Exclusive: Cash Money Co-Founder Slim and Business Manager Vernon Brown on Partnering with New Orleans Mayor to Pay Rents Amid COVID-19

New Orleans has made headlines as one of the cities hit hardest by COVID-19. Nevertheless, when people think of New Orleans, they think of how resilient the people are. As members of the black community in the city strive to overcome being disproportionately impacted during the pandemic, Cash Money is stepping in to help them. Co-founders and brothers Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams of Cash Money Records partnered with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell to cover the cost of rent for the month of June for residents living in low-income housing.

To date, Cash Money has donated over $225,000 to Forward Together New Orleans (FTNO), the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization filling urgent gaps in community needs and available resources to protect our city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As natives of New Orleans, Birdman and Slim are invested in giving back and helping those whose challenges resonate with them.

In an exclusive interview with Slim and Vernon Brown, Cash Money’s longtime attorney and business manager, they shared the importance of supporting the community and helping others through these uncertain times with BLACK ENTERPRISE.  

“We all need each other right now,” said Williams. Brown agreed. “I’ve spoken to people over the last several weeks and the one thing that’s a common theme is that we’re all, in so many different ways in so many of the same ways, affected. There’s no one that’s not touched.”

“The biggest problem that me, Slim, and Baby speak about every day is we don’t have answers,” he added.

While no one seems to have the answer, Cash Money and the City of New Orleans are working to present solutions.

Paying it Forward

“The mayor and her staff have been great. They knew what we wanted to do and what we had in mind. And they knew we’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Slim.

Since the inception of Cash Money nearly 25 years ago, Birdman and Slim have given back to under-resourced communities in the area through their 501(c)(3) organization, The Johnny and Gladys Williams Foundation, that is named after their parents. Over the years, the brothers and their team have provided residents with health screenings, thanksgiving meals, and other resources.

“For at least 10-plus years now, there has been a focus on three areas that they [Slim and Birdman] feel that if they’re able to make an impact with it can have long-term effects and positively helping people and improving the lives of those in New Orleans and anywhere in general. And that’s in housing, healthcare, and education,” said Brown.

“We added a big component to the turkey giveaway where we have thousands of people who come in here Oschner Health Systems along with Stanford University Medical Center, join us in giving medical exams and screenings to all the people who attend the turkey giveaway. And it’s been an incredible process. Every year, there have been people actually who have had to be taken from that facility straight to a hospital because of conditions that they didn’t even know, Brown added.

Related: Black Americans Are Contracting And Dying From COVID-19 At An Alarming Rate, Report Shows

Moving New Orleans Forward Together

Now in the midst of the pandemic, they are helping those struggling financially to keep a roof over their heads.

As detailed by FTNO and Cash Money in a joint release, “funds will be used specifically to pay the June rent for hundreds of subsidized tenants and families who are most at need and live in the former Magnolia, Calliope, and Melpomene projects, now known respectively as the Scattered Sites Harmony Oaks, Marrero Commons, and Guste. Tenants will be notified directly if they are included in the grant, which will go to the landlords.”

Slim went on to say, “We’re able to take the pressure off for one month so that people don’t have the pressure of worrying about their rent.”

In the same statement, Birdman shared his sense of collective responsibility to his community.

“The legacy of Cash Money belongs to the city of New Orleans. There’s nothing more important to us than giving back to the brothers and sisters who live on those same streets we grew up on—from musicians to service workers to everyday working families. That’s what this label was always about.”

Prior to this initiative, Brown recalls a conversation with Birdman where he expressed interest in buying property for New Orleans residents. “Baby (aka Birdman) actually called me and said, ‘I’d like to buy the houses in the Magnolia and the rest of the housing. I’d like to buy it and let the people live there and give it back to them. When people own their own homes, they don’t have to pay rent and they can maintain it. They tend to have more pride in it. It helps the entire family ecosystem.’ I said, ‘That’s a little complicated to do, but we can work on it.’”

Fast forward, Cash Money is helping pay rent.

In the joint statement, Mayor Cantrell shared, “In years to come, when we look back on how our city came together to get through the coronavirus crisis, we will have no better example of leadership than the Williams brothers, these sons of New Orleans who make our city proud today. No one should have to fear losing their home while trying to protect their health. That is why we have been leading the charge in New Orleans to make housing more affordable, and quickly banned evictions in our city during the COVID-19 crisis. This helps us continue that path, demonstrating how we can come together as businesses, government, and non-profits to address our residents’ most pressing needs now.”

It takes the community to save the community

In addition to paying June’s rent, Cash Money has partnered with iHeart Media’s New Orleans-based Q93 and WYLD radio stations to give away a hundred $100 gift cards to radio listeners for groceries every weekday in May totaling $10,000.

“The mayor, Q93, and Uptown Angela, SVP Programming at Q93, have worked with us to put this together. That’s what makes things work. When people work together who got the passion and the same goals of helping the city, the citizens, and the businesses of New Orleans,” said Slim.

Having grown up watching their parents give back to the community, Slim said that he knows that they would be proud of him and his brother for doing important work. “I know that they’re smiling down on us,” he said.

Slim also shared that it is important for him to set an example for younger people.

Furthermore, Slim and Birdman hope to inspire the people of New Orleanrents to keep going.

People from New Orleans are built solid. We’ve had a lot of obstacles that we’ve had to cross. From Katrina to whatever it may be. One thing I know is that God is undefeated. As long as we have patience and faith, we will get through this. We’ve been through a lot but we always come out victorious,” said Slim.