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by jon chattman

photos by evan kaucher

fashion stylist: mickey freeman

stylist assistant: lisa stapleton

This year has been marginally better for most of us than the dreadful clusterfuck that was 2020. For Moneybagg Yo, however, it’s been more than that. It’s been a breakthrough. A revelation. A game changer. For Moneybagg, born DeMario DeWayne White, Jr., it’s been the year he cruised past other hip-hop luminaries to score the year’s highest selling rap album with “A Gangsta’s Pain.” It’s been a year of playing sold-out fests, earning MTV VMA and BET nods, and appearing on countless late night talk shows. There was also that 28-acre parcel of land he scored as a birthday gift from his girlfriend, but we’re going to focus on his music and, obviously, his tattoo choices (more on that later). It’s been success incarnate for Moneybagg Yo all year long, yet in no way does the artist intend to “stay comfortable.”

A few weeks before the release of the deluxe edition of “A Gangsta’s Pain”—appropriately subtitled “Reloaded”—and in the midst of a tour alongside Fredo Bang, Big30, Big Homiie G, Blacc Zacc and Tripstar, Moneybagg discussed putting out music during these pandemic times, collaborating with other artists, and the ink that fills most of his body. “I can’t count how many [tattoos I have],” the multi-platinum hip-hop artist says. “A lot of people don’t think I have space but I’m in the process of doing my sides and my back. It may be the last thing I do.”

photos by evan kaucher, Vest: Private Policy NY Pants: Private Policy NY Hat: Private Policy NY Shoes: Dolce & Gabbana

photos by evan kaucher, Vest: Private Policy NY Pants: Private Policy NY Hat: Private Policy NY Shoes: Dolce & Gabbana

The last thing he’ll do tattoo-wise, that is; his music career has no expiration date. The first single off of his six-track “A Gangsta’s Pain: Reloaded” is a remix of his hit “Wockesha” with Lil Wayne and Ashanti—the latter of whom has her classic “Foolish” flowing throughout—and the song is crushing it, which is surprising to no one. The original netted over 318 million streams to date around the world, and well over that number by the time this article reaches your eyeballs. “Wockesha” was one of three tracks that topped the charts consecutively, alongside “Said Sum” and “Time Today.”

The deluxe edition of the album is likely going to add to that tally. Along with the Ashanti and Lil Wayne track, there are collaborations with artists including Lil Durk, Pooh Shiesty, Ja’niyah & Yung Bleu and DJ Khaled, the latter of whom appropriately appears on the track “Another One.” Moneybagg says he did the deluxe version of the album simply because the fans requested it. “I’m the biggest giver so I gave it,” he explains. “I even have a song on the deluxe titled ‘Gave It!’”

Working with other artists isn’t anything new for Moneybagg, who has collaborated with everyone from Future to Yo Gotti. The perks of working with other talent is two-fold. First and arguably foremost, Moneybagg says it allows him to continue to grow as an artist by sort of being a sponge. “I feel like no matter what level you get, you can’t stay comfortable,” he says. “You have to stay, like, the student.”

The other benefit of working with other artists—and he admits sometimes the timing is off and it results in simply messaging each other verses or music back and forth—is that it allows him to “tap into their fanbase.”  

photos by evan kaucher, Shirt: Private Policy NY Pants: Private Policy NY Shoes: Nike

photos by evan kaucher, Shirt: Private Policy NY Pants: Private Policy NY Shoes: Nike

While Moneybagg enjoys the process of collaborating, he’s not trying to emulate anybody’s career, just to live his own. “No need for that,” he exclaims. “This is God given. [What’s] for me is for me. What’s for someone else is for them.”

While the pandemic has kept so many of us inside and out of touch, things haven’t really changed much for Moneybagg in regards to his musical process, so expect more in the new year. “I was really in the studio anyway, I’m always locked in,” he says, noting that work is often therapeutic for him before and during these unsettling times. “I’ve usually always been in the studio about what I’m going to do [next].”

As he tours the world and preps another album, Moneybagg is planning on spending what little free time he has filling the rest of his body with tattoos. Getting inked is something the artist has done since he was 16, and it’s not something he takes lightly. Every tattoo has been well thought out, and in the case of his first bit of artwork, a stroke of genius. Knowing his mother wouldn’t exactly be pumped about his decision, he got his mother’s name emblazoned on his neck. His mother was still not pleased, but it likely took the sting out a bit.

“She didn’t want me to get it but I did,” he recalls. “When I showed her, she was like, ‘I told you not to get it… ah, you did my name.’” From that moment, he became “addicted” to tattoos. He said it became a “weekend” thing where he’d go into the “hood” and get a new tattoo. And while he has no regrets about any of his tattoos, he has gotten some of them redone. “You know, I remember thinking, ‘This is on my skin. This shit needs to look good,” he laughs.

photos by evan kaucher, Shirt: Dolce & Gabbana  Pants: Dolce & Gabbana

photos by evan kaucher, Shirt: Dolce & Gabbana  Pants: Dolce & Gabbana

One tattoo that got altered was an old nickname. “My nickname used to be Little Yo,” he says. “So I touched that up. I had to take the ‘little’ off.” But while he had that changed, Moneybagg stresses every tattoo matters. “Everything can have meaning, there’s a reason why we got these,” he notes. “Tattoos are a way of expressing yourself, telling what you have been through and what you have overcome.”

Each of Moneybagg’s tattoos holds weight. He just had his arm, chest and legs done all at the same time. “Three days back-to-back and got tatted for my birthday,” he says. “My left leg was for my four little girls, my right leg was for my four little boys. It just felt unique for the eight to get split in half. I want to show them off. They’re in a spot where I can.”

And while he’s not sure how he’s going to fill the rest of his body just yet, he’s putting different ideas together very seriously like everything he does—musically and in life. “Whatever you feel like believing in, you have to go hard with it.”