Considering that Post Malone is more of a mainstream pop-rock figure at this point, the names that come up most frequently in conversations about the local rap scene are invariably Yella Beezy, the late Mo3, maybe even Trapboy Freddy.
But over the last few years, there's been an undeniable uprising of female artists leading the way in hip-hop, and one of the artists at the forefront is Tay Money, who owned 2022. While some other regional superstars seem to have spent most of their time last year embroiled in legal issues, beefs and other misadventures, Big Tay — who entered the year with high expectations after having the biggest viral song of 2021 with “The Assignment” — just flourished.
“The music I have made in 2022 is the best music I have ever made,” Tay Money says while enjoying a slice of pizza during our interview in mid-December. “And I want to start off January, February with the hardest music. There will be no argument if Tay Money is the hardest.”
Tay Money believes that the female artist explosion in DFW — which includes Erica Banks, Asian Doll, Cuban Doll, Kaash Paige and S3nsi Molly — stems from the men in the scene counting them out, igniting a fire under the women in the industry to prove themselves. Tay Money is enjoying this moment.
“I love to walk in the room and my chain be bigger than his or whatever,” she says of her male counterparts. “That is a feeling that's like, ‘Hey, I don't need nothing.’ I don't need nothing from y'all. I'm here at the front line with you. I'm a bad bitch that holds my own weight. I don't complain. I don’t be in no drama. I stay to myself. I don't bother nobody.”
Rainwater, Mo3’s manager, has high praise for Tay Money.
“I gotta give credit to where it’s due … Tay Money run Dallas right now,” Rainwater said during an Aug. 21 interview on YouTube show Say Cheese with its founder, Shawn Cotton. “Tay Money is the only person doing their own shows. She got her own fanbase. She ain’t going at no girls, on no goofy shit. So I crown Tay Money the King of Dallas right now.”
Unsurprisingly, Tay Money agrees with that assessment.
“And that is 100% facts because when I step outside, boy, you would think I brought the city out,” she says in response to Rainwater’s comments. “I'm having fun every time I do something. I enjoy this. It's my job.”
Her music recently appeared on the award-winning TV show Abbott Elementary, and she graced the cover of the Dallas-based CoSign Magazine. But for Tay Money, 2022 was about understanding growth within her career.
“I'm learning about the business side more than I ever have,” she says. “I'm learning more patience. I've just become such a woman. I used to have my mama help me with a lot of things, and now I think I'm helping my mama with a lot of things, and that's probably the best feeling and the reason why I'm even doing it.”
Born and raised in Athens, Texas, the 29-year-old rap star made her debut in 2016. She's since evolved from ambitious freestyler to a consistent hitmaker, becoming one of the most influential stars to ever explode out of North Texas. Like Eminem and G-Eazy before her, Big Tay is erasing the typical assumptions and stereotypes that come with being a white rapper, not to mention a female one, by making undeniably relevant music (she has over 800,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone) and perfecting her magnetic lyricism. Tay keeps her energy up but stays in her lane and focuses on her fans.
“I love that feeling, and I will always be myself because I feel like you can't go wrong with being you," she says of defying stereotypes. "Sometimes I could see where doing interviews or doing things where people may portray you a certain way, and I see every day in the media where they portrayed certain people a certain way, and I just think as long as I'm myself, there could be ... Y'all could fight with y'all self. You know what I'm saying? I'm me. You can't make me not be me.”
The “Bussin” hitmaker kicked off 2022 with the release of her new mixtape, Girls Gone Duh, in April. She was nervous about releasing the project because of the high expectations following the success of "Bussin," but she remembered the advice she'd received from multi-platinum recording artist D.R.A.M. (“Broccoli”) years prior.
“He reached out and told me, ‘Hey, your melody stuff is crazy. You just need to write melody and you're gone,’ and that stuck with me forever," she says of D.R.A.M.
She realized she wanted to be in that space, as a rap-pop crossover.
"And I do feel that one of those will take me to the next level," she says. "I do think that that is what's going to take me to the next level. I don't think that it will be a hardcore, hardcore rap song. I think it's going to be the bouncing vulnerable, love, bad bitch anthem.”
The 14-song collection drew fans with the viral hit, “The Assignment." The mixtape gave fans the expected man-eater, twerking, boss-lady songs, but also showcased a newly single Tay Money. On the song “Fake Love,” she addressed her break-up with popular music video director Cole Bennett (Eminem, Juice Wrld). Referencing Chicago, Bennett’s hometown, she questions his mental state for letting her get away.
“I was in Chicago, he was on bullshit. How you fumble Tay Money? Man, I swear you stupid," she raps on the song. "Now you know what, I'm on new money, new dick. He keep texting me, 'Where you at?' Boy, I'm hoopin'.”
Writing “Fake Love" was personal, but also a shout-out to all women who've endured similar fuckery.
"I do think that it's not a fair game, and you just got to play the cards that you're dealt, and that's with everything.” – Tay Money
“I went into the studio, and I had some fire in my heart, and I would much rather rap about it than talk about it," she says. "Because somewhere out there, some girl's going through the same thing, some way, somehow. And I'm like, my music is for you, shawty — turn it up."
Tay never spoke about her relationship before she made the album. She says she knew that when she made “Fake Love,” it would draw fans' attention immediately.
“I wasn't going to speak about it,” she says. “And for that to be ... It was just like they had been waiting on something. Everyone was asking what happened, and I thought that that would be the best way to express it.”
The song allowed Tay Money to rediscover her self-esteem after realizing what goes around comes back around, and she was reunited with her first love, music.
“Heartbreak made me, because I love someone, to just do me wrong because, for some reason, I always level-up, like, karma is so real," she says. "I'm a very sensitive, emotional person because I love everyone. I trust everyone, but I had to learn that's not OK. So I put my all into my relationship, and I put a hold on myself when I was dating him. So when I lost him, it was like, what do I got? What do I have? That's what it felt like. And I was like, ‘All I have is my career; it's go-time now.’
And with only her career, Tay Money made the decision to work harder than ever to make sure her ex-boyfriend would see her everywhere he goes.
“I'm going to make sure I'm on every screen that's around him in the world,” she says. “I'm going to make sure my face is everywhere. You can't escape Tay Money. Tay Money is forever. So I didn't do it for him, I did it for me, but it definitely put a fire under my ass. It made me get up and go. And it wasn't two months until ‘The Assignment’ pops, and sometimes you need that.”
Big Tay believes the new album's tracklist was arranged by the best and has some of the best tracks she's recorded since 2019’s Hurricane Tay album.
“I just really picked what I thought sounded the absolute best," she says. "And I'm actually really hard on picking the final tracklist. I'm very hard on it.”
One thing that's important to her is that her albums sound like Tay Money records.
“There's only one Tay Money,” she says. “I just had to tap into what I want, what I see, what I feel. I had to stop listening to everyone else around me. I test songs out on my friends. I see what they like. You just have to say, OK, maybe there was a couple on there that I didn't pick, but they know I'm feisty. They know not to mess with me.”
Girls Gone Duh is the first project released on Tay Money’s new partnership with Rebel-Geffen. Geffen Records, a subsidiary of parent company Interscope Records, is known for launching the career of hip-hop superstars Lil Durk (“Laugh Now Cry Later”), Rod Wave (“Heart On Ice”) and Eve (“Blow Your Mind”). For Tay Money, it’s understood that for the label to back you, you have to show up and prove yourself.
“Labels, it's a fast industry, and you got to stay relevant, and you got to stay buzzing if you want them to get behind you,” she says. “And sometimes it takes you popping a couple times for them to get behind you. But if you can show them you can do it, they will help you do it more, you know what I'm saying? I do think that it's not a fair game, and you just got to play the cards that you're dealt, and that's with everything.”
The year 2022 also saw Tay Money embark on her first-ever headlining nationwide tour. She was the only North Texas artist to do that last year. Her 15-city tour made sold-out stops in Chicago, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Memphis, New Orleans, and, of course, Dallas. For Money, the tour made her feel like a rockstar.
“It was so much fun, and I cannot wait to do it again,” she says. “You take all your friends, and we had this beat-up silver van. We called her Sheila, the Silver Surfer. And we was surfing through the stage. We was swag surfing. I can't wait. It was like a movie. It's like I'm Mötley-Crüe-rock-star. It's like, let's break the lamp in the hotel room.”
Before enjoying the rock star lifestyle, there was a time when Tay Money felt like her career might not make it, based on the way the team and her were conducting themselves in public.
“We were getting sloppy, man; we were losing sight," she says. "We were just partying, and my friends weren't realizing this is my job. What they were seeing is we've got the sprinter, the bottles, and we're lit at the club, but they weren't seeing that as a job. I had to take charge of my team because I'm like, 'This is a brand,' and I created this brand, and I worked my ass off to get this brand. So I can't let people that don't understand that get in the way of it. I don't care who you are. And if they think I did them wrong, they crazy.”
The new perspective led to necessary changes within her circle. First, she accepted accountability for the team’s poor leadership.
“2022 is really when I cleaned house and I started accepting accountability," she says. "It's like these people ... anyone that's with me, if something goes wrong, it was, 'This [is] Tay Money's friend, Tay Money and them.' It's not, ‘Oh, hey, Mary did this.' It's 'Tay Money's people.' And I really had to shut that down. I had to literally clean house, and that's not easy because you become attached to these people, and you love these people.”
While letting go made her feel like the bad guy, Tay saw the growth in herself and embraced it.
“I grew some, and I kind of liked it after,” she says. “It's just I knew it was OK to be the bad guy because not everyone is going to like you. I realized you can't please everybody. That really stuck with me.”
Along with growing apart from people who weren't along for her mission, Tay Money found herself in a rediscovery mode trying to find balance.
“2022, I was doing a lot of healing spiritually, mentally," she says."I was just getting back because I think it's very easy to lose yourself. And I was just getting back to what makes Tay, Tay.”
Touring for Girls Gone Duh helped Tay Money form an unbreakable bond with her army. Getting up close and personal with fans allowed her to learn more about them — even through their deafening crowd reactions and tireless dedication on social media.
“I learned them. The real fans, I learned them," she says. "I know their names. I follow them on Twitter, I follow them on Instagram. The real fans, the ones that come and see me or they bring me pictures or I say, 'This is from last time' [we met], they're on my refrigerator. I love them. I'll go home and the letters they write me, the gifts they give me, they get worn, they get read. I see them. I see mostly everything. I keep them together. They keep me together. It's like an unspoken pact.”
Outside the music, the Tay Money army would verify the soon-to-be superstar’s influence in fashion. Fans attend her shows in droves dressed like their leader. For Tay Money, seeing fans dress like her is magical.
“It's an amazing feeling," she says. "It makes you feel like you're on top of the world. I'm thankful for those people. Those are the ones that change my life, those are the ones that allow me to be Tay Money. They literally allow me to be Tay Money.”
Big Tay credits her stylist and best friend, Mary Sze, for all her outfits. While Sze was unable to accompany the tour, she thoroughly prepared signature outfits specifically for each tour date. Money says that the key component to her style is her friendship with Sze.
“She's like my right brain, left brain,” Money says. “I don't move without her. I don't pack a suitcase without her. And we're inseparable. So me doing hair, I do my own makeup ... by the time that gets done, I don't want to go pick out nothing, especially with the tornado of clothes in our room. And usually, she has my outfit really nice laid out on my bed, and she usually has three or four options, I say. And it is so helpful with all the things I got to worry about; not having to worry about my clothes is a wonderful feeling.”
Tay Money could have relaxed following her first successful tour, but instead went into overdrive on the collaboration front, releasing new music with a budding female rap star roster in Monaleo (“Hands Up”), Kali (“Blow It”) and Warner Records and fellow Dallas native Erica Banks (“Poppin Them Tags”).
Her collaboration with Banks has surpassed over 1.2 million streams on Spotify alone since its release last October. The Girls Gone Duh mixtape also saw millions, particularly the single “Asthma Pump,” which garnered over 9 million streams and counting on Spotify, prompting a viral dance challenge "that consists of TikTokers simulating 'coughing and wheezing' before sticking their tongues out on time with a scream ad-lib," as the Observer’s Alex Gonzalez wrote in an April 2021 article.
The rapper ended the year back on the road performing for thousands as one of the marquee artists at the hugely popular multi-city Rolling Loud festival — where she bestowed on herself the title, "Queen of Rolling Loud," as she’s performed the festival eight consecutive times now.
“Performing at Rolling Loud is so much fun to me,” says Tay. “I love Rolling Loud.”
Now, the old saying is, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” and Tay Money knows that feeling all too well.
“It's a lot of pressure because you want to stay at the top and to stay relevant,” she says. “And that means doing everything to the best of your ability. It also means that my time is not available like it used to be. I barely see my family. I'm traveling a lot. I'm on a lot of airplanes. I spend a lot of time in the air. They just don't understand that I don't have time to do the things I used to do. But if I could, I would. That's a big thing.”
With an influence that spans across the globe, a cult-like following and viral songs, Tay Money is on the path to legendary status, and that’s always been her destination.
“That is where I'm headed, is the legend,” she says.
While her journey to the title was long overdue, according to Tay, the reign on top won’t be short. She is determined to remain the biggest artist in North Texas for a mighty long time. And with over 50 new songs recorded, Tay Money promises several new projects in 2023 that will put a friendly pressure on her peers on the North Texas hip-hop landscape.
“I'm a competitive person, so it's like I have to do everything to make sure it stays that,” she says of her Rainwater-granted title of "King of Dallas." “I'm not letting go of the title. No one else can have a title. You have not seen the best of Tay Money yet.”
As she eventually ascends to greater heights, she says she'll remember the army that followed her and believed in her even when she didn’t.
“I would say thank you," she says about her supporters. "I love you. Don't take no shit. Turn me on. Let's turn up.”