“Fast money equals short life,” rapper G of StreetSmartz101 assures us on “Money Talk.” He doesn’t sound overly alarmed, moralizing, or disinclined to chase after cash. He’s just reporting the news — and speaking with the authority of lived experience. G and his partners in the Ocala, FL hip-hop crew are unsparing for a reason: they’ve already overcome plenty of challenges, and they’re under no illusions that their trials are over. They’ve seen poverty, crime, desperation, violence, discrimination, and plenty of lust for dollars among their unscrupulous peers. They’ve had to beat long odds to get as far as they have, and G raps like he knows it.
So maybe it’s not so remarkable that “Money Talk” sounds as joyous, poised, and confident as it does. The members of StreetSmartz101 are survivors, and that alone is a good reason to celebrate. It’s a tough game they’re playing, but they’re well acquainted with the rules, and they know how to work the angles. And as ruthless and practical as they can be, they aren’t amoral. They’ve demonstrated that clearly on their 2021 singles “Black Tears,” an elegy for Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and others killed by the police, and “Queen’s Anthem,” a celebration of African-American womanhood. They know exactly where they’re at and the scope of the problems they’re facing.
They also know their limits. In the first verse of “Money Talk,” G tells us that if we’re not talking about money, that’s not his business — and that isn’t just a play on words. The members of StreetSmartz101 don’t judge or scold; they’ve been through too much for that. They’re giving you hard, muscular, straightforward rhymes over menacing trap beats, delivered by a veteran rapper whose entertainment instincts are never overwhelmed by his desire to communicate. “Money Talk” also caught the ear of Russ’s tour DJ, DJCalvin. Without hesitation, DJCalvin featured “Money Talk” on his BACK 2 DA BASICS mixtape hosted by platinum recording artist FUTURE. The mixtape is currently ranked 17th on the mixcloud.com global hip-hop charts.
In the video for “Money Talk,” just above his stylish white sneakers, G wears a tracking bracelet around his ankle. It’s a reminder of his run-ins with the law, his time spent in the penal system, and the culture of electronic surveillance that we’re all living in. The directors at Moskino Films specialize in blunt-edged, street storytelling, and they bring the same casual roughneck energy to their work for StreetSmartz101 that they did for Cha$in Truth, Coombs, Coop Deville, and other rappers. They’ve got plenty of digital tricks for us, too, including cut-outs, freeze-frames, some quick-moving animation, and sudden bursts of flame. But the heart of the video is the footage of G’s performance — frank, direct, oddly endearing, ducking nothing, wholly committed to the truth and its consequences.
How have your Ocala, Florida, roots influenced your music? At what moment did you know you wanted to start taking your craft seriously and chasing success in the hip-hop music industry?
Music has always been a part of my everyday life growing up in Ocala. From Gospel, R&B, Soft Rock, Blues, and Hip- Hop. I started taking it seriously from the things I saw in my environment. Just like any other intercity kid, you are a product of your environment. Our family grew up in the era of the WAR ON DRUGS!!!! So by me being the eldest, I just reported what I saw and what I was doing.
How and when did the members of StreetSmartz101 join forces? What brought you together, and what is each of your roles in the group?
The group consists of family members. G, Dappa Fresh, TR, Mii, Polo, and BJones. The group has always been together. After my release from Federal prison (G), I knew I had to change my life and what I was doing. So I told the family, this is the option. Either we continue selling drugs and get life sentences behind bars or we share our story unapologetically. (Laughing) We all chose the latter.
G- my role is as the leader. Making sure everyone stays on point and keeps focused.
Dappa Fresh- role is to make sure the younger guys understand the vision and priorities of being artists.
TR- role is to make sure the group stays current with fresh ideas.
Mii- role is to help with production.
Polo- role is to bridge the gap with different generations. He’s the youngest.
BJones- role is to keep the tracks soulful and smooth on the R&B tip.
What has this past year been like for StreetSmartz101 with your many releases leading up to “Money Talk”?
It’s been a lot of hard work. As an independent artist, you basically wear a lot of hats. Production, Administration, Recording, you get the picture. (Laughing)
What was your inspiration for “Money Talk”? How have your life experiences to date shaped the song’s lyrics, and in what ways do you connect with the lyrics that hold such real, deep and true significance?
Reflecting on my time spent in Federal prison. I was able to be honest with myself. I had to come to grips with my actions. That’s why I lead with the” Money Talk” single. I had to take responsibility. But also, I wanted to allow the listeners into the mind state of a pretty successful ex-drug dealer.
What were your initial reactions and thoughts about DJCalvin ranking “Money Talk” 17th on the global hip-hop charts?
Man, I hit him up quickly to thank him for the opportunity of a lifetime. DjCalvin is one of the prominent dj’s in Atlanta. The reason I really F with Calv is what he does for his community and his people. And most definitely an independent artist. He really doesn’t have to do it but he loves hip-hop so much. He also loves the underdog who’s willing to work hard. I can’t say enough about that guy. REAL PEOPLE!!!!!!
What message are you hoping listeners and viewers take from “Money Talk”?
I hope that they realize that for every action there is a reaction. Especially for the younger generations. As a group, we have a lot of experience to share and talk about what really is happening in the streets. That’s why the name fits us well, STREETSMARTZ101….