angeles.

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