Platinum Plaques on His Back: The Works of Mannie Fresh

Harold Bingo serves up a collection of the famed producer's choice cuts.
By    July 26, 2019

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Mannie Fresh belongs on the rap producer Mount Rushmore. His influence has been felt all over the country and every week seems to bring us another remake of one of his many classic records. Whether its Trina and Nicki Minaj flipping “Project Bitch” for their latest single, Philthy Rich and FMB DZ rapping over a slightly altered version of “Cash Money Is An Army” or NBA Youngboy turning “Tha Block Is Hot” into “Diamond Teeth Samurai,” his catalog has provided an endless amount of source material for future generations. Even younger artists like Teejay 3K have drawn inspiration from his catalog, turning “Shine” into something more readily identifiable to today’s listener. 

During his prime, Mannie essentially put the Cash Money label on his back.  After spending the late 80s and early 90s producing for local legend MC Gregory D, he linked with Cash Money and began a run that would never (and will never) be seen again. He produced the entirety of both UNLV albums and helmed projects for a wide range of early Cash Money artists, including Ms. Tee, Pimp Daddy and Lil Slim. He was handling Birdman’s production when he was still going by B-32 (Baby with the 32 Golds) and he was there when B.G. and Lil Wayne were known as the Baby Gangstas duo.

This unprecedented streak also includes a sublime four album run from Juvenile, the first six(!) albums in B.G.’s discography, the vast majority of the Big Tymers discography, every Hot Boys song ever committed to wax and every song on the first four Lil Wayne albums (save for a few tracks on Tha Carter). From 1996 to 2002, he was responsible for the entirety of the label’s output. This is a look at some of the gems that dot the outlines of his massive catalog. 

Cats, snakes, chickens, ducks, elderly people and twerkers, I present to you….

Hot Boys – “Block Burner “

There’s a few things that make this song remarkable. Wayne was only 15 when he recorded it. He held down an entire solo song on Get It How U Live, the Hot Boys debut album that remains perfect to this day. And, he somehow manages to believably create an aura of menace despite not being able to curse or legally drive. Mannie’s track matches him stride for stride, providing a showcase that he would not waste for even a moment. 

Noreaga – “Play That Shit”

Nore was certainly ahead of the curve in a number of ways. While most of his innovations are well documented, the fact that he got a Mannie track for his 2nd solo album that sounds like a Diamond D beat riding a speedboat has been undersold. This song also represents Cash Money’s first original collaboration with an east coast artist in the wake of Jay-Z’s perfunctory appearance on the “Ha” remix.

Mil – “Ride Out”

One of the great unsung posse cuts of the major label era. Mil never did get the chance to step outside of the shadow of Beanie Sigel’s mentorship, although the Street Scriptures album this is derived from is rather solid. He was able to serve as the vessel for a peek into an alternate universe where Mannie Fresh and the Broad Street Bully lock in, though.  

8Ball & MJG – “Ballin G’s”

One of Mannie’s gifts was the ability to create something that sounded perfect for each artist, as opposed to shoehorning them into an established template. The production fits 8Ball & MJG like a glove and makes one long for a full length collaboration in this vein. The Baller Blockin soundtrack features peak UGK and E-40 performances (and even a Nas song) but this one still manages to stand out. 

Webbie & Young Dro – “I Know”

It’s cliche to call a song perfection but what else can be said? Webbie’s hook is a grade A earworm, Young Dro’s verse is a masterclass and Mannie’s beat demonstrates an instinctive understanding of the artists he’s working with. Webbie’s got a deep catalog that is definitely due for reappraisal and this is arguably the best song on Savage Life 2

Doe B – “All We Know”

The 2013 passing of Alabama’s Doe B hit hard and the fact that Mannie thought highly enough of him to personally invest his time and effort speaks volumes. This is one of his toughest songs to revisit. It is easy to see the natural chemistry that these two share. The Baby Jesus mixtape marks the moment when Doe B was clearly putting it all together and establishing himself as an important voice for an underrepresented state.

Turk – “Untamed Guerrilla”

The cruel and relenting march of time (as well as the American legal system) have combined to reduce Turk to a sort of de facto ‘Ringo of the Hot Boys’ status in the minds of many. However, Young & Thuggin is still every bit as fun to revisit as any other Cash Money album you may have forgotten about. “Untamed Guerrilla” is the crown jewel. There are few songs from this era of Cash Money that sound as immaculate on car speakers. 

Mannie Fresh – “Chubby Boy”

This song was ahead of its time. It came during the MySpace era when it would have been perfect for Instagram. “Go chubby boy, make the block hot, go chubby boy, make the pussy pop” is a caption to end all captions. While we’re here, The Mind of Mannie Fresh is one of the more underrated albums of the 2000s. I struggled to decide between this one and the equally strong “A Day In The Life” for my favorite off the album. 

B.G. – “N***** in Trouble”

Ostensibly B.G.’s song but the show is completely stolen by Juvenile. His impersonation of the neighbors who call the police is priceless and his ability to inject dark humor into his verses never got the appreciation it deserved. Chopper City In The Ghetto is an album that should be regarded in the same light as 400 Degreez. It’s aging like the finest of wine and still rides from intro to outro. 

Lil Wayne – “Hood Rich”

The Carter 2.5 is one of the great lost albums of history and one of the many non sanctioned Wayne projects that are loaded with essential work. C2.5 is especially important because of the number of Mannie Fresh tracks present (some online sources say they’re all Mannie, my personal guess is that its not 100% but the vast majority sound like his handiwork). This one can stand toe to toe with any of Wayne/Mannie’s collaborations.

Yasiin Bey – “Let’s Go”

Notable because the only version in recorded existence was provided by Mannie playing it in person at a Redbull conference? Mannie and Mos teased a full project to be called OMFG but alas, it has also been lost to the sands of time. Maybe one day it will be liberated but I’d settle for one more loosie as potent as this one. 

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