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DAR Hip Hop: The Greatest Cash Money Records Run (1999-2001)

By @TrueGodImmortal

There are articles that I am much more passionate about writing than others. When I do a simple list, there usually is very little thought that goes into it and minimal enjoyment if I'm being honest. When I write a longer, more detailed article, most of the time I am much more invested in the topic and the execution. Today, we have another one of those instances as I find myself intrigued by the concept of discussing the glorious yet brief era that was Cash Money in 1999 and 2000. Juvenile hit the scene hard with his 1998 national hit album 400 Degreez, selling over 5 million copies in the process. While the success of Juvenile was major, none of that guaranteed that Cash Money Records would be successful. To put it in simple terms, Juvenile's success didn't guarantee that the label itself would have the same result. With a roster that boasted Juvenile, B.G., Turk, Lil Wayne, Big Tymers, and apparently Lac and Stone, there were no guarantees of success for any of these artists, but as 1999 began, you could feel something special brewing within this label and this circle, and it mostly on the back of the single "Back That Azz Up" from Juve. The success of the single began late 1998, but it would take over by 1999, and it dominated the summer time. With the radio version of the single starting off with the line "Cash Money Records taking over for the 9-9 and the 2000", an era was born. A short lived era, but an era nonetheless. Let's take a look at the run Cash Money went on from 1999 through the end of the year 2000, and finally ended in 2001.

1999 would go on to be the most successful year in the Cash Money saga. After signing a 30 million dollar distribution deal with Universal Records, the label would be in prime position to promote and push the albums they wanted to. The 1999 release schedule seemed to be stacked, as releases from B.G., Big Tymers, Juvenile, Lil Wayne, and the supergroup Hot Boys (Juvenile, Wayne, Turk, and B.G. together) were all on deck. While the Big Tymers would have to wait until the following year, the other releases would come and make an impact on the year heavily. Starting with the fourth album from B.G. titled Chopper City In The Ghetto, which arrived officially in April 1999, the Cash Money Army would be riding a wave on the backs of the first single from the album, the game changing "Bling Bling". Hit records come at will when you're in a zone, but game changing records are much harder to come by. For Cash Money, "Bling Bling" would be the biggest game changer of them all, earning their way to the dictionary and beyond. For a song title and a phrase to become such a popular term that it lands in the dictionary and remained a fixture in pop culture is a testament to the run that CMR was on. Aside from that, the label would see the Chopper City In The Ghetto album reach platinum plus status, which would soon become the norm for them.

After the successful B.G. run and all of the hoopla surrounding "Bling Bling", it was now time to take over the summer. In many ways, Cash Money has one of the most suffocating runs in terms of a crew and label. While The Roc might have a few artists that were successful and other labels managed success during the time, a lot of artists couldn't reach the heights that Cash Money did. While No Limit had a ton of artists and a suffocating style as a label, their artists would see gold more than platinum and some releases would get lost in the shuffle. With Cash Money, this never seemed to happen. As July 1999 rolled around, the label seemed fully focused on pushing the Hot Boys and their second group album, Guerrilla Warfare. While the Hot Boys weren't quiet household names just yet, this album would become an instant hit, cracking the top 5 of the Billboard charts and sustaining the sales to push it to platinum as the months went on. The album sold close to 2 million copies on the strength of the two major singles "We On Fire" and "I Need A Hot Girl", and much like they did with "Bling Bling", they would enter a new phrase into the lexicon of America. Sure, the term "hot girl" is nothing new, but in the manner that Cash Money discussed it and brought it, it wasn't really popular. No Limit had made a mention of this prior, but it never quite caught on until CMR did it. That could just be an example of the power they held at the time.

Regardless, Guerrilla Warfare continued the platinum streak for Cash Money, and then came the biggest challenge at the end of 1999 for two solo artists. For Lil' Wayne, the challenge was earning his stripes as an artist in the game and hopefully pushing his solo album to platinum heights. For Juvenile, his goal was to release a successful album and not get bored with the success of 400 Degreez. Both would be up to the challenge, but this is the one instance where perhaps Cash Money was a little overzealous in releasing the albums. After spacing out the B.G. and Hot Boys albums by three months and spacing out the release of Wayne's album by nearly five months, Cash Money would end up releasing Juvenile's next album Tha G Code just one month later. Lil' Wayne's Tha Block Is Hot album released in early November 1999, while Tha G Code came in December 1999 and perhaps a small overlap hurt the sales of both. I've always said that Tha G Code would have benefited from being released in February 2000, giving it enough space from Wayne's album and a little more time to promote it. Plus, the 400 Degreez hype hadn't died down, so maybe that would have been a smarter choice to hold it off a little later. Regardless, these two albums arrived at the end of 1999 and showcased that Cash Money was not about to relinquish their hold on the rap game.

Tha Block Is Hot and Tha G Code are both special albums for me as a listener, as they were two of my favorite albums to listen to at the time and still remain my personal favorites from Cash Money. While Tha Block Is Hot showcased Wayne at his most immature ("Kisha", "Loud Pipes", etc), it did showcase a bit of the potential he had as an artist for the future ("Fuck Tha World", "Up To Me", "Enemy Turf"). The album would sell around 1.5 million copies and be a major success for the label, but one has to admit that Tha G Code in some ways missed the mark. While the album sold around 2 million copies, making it a double platinum success basically, it fell short of the ridiculous 5 million selling mark that 400 Degreez managed. Regardless, the album would be successful off the hit singles "I Got That Fire" and "U Understand", showing that there was no sign of Cash Money slowing down.... or was it?
2000 would be a challenging year for Cash Money. Rumors began persisting about the rampant drug use we would later find out was going on amongst the label and after setting up for huge tour with the Ruff Ryders label, they would take a small hiatus from album releasing, and in Cash Money terms, that meant around 6 months. 

While embarking on the tour, the crew would delight audiences and have them excited for what was to come. What did Cash Money have in store for the year 2000? A lot. First, the Big Tymers album was on tap for early in the year, which would be pushed back to May 2000 (the hiatus was mostly tour related), along with a rumored movie and soundtrack and an apparent string of solo releases from B.G., Turk, Juve, and Wayne with a possible Hot Boys album as well. The label had lofty goals and with their track record, betting against them seemed rather pointless. With the tour nearing the end, and the Big Tymers album on the way, could the success of the Hot Boys extend to a duo that gave you more laughter than actual rhymes? Could the Cash Money name be so potent that we saw the Big Tymers hold up a platinum plaque or even more?

The answer is yes. When the Big Tymers album dropped, it would instantly connect due to the popularity of their first single "Get Your Roll On" and then the radio airplay of the second single "No. 1 Stunna", which was mostly Baby featuring Lil' Wayne and Juvenile. After first week sales of nearly 200,000, I Got That Work would go on to reach platinum status, selling well over 1 million copies and making Big Tymers an even bigger household name. This would prove to be important sometime later when the biggest acts left on the label were Wayne and the Big Tymers. Still, despite that, there seemed to be a slight exhaustion from the fans on everything Cash Money related. The excitement for new albums didn't quite feel like it did before, but with a ton of releases on tap for 2000 and early 2001, surely they could weather the storm right? 

The first step in preparing to weather that storm came when they announced the release in September 2000 of their straight to video film Baller Blockin' and the accompanying soundtrack, along with a brand new tour, headlined by themselves and Nelly. The tour, which I remember vividly, was called the Jingle Ballers Jam tour, and I'll never forget how poorly executed it was. In many ways, that your spelled the end in some form for the Cash Money crew, mostly due to the bad vibes around the tour and how it was received. At random tour stops, you could see random artists pop up, sometimes Destiny's Child, Ja Rule, or whoever was hot at the time. It was a formula that couldn't fail, so naturally it sort of did. Anytime a tour has to cancel a couple of big shows, there are either internal issues or there are ticket issues. Both of these seemed to be possible for the tour and while the Baller Blockin' campaign was in full swing, the biggest issue with the tour was the lack of attendance from important Cash Money members, which led to many rumors about the possible breakup. Turk missed shows, B.G. missed shows and rumors persisted about Juvenile possibly being unhappy with the label. With that in full swing, the Baller Blockin' campaign would be rather interesting.

While the Baller Blockin' movie itself was your standard poorly acted street film, the soundtrack was great. Cash Money would compile a number of great artists like Nas, UGK, and others to contribute to the soundtrack and while the soundtrack would only sell gold and not have nearly the success of their previous albums, it had to be considered a minor win for the label. What sticks out to me however, came during the music videos that were put out from the soundtrack. For one, the title track was a classic, and the video went rather well for the most part. However, it would be on the radio version of "Project Bitch", the second single from the soundtrack that things got tricky. Juvenile, who had the best and most memorable verse on the song was absent from the track and the video, leading many to speculate what could be going on. While B.G. filled in for Juve in the video and on the radio version, the absence of Juve on some tour dates along with being absent in the video left many to wonder what was going. Not to mention, there was a delay in the release of the next album from Juve, which was to be titled Project English. As B.G. got ready for the release of his next album titled Checkmate and Wayne was readying his next release titled Lights Out, the mighty Cash Money began to lose their platinum touch and seemed headed for a disappointing period of music and sales. Could the success of Baller Blockin', the small failures in their tour, and everything surrounding them be overcome by back to back victories from B.G. and Wayne?

The answer is no. The end of the Cash Money era officially came as 2000 ended. When the era was ending, the last hope was in  the two albums that would be released by B.G. and Lil' Wayne. Could both men restore the platinum feeling within Cash Money? Not at all. Perhaps the listener fatigue had set in for Cash Money and people just weren't interested in hearing them anymore. Perhaps the rumors about drug usage had begun to make listeners tune out? Or, maybe the music was uninspired and the albums were too long after success had reached a fever pitch? Or, maybe the Williams Brothers got too greedy at the sight of success. Whatever the reasoning behind the fall off, the Checkmate album would go gold, but unlike 1999, where every Cash Money album coasted to platinum, this was a slow and grueling process to reach gold status. The same could be said for Wayne and his Lights Out album, which also struggled to reach gold. I'll never forget reading a Source Magazine article in late 2000 as this was occurring and they seemed to dispel that the Cash Money dominance was coming to a close, but sure enough, that would become the case. The music they were releasing never seemed to get the traction or the appreciation that the music just a year ago received, and that's either by design, or just a product of their music missing the mark. Music changes at the speed of light and sometimes you have to adapt or refine the approach you take while keeping your music in tact. For Cash Money in the year 2000, things started well with the Ruff Ryders and Cash Money tour, but came crashing down quickly right around the time of their Jingle Ballers Jam tour during the holiday seasons. Regardless, as 2001 opened, music was going in another direction and while Cash Money tried to save face, it would not go as planned.

In 2001, Juvenile would leave the label as his Project English was nearly release, and B.G. would essentially disappear from the public eye for majority of the year. Turk would finally release his solo debut, but he was on the way out of the door as well it seemed, and despite his album reaching gold status, spawning a minor hit in "It's In Me", it was more of a last hurrah for the label than anything. The same could be said for Juvenile's Project English reaching platinum, because the first Cash Money release in over 14 months to do so. As one era of Cash Money was ending, another one would soon begin. Sure, they had artists from different locations that never panned out in that next era, but this era was led by Wayne and Big Tymers, the last remaining original members from that big Universal deal that changed the course of their careers and lives. While Cash Money has always maintained and stayed afloat mostly, their greatest run will always be in 1999. They owned that year and never looked back. 2000 was a rough year all around and 2001 was the start of a transition, but the fact remains, in their prime, Cash Money was unstoppable. Money, drugs, success, and complacency would become their undoing at some point, and while that is a tragic end to such a promising story, they made their mark in history at a time when no one saw it coming.


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