Hustle Hard
After a banner year in hip-hop, Moneybagg Yo looks to take his career to a new level.
Interview: Robby Seabrook III
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Moneybagg Yo has built his brand from the ground up and continues to grow. For nearly a decade, the rapper has pounded the pavement in his Memphis hometown, spreading his trap-certified sound far beyond. The 31-year-old rapper got his proper start in 2012, hitting the mixtape circuit with From The Da Block 2 Da Booth and October 20th. He truly started to catch fire four years later, when his signature voice, straight-to the point lyricism and relentless work ethic translated into a deal with Yo Gotti’s CMG. Soon enough, his mixtapes like 2017’s Federal 3X and 2018’s 2 Heartless were charting in the top 20 of the Billboard 200 chart.

The rapper born Demario DeWayne White Jr. dropped his debut album, Reset, in November of 2018, featuring appearances from hip-hop heavyweights like J. Cole and Future. The project paved the way for 2019 to be his biggest year yet: His 43va Heartless album reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200, he signed a management deal with Roc Nation and he was romantically linked with Megan Thee Stallion, his “All Dat” collaborator and one of the year’s hottest rookies in rap. Set to close the year with Time Served, Moneybagg Yo is looking to continue going up in 2020.

Talking with XXL via phone, the always-focused Moneybagg Yo speaks on musical experimentation, lessons from Yo Gotti and how he plans to diversify his hustles.

XXL: Throughout your career, you’ve been really consistent. Why do you think you’ve had that level of staying power?

Moneybagg Yo: Because it’s more than the music. When [I] ain’t dropping music, they come to my page to see what I’m wearing. Or if I ain’t dropping music, I’m still putting out videos, doing documentaries or just popping up. I’m on different other hot artists’ albums and videos. I just keep my face in the place at all times.

Was that a strategy that you’ve figured out to maintain relevance, or is that a natural approach?

I always knew that. That’s why I always hop on the local artists’ [music] that’s coming up, the underground artists. I always hop on they songs and keep my name out there, no matter what.

What have you been up to since releasing 43va Heartless in May?

I just been working. I’ve been working on this game app. I ain’t got the name for it; I just got the whole theme and idea for it. I’m working on this movie called 24 Hours. [It’s] going to drop at the top of the year. It’s four situations [about] how fast your life can change in one day. When I do the premiere, I’m going to do it in a theater.

Did you always want to get into movies and acting?

The people really want to see another side of me. They want to see my personality. [I want to] give them a chance to see that I can do other stuff besides make good music. They know me: “He hard, for sure. He rap. He going to make something hard for the streets and he going to do his thing in that life for sure. But we want to see what else he can do.” That’s when I come with the fashion, the clothing line I’m fixing to do and the movie stuff.

How has your career progressed in the past year?

Every year I elevate. I just feel like it was God’s plan because I don’t even be trying hard for real. I just be doing me. I just be [like], “I got to do this. I got to put this out. I got to rock with this person, do this appearance, show my face on this.” Just staying consistent the whole time, doing little freestyles and putting them out.

How have you stayed so patient throughout your career?

I’d rather grind slow because when it land in my lap and when I get it, it’s going to last longer than just shooting straight to the top and then the plane crashing because I done shot up too fast. I’d rather grind, figure the steps out and stay up there.

Why did you title your next album Time Served?

When you think about it, I was saying “federal” when I first came in. This the last series, the last version of Federal, but also, it stands for perfect timing. It’s time for everything to go up. After y’all get this, y’all getting a whole ’nother ’Bagg, but you still going to get the ’Bagg you want. It’s been in the works for a little minute. I just record. Half the songs I been recording ain’t even going on here. It’s all new songs that I’m doing right now.

You experiment a bit on the project. What made you want to take chances musically?

I’m not content. You can’t be content with just staying, “Alright, they know me for just doing trap and gangster.” I came in the game doing everything. Y’all just missed this part because the gangster music really got me in. If you go listen to my old music, you going to hear I been doing what I’m fixing to do on Time Served.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration comes with whatever’s going on in my life at the time. That’s what I want the people to know. I want y’all to get the answers to everything. I don’t do the social media, putting all my business on there. You going to feel me through my music. I’m going to update you.

Social media went crazy after you and Megan Thee Stallion’s split. You’ve said that you two are on good terms, but how did you not get caught up in all of the chatter?

I got tunnel vision. I ain’t tripping on nothing, man. I know who I am, so I ain’t tripping on none of that.

How did you know that “All Dat” was the right song for you and Megan Thee Stallion to release?

It’s just that vibe. It got to be energetic. It got to be turned up. It got to be ready for the world. It got to stand up on its own.

You helped create the beat for that song as well. Are you usually hands-on with production?

I been like that. Everything I’m doing now, I took it to another level. Even when I was underground and local, I been doing that. It’s on a whole ’nother level now. I’m really stepping in and I’m ready for it now.

Why did you decide to sign with Roc Nation for management?

I feel like Roc Nation is a home. It’s more than just about music with them. They create different avenues for you to make money. It’s a wonderful, great platform. They believed in me, too. They believe in my hopes and dreams. I ain’t met Jay yet. It’s in the works. I’m going to meet him soon.

What did you learn from previously being signed to Yo Gotti’s CMG label?

Gotti, he still in my corner, no matter what. I learned a lot from him: how to do stuff, how to go about stuff the right way. Relationships really worth more than money. It ain’t always about the money. Chase the dream, not the money.

You’ve said that you still have a lot of love for Memphis, although you try not to spend too much time there because of how crazy it is back home.

When you start getting money, you see the smiles turn into frowns. People get to thinking you owe them and stuff just get to changing. That go for family and everybody. They just be crazy. You got to relocate yourself.

How did you deal with that emotionally?

I came in the game feeling like everybody thought I was heartless. I ain’t deal with it no type of way. I came in the game like, “I got to worry about me first. I got to get me straight. This what I’m fixing to do.” It ain’t that you selfish, you just got to get yourself together. You got to do what’s best for you, for self.

How would you describe your own career so far?

One word: motivation. If I can do it, anybody can do it.

Vincenza Conticchio
Vincenza Conticchio

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