Byron O. Thomas, better known as Mannie Fresh, is a famous music producer and DJ who has been in the music industry since he was a teenager. The funny thing is he was not interested in music until he was 12, and it is now his bread and butter. Mannie Fresh’s net worth of $15 million would be much more were it not for a botched deal with Def Jam and being cheated out of royalties by Cash Money. Still, he appreciates what he got. So let’s look at how he amassed the wealth.
An Interest in Music Begins
Fresh was born to DJ Sabu, a local street deejay, in New Orleans’ 7th Ward. His mother was a teacher, but both parents wanted Fresh to pursue music. Therefore, they tried to lure him into the world of music by buying him instruments for Christmas. As Fresh told Red Bull Music Academy, while his friend got a bike for Christmas, Fresh would get a turntable. Despite his parents’ effort to get him interested in music, young Fresh never saw the allure in it. By the time he turned 12, he had keyboards, horns, drum machines, and other instruments; thus, he started teaching himself to use them. Although Fresh never gave music much thought in terms of pursuing it as a career, he still appreciated his father’s effort. DJ Sabu managed to take care of his large family through deejaying. Fresh even did his best to help his father. So at 13, he would go with DJ Sabu, lending DJ Sabu a hand in moving the deejaying equipment. As a teenager with raging hormones, Fresh was inspired to be a DJ like his father once he saw how the women reacted whenever DJ Sabu played some music. The women would go wild, and Fresh decided he wanted crowds to react the same way. He confessed it was at that moment that he realized why his mother always complained about his father. Although Fresh knew he wanted to be a DJ, he was not interested in playing the same songs as his father. DJ Sabu played soul but also incorporated hip hop. It was not until “Planet Rock” was released in 1982 that Fresh knew precisely the songs he would want to play as a DJ. DJ Sabu had already noticed his son’s love for hip hop and introduced him to “Good Times” by Chic, but the song never quite hit the spot despite having a good baseline. Therefore, when Fresh heard “Planet Rock,” it was the perfect combination of energy and beats. He revealed to Red Bull Music Academy that the song made him want to discover everything about being a DJ.
Becoming a DJ
With his mind already set on becoming a DJ, Fresh started playing at house parties. According to Cocaine Blunts, he knew how to set up drum machines after learning from his father. Besides, the turntable received as gifts in elementary school had been instrumental in teaching him a few things about deejaying. He knew he had to set himself apart by being unique; thus, Fresh would stop playing the music, put on his 808, and play other people songs with analog keyboard, Juno, or other tools. His technique impressed everyone. So when Denny D was in town and was looking for some DJs, Fresh took the opportunity to showcase his skills. DJ Wop, Denny D’s cousin, was Fresh’s friend and introduced the aspiring DJ to the successful Denny D. Denny D and DJ Wop were fascinated by the young teenager. So along with Mia X, the four formed New York Incorporated. Fresh was only 15 then and started cashing in on his skills since New York Incorporated played at school dances and house parties. Currently, DJs make an average of $31,990, with wedding and club DJs earning more. Given that Denny D was already a successful mobile DJ with a good reputation, we can assume that the group was raking in handsome figures since they hardly were out of a job. New York Incorporated dominated the music scene in the 1980s and 90s. Whenever he was not deejaying Fresh would be doing odd jobs in the studio. He told Afropop that he would scratch on the records of some California guys. They then asked him if he knew any local rappers, and of the three that Fresh called, only Gregory D picked up the phone. Gregory D and Fresh collaborated in making songs that became hits; “Buck Jump Time” was the hottest song in New Orleans for about five years. They even got signed to Yo Records, but when the labels began telling them to change their sound, Fresh did not want to, but Gregory D agreed. Therefore, the two split up.
Becoming the Cash Money Records In-House Producer
After the split, Fresh continued deejaying in different clubs, one of which was Rumors. There, he met MC Heavy, who was signed to Cash Money, and the MC introduced Fresh to Cash Money. Since the first song Fresh did for them was an instant hit, Cash Money sought him to make their beats and eventually hired him to be the in-house producer. At the time, Cash Money only had one artist, Kilo G, but Fresh got other musicians, including Lil Wayne, signed. According to The Fader, Wayne’s stepfather introduced him to Fresh when Wayne was barely a teenager. However, Fresh saw the potential in the young boy, calling Wayne a “kid genius.” He signed Wayne to Cash Money when the rapper was only 15. The DJ solely produced most of Cash Money’s biggest records. Unfortunately, financial disputes led to Fresh and other artists splitting from Cash Money. The DJ joined Def Jam South as the CEO. For someone who has been in the industry for so long, you would expect Fresh’s net worth to be as high as Dr. Dre, but according to SOHH, he did not get royalties from Cash Money. Considering that he worked for Cash Money for 12 years, the sum of money could have boosted his net worth.
Written by Allen Lee
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