I had always disliked Brian “Baby” Williams (aka Birdman) from afar. The more gregarious half of the Williams brothers who founded Cash Money Records, Baby’s surely a smart businessman on some level, but on the surface he’s always come off as cruel and vacuous. In interviews I’ve seen, Baby answers every question with some Neanderthal utterance about money, like he doesn’t have another thought in his head. He surely came up with the record label’s name.
I’d already felt negatively about Birdman even before a friend of mine told me an anecdote about Baby and his Cash Money crew once renting out and trashing my friend’s beautiful recording studio. Allegedly, my friend came in to find the CM crew had dumped tens of pounds of spicy, hot-boiled crawfish all over the top of the studio’s expensive grand piano. When my friend freaked out, Baby supposedly told him to “Shut the fuck up,” then threw money at him. My friend claims he kicked them all out.
Also, when I wrote this historical overview of New Orlans rappers UNLV — the first act on Cash Money Records, back when Baby and Slim were still selling cassette tapes from the trunks of cars — rapper Tec-9 told me a few heinous anecdotes about Baby fucking them over, stealing songs from them, etc. It’s widely believed that Birdman put out the hit that killed third UNLV member, Yella Boy. If you don’t know who UNLV is (Uptown N — — s Livin Violent), that’s criminal, and it’s also Birdman’s fault.
The internet has also long believed Lil Wayne’s “daddy” (they ain’t related though…) to be a pedophile. And the case against him isn’t exactly weak. In the hilariously sad Lil Wayne documentary The Carter, Wayne laughs while telling a room full of people how Birdman helped cajole an adult woman into fucking Wayne when he was just 11 years old: “”I got raped when I was eleven…I loved it,” chuckles Wayne to 15-year-old Young Money rapper, Twist, as Wayne shames the teen for still being a virgin. “I’ll never forget [Baby and crew’s] words: ‘Suck Lil Wayne’s little dick!” Wayne then promises Twist, “I’m a do you like Baby and them did me…”
But then all of this evidence flew out the window when I met the Williams brothers at their 24th annual Cash Money Thanksgiving turkey giveaway in New Orleans, 2019. The brothers had not missed one of their famous turkey giveaways in all 24 years. From the generous personal access I was giving to the brothers, I could tell the event was very important to them — at least from a PR perspective. There exists a long history of otherwise villainous individuals giving away food to communities in order to buy karma. Like the soccer stadium Pablo Escobar built for the Colombian villagers whose families he would slaughter, the annual round of positive PR from Cash Money’s turkey giveaways made the brothers Williams look like the angels they are most definitely not.
However, despite my decades-long dislike of Baby, I all but kissed him on the mouth myself that day, because sometimes I am an inadvertent coward. I fumbled this interview after 25 years of practice, so no excuse. It made me realize I’d be terrible at covering crooked politicians, etc. But Baby did not radiate the cruelty that had been so apparent to me all these years. So, when he stepped out of his luxury SUV to shake my hand, I got so nervous that I asked only surface-level questions, which he predictably answered with boring talking points. The only real gem I collected was a photo of him with my five-year-old daughter, who that day was dressed as Elsa.
The pedophile shit didn’t even cross my mind at the time. I made coffee mugs out of that photo, and sent them to relatives for Xmas. (More words below this pic…)
My daughter and I then crossed a grass field to interview Baby’s low-key brother, Cash Money’s co-chief executive officer, Ronald “Slim” Williams, who’d been tasked with physically handing out hundreds of turkeys while the press snapped photos. Slim, who stands almost 7-feet tall because he suffers from the genetic disorder Marfan Syndrome, is widely considered the more wholesome of the two brothers. His answers were no more interesting than Baby’s, but he did seem kinder. My daughter though, perhaps intimidated by Slim’s stature, did not want to take a photo with him. She would not stand beside his shins. I didn’t want to pressure her, but Slim was determined. “Grab her,” he said, “and hold her up for the picture.”
[PHOTO REMOVED, SORRY]
Only as we were just about to leave did I finally think of one really great question for Baby. I dragged my daughter back across the field to re-engage Birdman as he talked to others. I managed to slide in next to him and quietly ask, “One more quick question: Did you get your nickname, Birdman, from giving away turkeys all of these years?“ I imagined him walking the New Orleans streets like Santa Claus, with a big sack of turkeys over his shoulder, as people poked their heads out their doors and shouted to each other, ‘Here comes the Birdman! The Birdman’s comin!’
I asked this question not to clown him, but to maybe make him laugh — which he did not do. He simply answered, “No. Not at all”, and walked off.
Only then did I realize that he surely thought I was dissing him — not putting “respeck on his name” — which, for some backwards-ass reason made me feel bad.
My brain was a fucking traitor that day.
Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.