Moneybagg Yo is preparing to be the South’s next mogul. His face is pasted on four different flavors of Rap Snacks, he has his own line of VIOR alkaline water, and he runs his own record label, Bread Gang Entertainment.
At 31, the Memphis-born rapper — whose new mixtape, “Hard to Love,” dropped today — still remembers the hustle of releasing his first one back in 2012, “From Da Block 2 Da Booth.”
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“We were writing on my CDs,” Moneybagg (real name: DeMario DeWayne White Jr.) recalls. “We were passing them out and getting posters and pullovers and anything we thought was going to put in the groundwork.” Raised on Juvenile and Three 6 Mafia, ‘Bagg has looked to ‘90s hip-hop royalty to cultivate his own ambitions as an entrepreneur.
Eleven years on, ‘Bagg still has that strong work ethic, inspired by 50 Cent’s partnership with Vitaminwater and its $100 million acquisition, and Birdman and Slim Williams’ Cash Money empire.
“I thought that was the starter-kit of rap, to be honest,” he shrugs. He went from sleeping on floors covered with folded sheets and pillows to having the conviction to tell Lil Wayne that his verse on Moneybagg’s “Wockesha” remix needed to be re-recorded.
“I don’t know if anybody’s ever told Wayne this,” he chuckles, “but he had actually done a verse before that one, and I was like, ‘Go back in for me.’ He did it and it came back how we heard it — super hard. It lets you know how serious I am about this.”
Since his last full-length project, “A Gangster’s Pain,” Moneybagg has stayed relatively quiet. Still grieving the death of Nuski, a friend and Bread Gang Entertainment signee, Moneybagg explains the cathartic nature of his new mixtape. “This project, ‘Hard to Love,; is more vulnerable. I’m bringing my fans in. This is what I’ve been going through in the last two years.
“It’s a Heartless edition, [which is] one of my first mixtape series,” he continues. “I’m hard to love. I’ve got trust issues, I’ve been through a lot, experienced a lot of ups and downs. But on another scale, it’s hard to love people when they come with bad intentions.”
The word “Heartless” is inked on ‘Bagg’s upper forehead and the image of a broken heart sits underneath the arc of his left eye. It’s both a word of caution and callous detachment, his gruff baritone croons on love songs and bounces over thumping 808s and ‘90s sample flips of OutKast’s “Jazzy Belle.”
With “Hard to Love” as his first “Heartless” project in a little over four years, he explains, “I made sure I labeled it as that [because] when you hear the music on here, it’s trapped-out, it’s still big and phat, but it’s like, ‘Okay, this is the ‘Bagg we first had.”
At the height of the pandemic, Moneybagg Yo’s popularity transformed from a mere Tennessee talent to a full-on internet sensation with the viral success of “Said Sum,” and its remix featuring City Girls. The now triple-platinum song created one of the lockdown’s first cultural moments. Hundreds of thousands of TikToks use an audio bite from that song, and the phrase is still used colloquially today. “Said Sum” facilitated the success of Moneybagg Yo’s 2021 hit, “Wockesha,” showcasing his addictive relationship to Wokhardt syrup as a toxic love affair he just can’t leave alone.
He’s also decided it’s finally time to pull from his hidden stash of regional hits. “‘Oceanspray’ was actually leaked four or five years ago,” he says. “Memphis and the tri-states know it, but it’s bigger than that. I took that song, updated it, came with a super hard video, and I put it out there. I did that for my new fanbase that found out about me through ‘Said Sum’ and ‘Wockesha’ and all that.”
Moneybagg Yo has learned patience and strategy working alongside Yo Gotti since his signing to Collective Music Group (CMG The Label) in 2016. Although he jokingly blamed Taylor Swift for the mixtape’s delay, ‘Bagg withheld the project’s release for over six months due to clearance issues.
“One of my favorite records, ‘No Show,’ there’s a sample in it and I need that,” he says. “Last time I had this incident, it was ‘Wockesha.’ It was hard getting ‘Wockesha’ cleared and they were telling me, ‘Why don’t we just put out the album and let ‘Wockesha’ catch up?’ I stood on it and said no — and look, that’s the biggest song of my career.”
Even so, Moneybagg Yo doesn’t have all the time in the world. Despite the silence coming from his diamond-encrusted watch, he still clearly hears the ticks inaudibly ringing in his head. The idea of taking a break seems laughable to him: “I need a clone or something,” he says. “I’m a workaholic, for real. 24/7.”
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