Critical Beatdown: A Conversation With Money B About Hip Hop Media
Original Digital Underground member Money B calls out irresponsible Hip Hop media and details establishing his radio show as a counterexample to inflammatory, tabloid coverage.
“Radio’s gotta play me though I cuss too much / Magazines said I’m shallow, I never learned to swim / Still they put me on they cover, ‘cause I earn for them / Soon as I sell too much, watch them turn on him / ‘Cause that seem to be the shit that’ll earn for them…” -Jay Z, “So Ghetto.”
There’s been an interesting dance happening between Hip Hop artists and the personalities who cover them since Jay Z rhymed the above bars on “So Ghetto.” I apologize if this reads redundantly, given that we just talked about this issue regarding Angie Martinez’s move to Power 105. But I think it also keeps coming up because the definition of objectivity is seemingly changing as it regards Hip Hop coverage. Major power players such as 50 Cent, Jay Z and Sean Combs have their own respective corners in media. On the media side, personalities such as Funkmaster Flex, Angie Martinez, DJ Envy, Dr. Dre & Ed Lover and Sway & Tech have all released material as artists. With significant members of both Hot 97 and Power 105’s The Breakfast Club joining the reality TV ranks, we may be witnessing a paradigm shift. Or perhaps it already happened with Benzino’s involvement in The Source and Hip Hop Weekly (plus a role on Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta), and now things are just more acceptable. Either way, now that we’re in the “personality” era, I think the line has been blurred between scribes-turned-talking heads, former artists who are media members and artists with aspirations of controlling the dialogue around their material.
I bring this up in part, because I was engaged in a civil back and forth with Money B back in May. He invited me to his Goin’ Way Back Show, and we discussed Hip Hop media’s responsibility or lack thereof. This is a good time to point out Money B is an artist—having recorded as a soloist and as a member of Raw Fusion and Digital Underground. But he also has a podcast, a radio show, and it’s common to find him covering events as a credentialed member of the media. Can a man be a member of the media and yet still say, “For the most part, the media ain’t shit?”
It’s with all these rhetorical questions hanging around that Money B returned the favor and engaged in a candid conversation about moving to the other side of the mic courtesy of his stash of vintage music and interviews and some assistance from Danger One and Felicia “The Poetess” Morris.
This isn’t strictly a Q&A per se, because we’re not really being objective. Below are some candid opinions and dialogue between myself and an artist who also handles media duties. And if you are receptive to Money B’s opinions, you may see more of him around HipHopDX. Regardless, he’s in a unique position to speak about the changing nature of the media’s role in Hip Hop.
How Money B Became A Member Of The Media
HipHopDX: When did you first start the radio show, and where did the concept originate?
Money B: I started the show in 2008, and I started it as basically a podcast. The reason I started the show was because I have a great appreciation for Hip Hop culture. I just have a genuine love for Hip Hop. Aside from that, I was sitting around, and whenever someone would mention something, I’d say, “Oh yeah, I got that record.” It’s just a conversation I had with a friend where every time we mentioned a song, I had a story about a specific record. I remember the day I bought “Roxanne Roxanne” by UTFO. I remember buying it without hearing it just because it was a new Rap record and how long it lasted. For that time, it rocked in the same way as a phenomenon like 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.” There were a few records that came around like that—“Planet Rock,” “The Message.” So “Roxanne Roxanne” was one of those records that came around like that; it was the shit.
My guy Danger One turned me on to my man Osiris over at SwurvRadio. That’s when I first started doing my podcast back in 2008. It was just something I put together from the old cassettes of live shows, freestyles, old Tupac records that have never come out, Digital Underground demos and rare records I have. I wanted to share those with everybody.
Why Money B Says, “The Media Ain’t Shit”
DX: You had me on your show, and you expressed some very strong opinions about the media and their responsibility. How was the transition from being interviewed as an artist to being on the other side of that tape recorder?
Money B: It hasn’t changed my perception. There’s two parts to that though. One is, because I am an artist and I’ve been an artist, I always like to put an artist in a good light. I’m always going to be fair to the artist. Sometimes that comes at a detriment, because you do want to ask the tough questions. I’m not afraid to do that. If it’s something I really want to know, I’ll say it, but I’ll say it respectfully.
I’ll give you a prime example, because I used to do a DVD series called Sex in the Studio. It was adult entertainment meets Hip Hop. I’d interview artists, and most of the questions would be of a sexual nature. I had an artist who I won’t name, and I asked them a question about what happens when they’re ready to get it on. And he said, “Pop a few pills, suck a nigga dick.” Now I know he meant having that done to him, but what he said out of his mouth was, “Pop a few pills, suckin’ a nigga dick.” I could’ve really been like WorldStar or VladTV and got a lot of publicity for putting that artist on blast. But I would never put that out there, because I know what he meant. He just slipped up and didn’t say it right.
My thing is, I don’t want to be a show where it gets around that we try to put people out there like that. Most of these guys—especially when you deal with classic artists—they are cats that I already know. They’re people I associated with for 10, 15, 20-plus years. So I never want you to feel uncomfortable coming into this space. I want them to always know that I’ll try to put them in the best light.
If you come on the show and I ask you about another artist, and you say, “Fuck that nigga,” I’m gonna play it. I give you a chance to say what you feel, and if you say it so blatantly, then I feel that’s what you wanted the world to know. As an artist, I try to treat the artists fairly. But being on this side of it, I do know that sensationalism sometimes helps you get what you need. If it’s something that I can use without catering to that lowest common denominator, then I’ll run with it.
DX: Last time we talked, there was a significant portion spent on the media’s role in the so-called “East vs. West” feud. How much did that situation inform how you feel about the media and how you approach your job?
Money B: From that, I’ve had the opinion that for the most part the media ain’t shit [laughs]. They’re gonna do whatever it takes to sell magazines, and I always thought that especially Hip Hop media are very irresponsible. I can make an excuse up for anything. Take a WorldStar or any Hip Hop blog. Say T.I. and Floyd Maweather had gotten into an actual, real fistfight. If it’s on tape, you’re gonna show it. But they don’t think about the ramifications. If it starts a reaction to a reaction and goes back and forth, you can see where it’s going. If Rapper A disses Rapper B, and then Rapper B runs into Rapper A, they’ll fight. Next thing you know, somebody gets shot, and you already know what’s gonna happen next. Yet and still, it’s like, “Oooh, Rapper B just shot his security guard! I wonder what’s gonna happen next?”
You’re letting everyone know. Sometimes I think certain artists know. It’s such a shame in Hip Hop right now that it’s not really about how good your music is anymore. The first thing—even in our conversations if you don’t mind me saying it—is, “How many followers do you have? Who’s following you? What’s your buzz?” You can have a huge following and a buzz without ever putting out a record. If you’re the guy that knocked out 50 Cent or slapped the shit out of Beyonce and got away with it, you can have 100,000 followers. If that person decides to say, “OK, let me put out a single,” the mentality is, “Well, he does have 100,000 followers. We’re gonna write a story about it.” He’s gonna get booked for a show because he has 100,000 followers even if his music is trash. You can have somebody that’s dope, but maybe only has 1,000 followers. They’ll be told, “Well, wait until you get your followers up. Nobody’s really talking about them.” Shit. The only reason they’re talking about the other guy is because he did something outside of music that got him attention. His music doesn’t get him attention, and that’s where we’re at with it.
Without saying any names, a lot of these artists that we celebrate are not great artists. They’re not lyrically gifted. It’s all opinion and what you like. I have friends I grew up with that swear Too Short is the greatest rapper ever. But Too Short will tell you he’s not a lyricist. He knows he’s not that rapper rapper; he just has game and puts it together. And he’s at peace with that. But if you tell some of these cats to get their bars up, they’ll take offense like, “Ahh, you hatin’.” I’m not hating, you’re just not good to me.
I see cats who because they affiliated with this gang or from this city all of a sudden get a buzz. But when you listen to their music, it doesn’t really stand up by itself. That’s kind of where we are. This is why I don’t feel bad when I do music or promote the artists I do. I accept it, and we just have to live with it. But I’m not going to change my views. And being in the media, I like to surround and bring people to my show who I feel deserve that light. I’m not gonna publicly downplay these artists that I think are trash. If they have fans in the audience, more power to them.
I always say, “Like what you like, and if you don’t like it, don’t bash it. Just don’t listen to it. Find what you like, and put your energy into that.” That’s kind of what I try to do with our show. I bring people on that I appreciate so I can highlight and celebrate what they do. For the cats I don’t like, I just don’t. If I see them in passing, I’ll get a drop from a cat. I’ll tell them, “I really don’t play that, but let me get a drop.” I’m not stupid, if I get a drop from this cat or even bring them on.
DX: I was gonna ask you about that. If Rapper B is platinum right now, that’s a good move whether you like their music or not. How do you handle that?
Money B: I try to find the one that I kind of like, have him on, and I’ll talk to him. The beauty of it is, with my show, the interviews are live streamed. But I do a podcast as well. I do two versions of my show now, and the live stream is more of a talk show format. That’s what you just witnessed here, and we sprinkle in video clips and pieces of the music. My podcast is the total opposite of it. It’s all music, and I sprinkle in pieces of the interview. So on my podcast, I’m really gonna play the music that I like. But if it’s a platinum artist, I get a chance to get him on and I can use that to put my show on a platform, I’ll interview him. But I’ll probably just play that single. Whereas if it’s an artist I’m just loving, like Big Daddy Kane, the whole show is all Big Daddy Kane music. With the other guy who you’re talking about that may be platinum or whatever, I’ll play his single at the end of the interview. The rest of the show will be Hip Hop that I either like or represents what the show is about. It’s no disrespect to that artist, but this is the place where I have my format, my guidelines and the things I want to play. It’s the same way 106 plays whoever’s paying them and whatever the politics of that is. That’s how it works, and I’m not offended if they won’t play my song because I don’t have 100,000 followers or didn’t get beat up or beat up somebody.
Money B Explains Avoiding Posthumous Tupac Music & Storylines
DX: As far as the media goes, you were at DX’s office the day that policeman claimed Tupac’s last words were, “Fuck you.” Every year some of those stories pop up. At what point do you separate the sensationalism of that stuff from the impact of Tupac’s legacy being so big that it still creates that climate?
Money B: Both. It’s powerful, and sometimes it amazes me that he’s still headline news. Anything that happens about him, concerning him, regarding him is a story. That’s dope to me. What is this? It’s going on 20 years since he’s been gone, and he’s just as relevant.
But at the same time, when I hear it… When ‘Pac passed, I don’t even know the first album that came out once he was gone. I’m not talking about Makaveli, I’m talking about the first posthumous album, R U Still Down? [Remember Me]. I stopped checking for it, because I know he never intended for a lot of that music to come out. If it was by his choice, he wouldn’t have certain rappers rapping with him on that song. No disrespect to anybody, but there’s cats they put with him that he didn’t even like. Knowing him, he wouldn’t have liked that dude. But just because this guy is the hot guy, they put them on a track, and it kind of just kills it for me.
I understand that people appreciate it and can’t get enough of ‘Pac. But for myself, after he died, I stopped listening to any of his “new” music. It’s funny people are surprised that I don’t know some of this stuff. All I know is All Eyez On Me, The Don Killuminati (The 7 Day Theory), Me Against The World and prior. Those are the albums I know the music from. All those hundreds of songs that came out afterwards, I’m not familiar. I don’t know what album or project they were from.
It’s funny, because on my show I’ll play what I call my cassette files. My guy JMix from TupacNation.net, brought it to my attention that it’s about six or seven songs that I basically introduced to the world. They’re rips from my show, and they have my tags in them. So it’s like, “Oh, I thought all this stuff was out.” I didn’t know they hadn’t been released, because I don’t check for it. So it’s a trip when they tell me, “Oh yeah, those songs came from you.”
It’s crazy, because I heard different things. There’s hundreds and hundreds of songs that I just assume, “Well if all this shit is out, people must have this one. I can’t be the only one.” But that’s a trip to me.
It’s important that he is relevant now, but for myself, until somebody says something or the headline is in front of me, I don’t pay attention to it. Then when I do, it’s like, “Ha, that’s funny.” It’s like the last thing he said was, “Fuck you,” or some shit. I was like, “Sounds like him.” I couldn’t confirm it or whatever.
Money B is an emcee and original member of the legendary hip hop group Digital Underground. He is also the creator of The Goin Way Back Show, a live streaming radio show and podcast dedicated to classic old school hip hop. Follow him on all social media @moneyb69