Last Friday, rapper Tay Money took the stage at Southern Junction in Irving, opening for fellow rapper NLE Choppa. In her first show since COVID-19 struck, she was thrilled to feel the energy of the audience, reminding her of her favorite part of being a rapper. While COVID has hit musicians with canceled or postponed performances and album delays, Money’s fanbase has grown thanks to TikTok.
Like many millennials, Money, 28, was initially hesitant to download the social media app. But last year, when her self-empowerment anthem “Bussin’” went viral, she couldn’t resist joining in on the fun.
“I hate giving something so much power,” Money says. “When you tell me there’s a new app, I won’t download it until I absolutely have to. I absolutely had to download TikTok. It’s so much more fun to be on than Instagram. I could feel certain things changing, and [the music industry] is shifting more toward TikTok.”
Money was born in Tyler but raised in Athens. She played softball at the now-closed Lon Morris College in Jacksonville in East Texas, and originally planned to be a marine biologist. She's still opposed to sea animals being kept in captivity. After seeing the documentary Blackfish, she refuses to go to SeaWorld.
“I want them to free the whales at SeaWorld,” Money says. “I have this thing for dolphins and killer whales. I’m, like, obsessed beyond belief. I want to play with a killer whale so bad. But I’m never going to be able to see one outside of SeaWorld, and we can’t fucking go to SeaWorld. That shit is so crazy.”
Money briefly worked as a hairstylist before deciding to pursue music and says she sometimes misses working in a salon. She even keeps her license up to date.
When Money was 23, she moved to Dallas, where she would freestyle rap in the car with her friends. One day, she accompanied one friend, the late Uncle Skitz, to the recording studio and fell in love with the music production process.
“I was just hooked right after that,” Money says, “so I actually never left the studio after that. [Skitz] was so much fun to be around. And honestly, without him I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing.”
Money frequently works with producer Dustin Cavazos, who helped her create “Bussin.” The song became a breakout after going viral on TikTok last year. The TikTok challenge sees women dancing around the song’s chorus, “I feel like a whole brand new bitch, bussin’.”
“[Cavazos] and I have the same pair of ears, it seems like,” Money says. "I was like ‘I want it to sound like this. And then I said ‘whole brand new bitch’ and then he made the beat around it. It was so much fun, and we weren't even trying to make a hit.”
Her latest track, “Asthma Pump” has also garnered attention. Right off the bat, the raunchy, sex-positive Flo Milli collaboration lets you know “this pussy should come with an asthma pump,” and the song’s accompanying dance challenge consists of TikTokkers simulating “coughing and wheezing” before sticking their tongues out on time with a scream ad-lib.
Money wrote the song in Miami at a songwriters camp, a week-long trip in which she connected with producers and sound engineers and recorded several songs.
“In a week, we made like 10 songs,” Money says, “but we made ‘Asthma Pump’ toward the end of camp. It was so crazy, because the minute we made it, I was like ‘This is a fucking hit, bro.’ I knew it. I always knew it.”
“Asthma Pump” was officially released last month, but the song began going viral in February after Money uploaded a snippet to TikTok that got over two million views overnight.
On the official release, the scream adlib was noticeably absent, which prompted fans to create the hashtag #JUSTICEFORTHESCREAM.
“The scream was the engineer’s reaction during the beat drop,” Money says, “He screamed and it happened to end up in the snippet, and then the scream was part of the challenge. I had actually tried to get the scream in [the final version] but I was just so excited. I was like ‘I want to put it out right now, let’s just fucking go.’
"Now everybody wants the scream. Well guess what? The scream is coming. They’re fixing to switch the audio, and we’re gonna get the scream in there, and it’s gonna go up again.”
Over the past year, Money has collaborated with big-name acts such as Saweetie and DaBaby. While her rise to fame was catalyzed with catchy, viral singles, she plans to stay in Dallas for as long as she can, adding that she will “absolutely fucking not” move to Los Angeles or New York City.
“We are riding a whole different wave,” Money says. “Texas is taking over, and I know you see us.”
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