As long as he’s not trying to make you the next Ja Rule by taking shots at you via mixtape, it’s safe to assume 50 Cent nicknaming you is a sure sign of success. Of course, if 50 buys you a Bentley Continental GT Coupe, then you don’t need to assume anything.
Today Young Buck is living up to his latest handle, “The Cleanup Man,” in multiple ways. While discussing the slumping record sales of his G-Unit crew via telephone, he’s also frenetically cleaning 44 ounces of cherry limeade from the interior of the aforementioned $170,000 luxury car.
“I’m the cleanup man because I’m so out here in the streets that my presence ain’t went nowhere,” says Buck. “I don’t make my music thinking about selling a record. Artists limit themselves by focusing on selling records, because then you don’t really know your true potential.”
With plenty of side ventures and his sophomore album, Buck The World, slated for a March 27 release, “Mr. Ten-A-Key” (as in $10,000 per kilo) is ready to tap into his true potential, other than his car detailing skills.
In only four years, 50 Cent’s Interscope-backed G-Unit imprint has sold over 30 million albums. That run came to an end last year when releases from two of the labels flagship artists?Mobb Deep and Lloyd Banks?failed to sell 1 million copies combined. Now, G-Unit is banking on Young Buck’s persona?equal parts businessman, artist and hustler?to bring back customers.
Prior to occupying the house next to the one the late Johnny and June Carter Cash did, David Darnell Brown spent most of the ’90s in Nashville’s James Casey Homes.
“I don’t even know where my father is now,” Buck says. “He was a crack fiend. I educated myself?dropped out of school in ninth grade. The streets were calling.”
When his mother lost her job and took custody of his two cousins, Brown got a job pumping gas. After seeing how little pumping gas paid, he began selling crack. Hip-hop was part of him and Buck learned how to structure his rhymes from a local artist named Boogie. When an older dealer named Priest noticed he was the youngest dealer on his block, Brown had a nickname for both of his hustles, Young Buck.
“I come from the 2Pac and Biggie era,” says Buck. “I’m 26, so for me that’s where I kind of locked in and really started to learn music. I’ve heard them all?NWA, D-Nice and Kool Moe Dee when I was young. I was just hearing them, but I actually learned about the music through 2Pac because I was coming of age during that time.”
Part of that “coming of age” also involved languishing on the Cash Money Records roster. Buck went on to catch the ear of Cash Money CEO Bryan “Baby” Williams and was flown down to New Orleans to join the roster.
“I would record songs, but when it came time for the material to drop none of the songs I did were on those tracks,” says Buck. “I think their careers took off and that was half the reason I was pushed to the back.”
Buck almost suffered the same fate after departing with the label’s disgruntled marquee artist, Juvenile, of “Back That Azz Up” fame. Once Buck learned Juvenile’s tour driver knew Sha Money XL, who managed a then-unsigned 50 Cent, he set up a meeting. Buck and 50 learned that they both were single parents from broken homes who had sold crack to finance their dreams of hip-hop stardom until gunshots at point-blank range necessitated career changes. When legal issues with Cash Money left both Juvenile and Buck broke in L.A., 50 added Buck to his G-Unit roster, and the two haven’t looked back.
Buck keeps looking more like his mentor; he will not only oversee his album, he’ll also be opening a retail store in Nashville named Cashville Clothing. At press time, Warner Bros. is leading a bidding war to distribute Buck’s Cashville Records label. There are also plans to develop a signature line of rims and even an MTV reality show tentatively titled, what else, Buck The World.
While Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell is probably not too thrilled that people are calling Country Music’s capital “Cashville, Ten-A-Key,” Buck couldn’t be any more proud.
“From a political standpoint, it’s a challenge for them to deal with what I’ve brought to the city as far as the hip-hop thing,” Buck says. “I actually brought millions of records and a platinum plaque back.”
With over 2.3 million copies of his debut album Straight Outta Cashville sold, the idea of repeating that feat is the least of his fears.
“My biggest fear is going back to where I came from,” says Buck. “I’ll be damned if I get a little bit of paper and then say, ?Alright I’m through.’ Y’all are gone have to kill me with a mic in my hand.”