*If you caught hip-hop star Scarface during his 28-city “Scarface Icon Tour”, you may have noticed a deceptively familiar face behind the merchandise table. It was none other than Money B of Grammy-nominated group Digital Underground. Rest assured the pioneering artist born Ron Brooks hasn’t fallen off.
“It’s all relative to the situation,” he tells EURweb. “This is a Scarface show. So it’s people who see me and think I look like Money B but think, ‘No that couldn’t be him. Not back there…with the shirts!’
“It’s cool to kind of lay low,” he continues, “because later in the show Scarface calls me on stage,” to perform his verse from Tupac classic “I Get Around.” Afterward fans approach him in drones requesting to take pictures, he says. “And it’s cool. They’re not expecting to see me.”
What Money B is expecting is to further the longevity of his near 30-year career. He sat down with Electronic Urban Report/EUR associate Mr. Joe Walker to discuss touring with Scarface, his radio show, and being at the forefront of the digital era.
EUR: Okay, MoneyB, you’re not advertised on the “Scarface Icon Tour” bill. Tell us how you benefit from being a surprise performer at a live show like this.
Money B: To come out with Scarface? I’ve known Scarface for over 20 years. He’s got a solid following and fan base, and some of his fans are my fans too. It’s just cool to be able to go around the country and reconnect with the people in a way that I haven’t in a few years; they see me, they can touch me, they see me with Scarface.
EUR: Surely when they see you they want to know what you’re up, what you’re working on. What can you tell us?
Money B: It’s a trip because I’m actually booking shows and doing shows with Young Hump who is the new member of Digital Underground. He does the Humpty character. We get a lot of love. I’m working on a few new projects that will be coming out at the end of the year. Plus, I was a part of this Tupac movie that’s being made, and it’s coming out later this year. I’ll probably be thrusted back into the limelight, and people will be like, oh snap, I just saw him 6 months ago with Scarface.
EUR: You’ve amassed lots of fans and friends over nearly 3 decades. Tell us why it’s been important to build relationships.
Money B: When you’ve been consistent musically and personally over decades of time, people know what to expect from you. You build your brand as a person as well. As you travel, coming back through the cities over and over again, and you’re the same person, they trust you. They’ll grab your new product when you put it out, they’ll go see you because they know you put on a good performance, and they support you because they know you’re a good person. That counts for something.
EUR: Having thrived as an artist for so long now what is it that counts the most?
Money B: To make good music according to me, not according to what’s happening out there. Not making what I think the youngsters want to hear. I’m just going to make good music. Whether it sells or it doesn’t I need to feel comfortable knowing I did what I wanted to do. I presented myself, not trying to keep up. Veterans, established artists, old school, classic artists, whatever you want to call us, many of us feel like we have to keep up with the younger audience. But you don’t have to because you’ve grown up, and your fans have grown up as well. They remember you and like you for what you did. So continue to give them that.
EUR: You’re not going to give them exactly the same sound, right? Do you incorporate any elements from current music?
Money B: Everyone evolves and advances, so I’ll take some elements from the things that I like that’s happening now, but I’m not trying to sound like anybody. This new project I’m doing, Money B and Young Hump, I want to bring back that party, that good, warm vibe. Bring back that feeling you got when you heard Sex Packets. It’s not going to sound the same, but I want that energy and that vibe.
EUR: There’s been a number of classic artists joining forces for old school hip-hop tours. For the fans it’s no doubt for that energy and vibe you just mentioned. For the artists it seems to be about respect.
Money B: From my experience there’s always mutual respect. On my radio show in LA, The Goin Way Back Show, I highlight and celebrate classic music and classic artists. When they come on my show…I already know them. We toured together, we partied together. And whatever they have out now I’m going to promote it, making sure they get the shine that I can give them with my platform.
EUR: That’s great because top radio stations that play current music won’t play new music from veteran hip-hop artists.
Money B: Big Daddy Kane could make the hottest record, but the power station is not going to jump on it because they feel like he’s past his prime even though he rhymes better than half the artists that’s out now! I had a joint with him and Bumpy Knuckles last year – killing it. He understands like I do we can’t hope to get spins on the power station.
EUR: Right, so what do you have to do?
Money B: We have to deal with what’s in front of us – like me doing shows with Scarface. He’s packing the house with his fans, and they’re not 17 and 18 years old. Some of them are, but the majority of them are not. With Digital Underground we do college towns. They know us because their parents played us, and they think we make cool music. And you’ll get that, but you we have to cater to your base of fans.
EUR: That’s where the internet and social networking comes into play. Money B, I know something about you that a lot of people not in your immediate likely don’t; you were one of the first artists to use the internet to market an LP, your 1999 solo debut, Talkin’ Dirty.
Money B: I knew I was at the forefront of it. When my partner Mike Pierson approached me about it at the time I didn’t even know a lot about the internet. We did the online campaign, and he was the first person to show me how to get fans’ information and save it to build that fan base. I understood that early on, even before the internet blew up and took off.
EUR: And here you are nearly 20 years later still gaining exposure using the internet, having a conversation with such an established and respected online publication as Lee Bailey’s EURweb.
Money B. I did an interview for Lee Bailey a long time ago too. When we first came out, like 1989, The Poetess, who was a radio personality in Los Angeles, was working for Lee Bailey. We did that interview when we first came out, so this is like coming full circle. Shout out to Lee Bailey!
For more on Money B and his radio show, The Goin Way Back Show, visit moneyb-digitalunderground.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @moneyb69.
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, journalist, and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer for Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com. Also managing editor of Liquid Arts & Entertainment Magazine, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Like him on Facebook, follow on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit his official blog.