It was 1994 when groundbreaking hip-hop outfit (and martial arts enthusiasts) Wu-Tang Clan penned the lyrics “cash rules everything around me,” creating both a mantra for hustlers everywhere and a future caption for crappy Instagram photos of rich kids living off their parents’ success.
While Wu-Tang weren’t the first artists to write about financial matters, they certainly honed in the all-encompassing role money plays in our modern lives. Songs about money are a natural development.
Musicians throughout the years have taken to the mic to celebrate (or lament) their surplus (or lack) of capital — oftentimes imparting advice to the listener about how they, too, can manage their cash flow. It begs the question: What can we learn about financial literacy from the Billboard Hot 100? Here we breakdown six memorable money tips from musicians moonlighting as financial planners in their songs.
1. Mo Money, Mo Problems by the Notorious B.I.G. featuring Mase and Puff Daddy
This posthumous Biggie Smalls track popularized its titular phrase, a self-evident statement that has resonated across many professions. It’s perhaps best remembered for vocalist Kelly Price’s interpolation of Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” melody, wherein she sings “the more money we come across, the more problems we see.” However, equal credit is due to Biggie for his third verse bars:
“I got the dough, got the flow down pizat, platinum plus like thizat, dangerous on trizacks, leave your ass flizat.”
In short, Big Poppa emphasizes the importance of knowing your worth. Despite the inevitable problems with managing additional wealth, understanding your own professional value (whether in the form of an iconic baritone flow or social media management) can ensure your cash stays stacked for years to come.
2. Money by Pink Floyd
A stuttering 7/4 time signature helps give this Pink Floyd track its grimy, grooving energy. But it’s David Gilmour’s lyrics on balancing a sense of social obligation with a personal desire to hoard wealth that makes “Money” the deeply conflicted song it is:
“Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today. But if you ask for a rise, it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away.”
This lyric serves as a reminder to be neither cheap nor over-generous. It’s possible for you to have your cake and eat it too, to donate to charity (and engage in some socially responsible investing) while looking out for your own best interests. You don’t have to be Mother Teresa, though no one’s recommending you be Gordon Gekko, either.
3. You Never Give Me Your Money by the Beatles
Oh, did you think we would do “Can’t Buy Me Love”? We’re more into the deep cuts, and this sobering song about the Beatles’ financial quagmires imparts advice on how to manage money with your partner — be it in business or in life:
“You never give me your money, you only give me your funny paper, and in the middle of negotiations you break down.”
“Funny paper” in this case refers to financial statements and legalese-ridden documents that obscure the problems at hand, an example of how not to communicate with your partner about your finances. In any sort of partnership, it’s important to be truthful and clear about your plans so you can jointly succeed, lest you engage in any sort of financial infidelity. Honesty is the best policy, folks.
4. Rich Girl by Hall & Oates
Daryl Hall and John Oates’ diss track about cruising through life on Dad’s dime climbed to the top of the charts in 1977. It still offers a timeless axiom on financial independence:
“You can get along if you try to be strong, but you’ll never be strong ’cause you’re a rich girl.”
Hall and Oates aren’t looking to admonish the wealthy (fitting given their joint $80 million net worth). Rather, this song is meant to critique the idea of taking a handout from your parents instead of earning your own money.
Establishing financial independence is key to living a fulfilling life, and it’s important to guarantee you can pave your own way, though that shouldn’t stop you from getting reasonable financial help when it’s absolutely necessary.
5. Gold Digger by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx
Sidestepping the problematic elements of this track (and West in general), “Gold Digger” is best remembered for Jamie Foxx’s contemporary interpretation of the chorus from Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” as well as this Kanye lyric, which I have heard screamed in unison at far too many college parties:
“If you ain’t no punk, holla, ‘We want prenup! We want prenup!’ (Yeah!)
It’s somethin’ that you need to have, ’cause when she leave yo ass, she gon’ leave with half.”
Let’s also ignore for a minute that West himself initially wanted no prenuptial agreement for his marriage to Kim Kardashian (as well as the fact that her net worth of $370 million well exceeds Kanye’s estimated $240 million valuation) and focus on the importance of planning for the future, even the unfortunate hypotheticals.
No one wants to acknowledge the possibility of divorce, but it’s a necessary reality. About 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, according to the American Psychological Association. So protect your neck (and your wealth) by having uncomfortable conversations before you marry, if possible.
6. Bitch Better Have My Money by Rihanna
Saving the heat for last, RiRi’s aggressive 2015 trap banger reminds us that she is not someone to be trifled with, especially if you come for her spot (or forget to pay her what’s rightfully hers), reminding us with this memorable lyric:
“I call the shots, shots, shots… pay me what you owe me, don’t act like you forgot, bitch better have my money.”
Even if you’re in debt to her, it’s unlikely that Rihanna will kneecap you in the parking lot while you leave work. Nevertheless, it’s important to pay off debts as quickly as possible. Accumulating interest or damaging your credit score may not be as bad as physical injury, but it can still hurt you (financially) in the long run.
The Bottom Line: What Songs About Money Can Teach You
We cannot in good faith advise that you receive financial advice solely from popular music. We’re inclined to recommend you turn to the professionals. However, if you’re trying to get your financial act together, or looking to continue building good money habits, these six bops can be catchy motivators to attain your goals. Tune in, rock out, and get it done.