Detroit rapper Baby Money talks music, 12th Street, Quality Control, and taking care of his family

New money, new man

Nov 30, 2022 at 4:00 am
click to enlarge Baby Money shows off a chain emblem that reads "12th," for Detroit's 12th Street, where he grew up. - Kahn Santori Davison
Kahn Santori Davison
Baby Money shows off a chain emblem that reads "12th," for Detroit's 12th Street, where he grew up.

Baby Money is sitting at a large wooden table inside of a high rise clubhouse in downtown Detroit, overlooking the Detroit River. He's talking to his manager Darylynn Mumphord, his friend A1, and a couple of others about the frustrating logistics of hopping on and off planes from doing shows and interviews over the last several weeks.

"It be nonstop, bro," says the Detroit native.

He has on a sky blue Supreme tracksuit, white T-shirt, and gold diamond link chain with an emblem that reads "12th" (for 12th Street) hanging from his neck. The chain was purchased from Hutch's Jewelry last year before the famed owner Dan Hutchinson's untimely death this past June.

"I don't know if he actually put his hands on it," says Money. "That would be good to find out, though."

Born Carlos Fischer, he's the middle son of eight siblings and grew up in one of the most infamous parts of the city.

"The block that I'm actually from, Clairmont, is where the riots started in 1967," he says. "My aunties and my grandma was in it."

Money was born 30 years after the uprising that started at Clairmont and 12th Street, and the area looked about the same as it did post-rebellion. Of course, many of the neighborhoods were full of longtime Detroiters, many determined to do what they could by manicuring their lawns and looking after each other. But much of the area was polluted with burnt-out storefronts and dilapidated houses; remnants of residents and people who left and never came back. There were also multiple crime pockets littered throughout the area.

Money's father was murdered when he was 5 years old, leaving him to navigate the streets and adulthood on his own.

"I ain't gonna say I didn't have no guidance, but I didn't have no guidance for real, for real," he says. "You know, I was just looking for that father figure... ya feel me?"

Even though Money had three older siblings (and five younger ones), he was still the neighborhood's little bro; a kid everybody genuinely loved.

"I've always been Baby Los," he says. "That was my first name, or 'Dollar,' because I used to always ask people for dollars. I used to go around the hood and have a bankroll in my pocket, get a dollar from everybody, and then go shoot dice with the older people."

Money split time between the streets and the basketball court. He was a left-handed point guard with a knack for getting to the rim. Many of his peers felt he had college potential.

"I was nice! That's our court on Hazelwood between Byron and Woodrow Wilson," he says. "I actually wanna find somebody to redo that court."

That same court was also the old stomping grounds for Detroit native and NBA all star Derrick Coleman. Colman had kept ownership of his childhood home on Hazelwood Street during his playing days, and after retirement he evolved into a community leader and youth mentor while starting his own basketball summer league. (Coleman also served as commissioner of athletics of DPS for a short period of time.) Money met Coleman through his godfather, and the former NBA star took him under his wing.

"I was real, real close to [Coleman]," he says. "He was like an uncle. Every year he would take us Christmas shopping to Toys "R" Us or Best Buy. I played on all his teams. I got to meet the Pistons, [Allen] Iverson, some of everybody."

By the time Money was 15, his relationship with basketball and school had reached an impasse. Lunchtime freestyles and layup lines were fun, but getting money in the streets was better. Ninth grade would be the last year he would be a member of a team, and he went on to get his GED.

"I started making money in school," he says. "You get that big head. I was young. I regret it now, though. People had so much fun in school. I would go back to school in a minute ... hooping was my main focus in life, though. The music was just for fun."

Hip-hop had always had a strong presence in Money's life and household. He had grown up listening to 50 Cent, Rock Bottom, Team Eastside, Doughboyz Cashout, Stretch Money, Blade Icewood, and Street Lord Juan. His dad, who went by Los, was a member of a Detroit rap group that went by the name the Cash Cartel. He can also be seen in the movie 8 Mile wearing a black jacket, standing a bit away behind a feisty Eminem during his last battle rap scenes. (It's been well-documented that the crowds in the battle rap scenes were mostly made up of Detroit hip-hop artists.) Money had always known his father was an emcee, but had never heard any of this music due to a house fire at his dad's friend's house.

"People used to always talk about it," Money says. "Dada, he was like my cousin, he used to always rap the song to me, but he had never found the song."

This past March, his aunt was able to obtain the song and share it with him. "One day she was like, 'check your email,'" he says. "The song was there. That was my first time hearing his voice. He was in that era when they was talking about the struggle-struggle. I didn't even know some of the stuff he was talking about."

As school and basketball faded out the picture, hip-hop became the only thing that could compete with Money's focus on the streets. "It was a family thing," he says. "My big brothers, Domo, Joc, my cousin. 1800it is my producer, he took me to my first studio ever on Grand River and Seven Mile. It started off as fun, just trying to see if we could even make a song. They taught me how to lay four bars down."

For his first few trips to the studio, he was there in more of an entourage role, there to support his big bros behind the mic. But as the months played out, his family saw something in him before he even saw it in himself.

"My brothers had always told me I was sweet,'" he says. "It got to the point where after we did the first song, they taking me to the studio like, 'We making sure Los rap, nobody else doing no songs but Los.'"

Money took the nudge, matched it with his own energy, and began recording and releasing his own music. He made waves when he dropped the single "Bum Bum" in 2015, and made even more with the 2016 single and video, "Intro."

"'Intro' was when I started dropping every week," he says. "That's when I started focusing on me. I didn't even like doing features no more."

"Intro" had all the dramatic sonics and graphic urban lyrics that the Detroit trap sound is known for. Though still a new artist, Money's flow and ferocity showed he wasn't going to be playing too many games in the minor leagues of Detroit rap.

"All I hear is shoot that and shoot this/ in the hoop game you pussy niggas wouldn't shoot shit," he raps. "I should be in Hollywood the way my niggas shoot clips/ when I say I'm punching in I ain't talking about no shit."

Money would go on to drop two albums in 2017: Sosa World and Baby Brothers. Even with the early promise he showed as an hip-hop artist, Money continued to spend more time engulfed in street life than studio sessions. "It was about a 70-30 ratio," he says through a shrug.

In the midst of having one leg in music and the other firmly planted in the streets, his friend Sosa was murdered.

"That was my brother, my best friend," he says. "He couldn't even rap, but he would be more ready to go to the studio than I was. It was something he really wanted me to do, so I had to be sure I kept pushing."

click to enlarge Baby Money performed at RedBull SoundClash earlier this year. - Kahn Santori Davison
Kahn Santori Davison
Baby Money performed at RedBull SoundClash earlier this year.

By 2019, Money was taking music more seriously, and his quality and quantity showed. Time a Tell was the most cohesive project he had released up to that point, which he followed with standout verses on Dej Loaf's "RAT" and 42 Dugg's "Light This Bitch Up" in 2020. He closed out a pandemic-filled 2020 with two more projects, Impatient and Blank Checc, and opened 2021 with his biggest hit to date, "Moncler Bubble" off his Young Nigga Old Soul album that was realeased months later. Money admits he wasn't a fan of the song at first, and had no idea it would be his first signature song.

"That song was an irritating song," he says. "I didn't go to the studio to do that song, but my big brother kept talking to me, saying, 'You need to talk like yo old self!' That's why I say, 'This that Baby Los asking for dollars.'"

"Moncler Bubble" is an urban anthem, a celebration of Money's rags-to-riches come-up and his acknowledgement that the Lil Bro from 12 Street has made it. "Moncler bubbles for the times we ain't had shit/ This that Baby Los that did cash flips/ This that Baby Los that drink Actavis," he raps.

Money filmed the video for the song at his first out-of-state performance in Dayton, Ohio, and recorded a remix featuring fellow Detroit hip-hop all-stars Babyface Ray and Peezy that dropped several months later. The original has racked up 2.5 million YouTube views, and the remix an additional 1.5 million more.

"A lot of people think I got signed off 'Moncler Bubble,' but I didn't," he says. "I got signed off 'Impatient' and 'Chrome Heart.'"

As inquiries from record labels started to roll in, Money and his team sought the best opportunity that fit him musically and economically. On the business end, they wanted more of a partnership and an artist-friendly contract. Musically, they wanted the freedom to record and curate music without being micromanaged. They took a trip to New York in September of 2021 to meet with Alamo Records, and while there they talked to representatives from Capitol, Warner, and Columbia. However, a record label 900 miles away reached out and Baby Money's decision was made.

Wayno, born Wayne Clark, is a New York native who was a manager and A&R for Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records.

"I got another manager named Q, he got a cousin named Noodles," Money says. "Him and Wayno is like from the same side of New York. So I went down there, played my music, he called Wayno at 3 a.m., woke him up like, 'I got this kid you gotta hear, I need you to listen to his music.'"

Days before Baby Money's arrival in New York, Clark had accepted an A&R position at the Atlanta-based Quality Control Music, home to hip-hop acts Migos, Lil Yachty, City Girls, and Lil Baby (just to name a few). Clark contacted Quality Control CEO Pierre "P" Thomas about Baby Money, and Thomas was immediately interested, sending Money a direct message on Instagram. (Money had actually sent a direct message to Thomas five years earlier pitching himself to QC.)

"QC made an offer that was for both of us to win," Money says. "In my mind, I was signed when I got that DM, but the paperwork was worked out in a month. I signed in October but we announced it in January."

A month after the announcement, Money released his seventh project and first with QC, Easy Money. The 12-track album showed right up front that QC was going to let Baby Money be Baby Money. His sound and lyrics were raw and Detroit as they had ever been.

"I got freedom," he says. "They want your opinion on everything that's about you."

Money also feels his patience and focus on what he wanted before he signed his record deal can be a learning example for other aspiring artists. "I always look at the long run," he says. "Don't let nobody give you a certain amount of money for right now and have you locked into something. Don't move too quick, make sure you read your contract. You might be signing your life away if you don't read it."

Baby Money's phenomenal year didn't come without a setback. In March he was sentenced to 90 days in jail for a probation violation due to a positive drug test for lean (a recreational drug beverage that's usually a mixture of promethazine and pop). He admits he's been off and on probation since he's been 17. "Everytime I would get off, I'm getting back on and it's always some bullshit," he says, shaking his head. Money says his probation violation was a lesson learned, and he's put lean and all other street activity behind him. "That lean weak, it ain't even worth it," he adds.

“I always look at the long run. … Don’t move too quick, make sure you read your contract. You might be signing your life away if you don’t read it.”

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Money was released in June fully sober and focused. He dropped his eighth project, New Money, in September. Again, his growth and creativity behind the mic was obvious. On "Tables Turn," a song he originally wrote in jail, he raps: "I done watched the odds change, guess the tables really turned/ I done watched the vibes change, but it's turned up my earnings/ I'm the teacher and the student, 'cause ain't nothin' wrong with learning/ I could smell the opps burning, streets cold with three thermals."

Along with crafty bars, much of what has made Baby Money successful behind the mic has been a very authoritative tone he has in his voice. You feel his energy behind the bars just as clearly as you see the picture he's lyrically painting. Whether he's rapping about getting money or going against his opps, he makes you feel like you're doing it all with him.

On "Pyrex," he raps, "It's a lot of drama in my life, it ain't no problem/ I'm still puttin' Prada on my mama, I make commas by the hour."

And in "Remember Me" he goes like an all-trap Bob Ross: "Seventh letter in the alphabet, I been a G/ A pint of red in a pop look like grenadine."

"He's got a different kind of flow than everybody else," says longtime friend A1. "He young and he talking bout things that niggas over 30 be talking about. He's always advanced."

Money says he goes to the studio daily. He says he rarely writes songs out in advance, and prefers to let the vibe of the beat dictate what kind of song he writes.

"The studio for me is a chill session. I record myself, so it's like I'm about to sit in a chair and talk to the mic," he says. "I record five or six songs a night ... Somedays I make one song, some days I don't make no songs, because I didn't get the beat I wanted."

click to enlarge Baby Money promises more business ventures and better music moving forward. - Kahn Santori Davison
Kahn Santori Davison
Baby Money promises more business ventures and better music moving forward.

Moving forward, Money is trying to find a way to be more vulnerable in his music. Part of the appeal of hip-hop greats like Tupac, DMX, and Scarface has been their transparency. Money has the stories to tell, but he's not quite sure when or if he wants to tell them.

"I got a problem telling people my problems and the shit I went through because people will use that against you," he says. "I gotta open up more on that part. I talk about it, but I went through so much that people wouldn't believe it. The shit I rap about be crazy, but the shit I don't say be even crazier."

This past August, Detroit hip-hop superstar Icewear Vezzo became labelmates with Baby Money when he also signed to QC. Icewear and Money are from two different hip-hop draft classes, so it's kind of like Chauncey Billips joining Cade Cunningham on a dream team. This past October, the two (along with Babyface Ray) were featured on the cover of Billboard magazine.

"That's my brother right there," he says. "That felt good, especially for the city. I used to always see him and it was always love. We've been able to do a couple of songs together."

Money is focused not just on himself but on his family as a whole. He understands he has an opportunity to create the kind of generational wealth that can financially secure his family for years to come. With that understanding comes the need to stay focused on his goals and to keep his circle tight. (Insert Drake's "No New Friends" mantra.)

"I don't feel any pressure, but I gotta keep winning," he says. "I wanna get to that point where nobody working. Thats what I want ... You can't let nobody get in your pocket, except for yo mamma. Yo mamma deserves everything. I've always been a man since I was a kid — the house, the car, and the money. So it just made me tightened up, because you don't know who your friends are at this point."

"It's fun to see him grow into a man in this industry" says his manager Darylynn Mumphord. "It's my little brother to me, it's not just business. It's a heartfelt thing. I really want to see him make it."

Baby Money promises more business ventures and better music moving forward. He has his own line of "Baby's BBQ Potato Chips" coming soon. ("We eatin!" reads the bag in a photo he posted on Instagram.) Still, Money acknowledges that he still isn't quite feeling the gravity of his success.

"It ain't kicked in yet," he says. "The goal is so big and I'm just going through the levels. I ain't nowhere right now yet."

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