Lil Wayne, who spent much of 2015 feuding with Cash Money CEO Birdman over a $51 million lawsuit the rapper filed, has now shifted his attention to Cash Money's distributor Universal Music Group, accusing the label of withholding royalties from both his music and the artists his Young Money label helped foster. Lil Wayne's legal team filed a federal lawsuit against UMG Monday, with the rapper seeking over $40 million in damages.
In the lawsuit, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Wayne claims that UMG is repaying its own debts with Young Money royalties following the $100 million advance it reportedly gave Cash Money. Wayne has a 49 percent ownership stake in his Young Money label – the Cash Money offshoot that is home to artists like Drake, Nicki Minaj, Tyga and more – with Cash Money owning the other 51 percent. However, the rapper says his Young Money profits have been used to pay off the Cash Money advance, which Wayne argues he shouldn't be responsible for.
"With Universal’s knowledge of Lil Wayne’s rights to partial ownership and profits from those artists, Universal and Cash Money entered into a series of agreements which, among other things, diverted Lil Wayne’s substantial profits to repay debts of Cash Money," Wayne's lawsuit states. "As a result, 100% of the profits that should have been paid to Lil Wayne as a result of his ownership of Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga records have been seized by Universal to repay debts that were neither incurred by nor were the obligations of Lil Wayne."
The lawsuit also names SoundExchange, a non-profit performance rights organization that collects and distributes digital performance royalties, as a defendant. "Universal has claimed a right to 100% of the label performance royalties attributed to the [Young Money Entertainment] Records," the lawsuit continues. "SoundExchange refuses to pay any of the money due to Young Money LLC and [Lil Wayne] individually based on Universal's conflicting demand."
A representative for the rapper did not immediately respond to a request for comment but a Universal spokesperson tells Rolling Stone, "These claims are entirely without merit. It should be no surprise that we learned of the lawyer's complaint through the news media. We don't intend to dignify this with further public comment except to say that we will vigorously contest it and that the merits of our case will carry the day."
As the Hollywood Reporter notes, Wayne's Young Money deal with Universal expired in June 2015. Five months before Wayne's contract ended, the rapper sued his mentor Bryan "Birdman" Williams and Cash Money Records for $51 million. Wayne and Williams' beef boiled over to the point where Birdman was named in an indictment related to a April 2015 shooting at Lil Wayne's tour buses. With Wayne embroiled in legal drama, he turned to Jay Z's Tidal to release his Free Weezy Album.
While Wayne's lawsuit against Birdman remains unsettled, the relationship between the two has been salvaged to the point where both rappers appeared together on Mannie Fresh's "Hate" in February.