In hip-hop, iced-out chains, bands of Benjamins and custom Lamborghinis are flaunted as a signifier that you’ve made it big, and the best way to get there is by being yourself. The key to building a long-lasting career is authenticity—rappers who put out a fake persona to their fans often fall by the wayside. On the surface, Tay Money is a white girl who grew up on a cattle farm in a tiny Texan town, but deep down, she’s always been a bubble rap Barbie. “Tay Money, I’ve always had her in me,” Money says. “It took a few years to groom her because I was growing up and doing things to be cool. Now, I’m doing things because it’s who the hell I am.”

While Money has always been her true self, it took a few years for the Tay Money we know today to come to fruition. Growing up, she excelled at softball and earned a scholarship to play in college. Then, when that didn’t pan out, she put her focus on something she’d always loved—doing hair. “I’d been addicted to getting highlights since my mom first let me get them in the fifth grade and after that, it was over,” Money says. “Doing hair was awesome because every client is different and I wasn’t doing the same thing over and over again. It’s also so awesome to see their face and you can tell how good they feel about themselves when you’re done.”

Photos by Ahmad Jordan

Photos by Ahmad Jordan

While Money loved working at a job that allowed her to express her creativity, five years in she realized she had a knack for spitting bars. She began making music out of her friend’s closet in late 2017 and it wasn’t long before the success of her debut single, “Trapper’s Delight,” pushed her to pursue her dream of a more fulfilling future.

“I was going through a very rough, emotional time in my life and that same day I received the video for ‘Trapper’s Delight,’” Money says. “I remember I was weeping after having this horrible day, then I posted the video and the very next day, it was like my whole life changed. It was like something was being taken away from me and God gave me something even better.”

Photos by Ahmad Jordan

Photos by Ahmad Jordan

Once her debut single took off, there was no going back to her old life in Athens, Texas. Money tried to hold on to her job as a hairstylist, as a promise she made to her mother, but after some pleading from her managers, she finally cut the cord. “I just couldn’t seem to let go of it because you don’t hear about things like this happening and if you do, it’s not happening to you,” Money says. “I held on for as long as I could. Then they gave me $10,000 and I quit the shit out of it.”

Since leaving the salon for good, Tay Money has released a number of viral singles and, as a newbie, has already collaborated with big-name talent like DaBaby and YNW Melly. Despite her rapid success, she remains unsigned and has no intentions of committing to a record label any time soon. “I definitely see myself [eventually being] signed to a label, I just want it to be the right fit for me,” Money says. “The reason I’ve chosen to stay independent is because I don’t think I’m at my full potential. I’ve got to show them who I am and when they need me, then we can work together.”

From day one, Money has been all about keeping it 100, from her rhymes to her wardrobe to the trajectory of her career. She’s never been about following in the footsteps of anyone else, and when her songs start popping off on the radio, you best believe fans worldwide will be eating it up. So just you wait, America, Tay Money 2020 is coming your way.

Photos by Ahmad Jordan

Photos by Ahmad Jordan