Words by:

Original release date: 30 April 2002
Label: Cash Money

Trust Drake to reintroduce a staple of Southern rap royalty to a new generation. In Practice, the penultimate song to 2011’s Take Care, the 6 God not only transformed Juvenile’s legendary banger Back That Azz Up into a wavy slow jam as a homage to his Cash Money cohorts, but also referenced two of New Orleans hip-hop’s most influential figures. Drizzy’s claim of being a “Big Tymer n***a yeah, money flipper yeah” wasn’t just a throwaway brag, but also an acknowledgment of a duo who helped shape the scene down in the Bible Belt and as a result, cemented themselves as deities of the Dirty South.

Composed of workaholic beatmaker Mannie Fresh and label co-founder Bryan ‘Baby’ Williams, Big Tymers emerged as one of Cash Money’s signature acts at the turn of the millennium alongside B.G., Turk, Juvenile and rising star Lil Wayne. While not as adept at this rapping thing as the aforementioned foursome who would later form the Hot Boys collective, Mannie and Baby’s love of living lavish won them legions of fans who revelled in their ballerific boasts of owning alligator pillowcases in How You Luv That and riding Bentleys around the city in #1 Stunna. Almost in tandem with their NOLA neighbours in No Limit Records, Cash Money were riding high, their Down South extravagance apropos for the culture at a time when shiny suits and jiggy rap were dominating the charts.

By 2002 though, uncertainty was on the horizon. This seems ludicrous given that Cash Money had sold close to seven million records around that period, but those impressive numbers weren’t enough to stop Turk from following B.G. and Juvenile out the door. Each cited unsavoury business practices as their primary reason for departing (a common claim levelled against Baby throughout his career), leaving Wayne as the sole Hot Boy left. Juve’s exit was particularly damaging, given that he established himself as Cash Money’s first flagship artist after the scorching success of 1998’s 400 Degreez, which left Mannie scrambling to find a way to save them from irrelevancy.

Enter Hood Rich. Released in April of that year, Big Tymers’ fourth studio album debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 – Cash Money’s first No. 1 LP – and was proof that they could still churn out hit after hit without help from the Hot Boys. Cleaving closely to their clichéd gloating of excess, success and slapstick stuntin’, the duo openly embraced novelty by singing on more hooks, overexaggerating their swag and having a ball with ghetto crooner TQ. Juve, Weezy and company seemingly weren’t missed at all.

Hood Rich also marks the first time Mannie shared production duties on a Big Tymers album. Before introducing Ciara to the world, Atlanta’s Jazze Pha was renowned as a certified hitmaker after his work behind the boards on Ludacris’ 2001 smash Area Codes. He was tasked with sprinkling his own blend of Memphis pop-soul and zesty funk on the euphonic Sunny Day and the anthemic I’m Comin’. Pha’s radio-friendly style perfectly complemented the Big Easy bass and bounce of Mannie, who continued his run as Cash Money’s MVP not only as their sonic architect but also as a living embodiment of what the label is all about.

No discussion about Big Tymers and Hood Rich would be complete without mentioning Still Fly. Arguably the crown jewel in the duo’s discography, Still Fly is a playfully hilarious send-up of social mobility that sees our two protagonists justify their inability to pay rent and get jobs by rocking “gator boots with the pimped out Gucci suits.” Coupled with a video where they both get served eviction papers but are rolling in Cadillacs and chrome rims anyway, Mannie and Baby ultimately define what it means to be ‘hood rich’ by clinking their pimp cups to the good life they can’t afford. No wonder Mannie credits it as the single that saved Cash Money.

Hood Rich was a victory lap for Cash Money’s golden era and a commemoration of new beginnings for the New Orleans powerhouse. Baby changed his name to Birdman, Lil Wayne’s seismic ascent wasn’t far off, and future labelmates in Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga would then form the foundation of the Young Money era. Mannie wouldn’t be part of their later endeavours, leaving the squad in 2005, but his melodic beats remain as influential as ever in the realm of Southern rap. Ultimately, the soundboard supremo crafted the synth-laden, bass-thumping beats that have become synonymous with the New Orleans sound, and paved the way for the likes of Metro Boomin’ and Mike Will Made It to leave their own marks in the game a decade later, ensuring that the South did rise again.