While Money Man has been creating music for 10 years now, he’s been making wise investments. Growing up, he knew he would follow one of two paths, either music or entrepreneurship, “I just knew I was gonna own a business if I didn’t make it in music,” Money Man recalls. Today, Money Man is succeeding at both and educating his supporters on how to make similar intelligent choices.
Last month, Money Man released his newest visual EP, Whale Games. The title Whale Games highlights Money’s influence in the crypto space — while referencing the crypto term “whale,” an individual who holds a large enough amount of a cryptocurrency to manipulate its value.
“I’m manipulating everything. I got people turning vegan because I rap about being vegan. I got people buying Bitcoin because I rap about Bitcoin. I picked this title because we’re about to start dictating life,” he tells Billboard. Money also gave NFT holders an exclusive airdrop of “Influential” ahead of its release, further cultivating his fanbase’s engagement with crypto-related activations.
Money Man’s astute knowledge in crypto was first highlighted when he bought himself out of his contract with Cash Money Records in 2019. Following his departure, Money Man’s career skyrocketed as he released music independently through his own label, Black Circle. In 2019, one year after becoming independent, Money Man entered the Billboard 200 album charts for the first time, charting at no. 36 with Paranoia. Four of his following six projects went on to chart, including Blockchain, his best performing album, at No. 13. Not only that, but Money Man also scored his first Billboard Hot 100 entry, hitting no. 49 with the “24” remix featuring Lil Baby.
Last November, Money Man made history after receiving a $1 million advance in Bitcoin from EMPIRE. Both advocates of crypto and canny investing, Money Man and EMPIRE CEO Ghazi Shami agreed that this play would revolutionize how artists worldwide receive their earnings, and play a pivotal role in EMPIRE’s expansion into blockchain integration.
“Money’s the driver. I’m just the GPS,” Shami tells Billboard. “He punches in the coordinates. I give him some shortcuts, try to keep him from crashing, [and] get him to his destination safely and in style. But ultimately, he’s the driver — and that’s why we have a good partnership, because I don’t infringe on his creativity. I let him do what he does best.”
Billboard caught up with Money Man via Zoom to discuss his new visual EP Whale Games, his advice for crypto users and more.
What prompted you to take music seriously as a career path? Was there a defining moment?
I stopped doing music and I started putting in work. [I] started hustling and making money. Once I got the money, that’s what made me take the music seriously — because I started spending money on it. I can’t let this money go to waste. If I’m putting thousands or hundreds of thousands into my music, I don’t want to just blow the money. I actually have to put work in to make sure that money counts and accounts for making itself back times three, four.
How has your experience been working with EMPIRE?
EMPIRE is a partnership, so once you prepare everything, they pretty much take it to the next level. You take it from one to six to seven and they can take it from seven to 10, and that’s the icing on the cake. They do develop artists, but I was already developed when I came to EMPIRE. I was already streaming high. They just took it and elevated it to a more massive level. Like I might have had 500,000 monthly Spotify subscribers. They took it to four million, five million per month, so it was more like a collaborative effort between us to take it to the moon.
EMPIRE CEO Ghazi Shami executive produced your last album, Blockchain. Can you talk about working collaboratively together and the partnership you two have?
Yeah, Ghazi has an ear for music. A lot of CEOs don’t have an ear for music, but Ghazi does, because he has a music background — so you can trust his opinion, because he’s deep in the culture. He knows a lot of what he’s talking about in music. What he’s really good at is plugging in features and production and placements. It’s just dope working with somebody who has a different perspective because me, I’ll be like, “I don’t want nobody on here” and he’ll be like, “Nah, you gotta expand your mind and put this person on here, then we can make this collaboration.” It’s just dope working with somebody like that.
How has your label Black Circle grown and evolved over the years?
It started off in the streets and we just made it into a record label. Me and my little brother, and then we’ve got a lot of artists under us that we’re getting ready to come out and partner with EMPIRE on.
Can you talk about your role on the business side of the label overseeing other artists? What do you look for in an artist?
I just wanna show you how to do the business and get you educated on the business that way you don’t get played. I pretty much lead by example. I like warriors who can fend for themselves. A lot of artists act like kids. I like artists who can record themselves. I record myself; I don’t really need an engineer to record me, just to mix the music. I want my artists to be the same way: be able to record themselves, be able to market themselves to a certain extent. I look for artists where you can listen to 30 of their songs and not get tired because it’s pleasurable to the ears. Some artists burn you out. They have to make a lot of good music that you don’t get tired of.
You just dropped your Whale Games visual EP. Can you talk about the significance behind the title?
It was just a strategic title to name it, because we’ve been doing it anyway. I’ll talk about Bitcoin, then you’ll start hearing other rappers say, “I’m only accepting shows in Bitcoin,” or “I’m only accepting shows in ETH.” I’ll say, “I’m going plant-based this year,” then you’ll see a bunch of artists saying the same thing. So it’s really just manipulating a market. We got that type of influence to where every time I drop, it’s going to manipulate the market.
What do you plan to do with this type of influence?
It’s just good to have that type of influence, because you can get with like-minded people and y’all can move the market for one common goal. I don’t sell any crypto services. I have a Telegram that’s dedicated to just educating people on crypto. I want to get with likeminded people to put money towards one goal and everybody make more money off it. Like how they did AMC. A bunch of people came together, and they were able to move the market and a large percentage of people made hundreds of thousands to millions just by coming together and being able to manipulate. The higher ups manipulate the market anyways. They make their millions off manipulating the market. Crypto whales manipulate the market, they send the price down and they send it up — so why can’t the regular people have that type of power to do that?
In addition to your visual EP Whale Games, you also dropped two new videos for “Petty Money” & “Trading Places” a few days prior. Can you talk about what it was like dropping seven music videos in seven days?
It was just a lot of work. Basically like, wake up, and then I might go work out, then I gotta shoot a video ,and the video take all day. Then I might try and record, then go back to sleep. My day was just staying busy and occupied. It was no downtime. By the time you finish with everything, you’re going straight to sleep — you don’t even got time to check your Instagram like that.
What advice can you give to those who want to be more financially literate and are new to the crypto space?
Find a successful known trader like Nancy Pelosi’s husband and go to their public profile to copy their trades at a smaller amount of what you can afford. Take advice from somebody who’s already doing it and already successful. Read everything you come across. One thing people say is ‘you gotta have seven sources of income to become a millionaire.’ That’s kind of a false statement because the Jack of all trades is a master of none.
You look at some of the biggest people, but they have one thing that they master and then everything else comes along. Like Jordan, Jordan played basketball and Nike came because of basketball. If he was working on the shoe while he was playing basketball, he would’ve never been the greatest basketball player. LeBron James, the same thing, Tom Brady, the same thing. That’s just athletes, but then you still got Bill Gates with his company. Steve Jobs, the same thing.
So you need to master one thing first, in my opinion. I’m not saying this is all the way fact, but you master one first and then the other sources of income come off that one thing that you master. Some people are content with average. Some people want more, but if you want more, then you gotta do more. It’s like — you could be an average basketball player or you could be a superstar, and superstars work harder than average basketball players.