It's a well-known industry narrative: huge labels paying big money to acquire music copyrights. It appears Lil Wayne's latest lawsuit fits right into this trope. A new court filing alleges what has been rumored for a while now, that the Young Money head honcho sold all of his masters, as well as Drake and Nicki Minaj's, for $100 million. Shocking? Maybe not. It seems Drizzy already predicted these shady moves back in 2018.
Back in June, Wayne reportedly sold his masters to Universal Music Group (UMG) as part of a deal valued in excess of $100 million. The nine-figure price tag was just confirmed as part of a lawsuit brought on by Wayne’s former manager Ronald Sweeney, Music Business Worldwide reports. The suit claims that the deal was for Young Money’s entire catalog of masters including Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga's.
For Drake and Minaj this deal encompasses their entire discography. All of Drake's past projects have been released under Young Money (from Thank Me Later to Scorpion). It's only recently in 2020 that the Canadian rapper began releasing his new records, including his hit "Toosie Slide" and the Dark Lane Demo Tapes mixtape, under his own OVO imprint, which is under exclusive license to Republic Records – which is in turn owned by UMG.
Drake already cryptically told fans that his tenure with Young Money would come to an end and he would begin a new chapter as an independent artist on Scorpion in 2018. On the reflective track "Is There More" he pondered, "Soon as this album drop I’m out of the deal." Sure enough, Scorpion was Drake’s last release under Young Money records.
However, Drake's discontent with labels dates way back. In 2015, the rapper put to paper a struggle many artists in bed with labels know all too well: they barely earn any money off their own music. On If You're Reading This It's Too Late song "No Tellin'" he rapped, “envelopes coming in the mail / looking for a check again / ain’t no tellin.”
The same year, hopping on the Game's "100," Drake once again insinuated that his label was taking advantage of him financially and there was a rift in the family. "Had niggas tell me to my face how we were family / And how they love me while they were skimmin’ off the budget / Now when I see ’em, they’re the ones that’s actin’ funny."
It's not clear whether he was pointing the finger at his mentor Lil Wayne at the time but given the Young Money boss just traded all of his masters for a fat cheque, the analogy is more fitting than ever.
While Drake may have ditched Young Money and is better off for it, his masters being lost in label limbo could be one more push to go fully independent. There is reason to believe that Drake would be alright without a Universal Music Group distribution deal. At this point in his career, it is not necessary for him to pay a record label a percentage of what his music brings in.
These coming months will be telling. When Drake releases his next album, will it be on a label or will he go ahead on his own?