Black Kray, Kane Groceries, MFK Marcy Mane, and Luckaleann of Goth Money / Photos by Justin Staple and Andreas Brauning
“I can’t even talk to you. I want to, but I’m rolling up, man.”
Goth Money Records member Luckaleann doesn’t have to explain himself. I can see him clearly, through my sun-soaked computer screen, licking a string bean-sized blunt while sitting outside a Starbucks on Melrose Avenue on a bright fall afternoon in Los Angeles. He’s there with the other five members of Goth Money, who are huddled closely together around the screen, a sardine can of fashion-forward young MCs peering back at me. Normally, with their eclectic range of influences and musical styles, it’d be a fool’s errand to try to put the group in a box. But today I’ve managed to do so in one only 12 inches wide.
The occasion marks one of the first times the whole group has done an interview together. With almost every member hailing from a different part of the country, it’s a daunting task to get the full lineup present and accounted for. Add that to the fact that a few of these guys are still minors—the group’s age range stretches from late teens to barely 20-somethings—and it’s kind of a miracle that I have them all in front of me. No one’s more excited about this than the group themselves, who are all crashing at member MFK Marcy Mane’s house for the week. The smiles that crack their faces when I ask them what they’ve been up to signify that they’ve been having a lot of fun—some of which perhaps of the mischievous kind. “We just be bonding,” member Karmah says coyly.
Being together is something Goth Money is getting more accustomed to, thanks to their growing popularity. Originally formed in 2013 through creative friendships forged online, the group has gained a strong following with their brand of melodic, hazy-sounding trap music, which is spread across dozens of releases on their Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages. To go along with their prolific music output, they’ve cultivated an eclectic aesthetic, a product of being kids of the Information Age and having every sort of cool just a click away. Their logo is an homage to the blingy Cash Money Records’ dollar sign; their album covers are cut to mimic the grandiose CD artwork put out by No Limit Records in the 90s. They wear black T-shirts with cheesy middle-school rap-rock bands on them, like Korn. They shoot their videos on grainy VHS tapes. And they cite everyone from Madlib to DJ Screw as influences. All these things are rooted in the past, but live on in the depths of the internet. Having grown up online, Goth Money are simply pulling from what they know.
But during our hour-long conversation, there's also a genuine earnestness that goes well beyond a checklist of varied cultural reference points. Some of them share with me that they’re coming from rough situations back home. Rather than dwelling on the negativity of their circumstances, they’ve decided as a group to focus on the positive. It’s a theme that underlines Trillionaires, their stated debut as a collective, which dropped on Halloween. Amid the record’s rolling hi-hats, flip phone references (the group has a borderline obsession with cell phones) and shout outs to “flexico,” a fictitious place they use sort of as an adlib, you’ll hear the group’s members subtly advocating for peace and love. Talking with them face to face, this emphasis on positivity is more visible—member Kane Groceries has the word tattooed on his face. “Negativity is just going to hold me back,” he tells me.
Kane, I learn, is one of the more vocal members of the group. Opposite to him on the scale is Black Kray, who sits quietly in the back during most of the interview until, unexpectedly, he pops up to question me about the Shins poster hanging in my room. He comes off as a dreamer, usually in his own head. Through my talk with the group, small anecdotes like this give me glimpses into what each member is like and what, through their personality, they bring to the table.
Noisey: I think the term “goth” has certain connotations to it. What’s it mean to you guys?
Kane: Gods Over This Humanity.
Karmah: It just mean that we on some higher society shit. We young people but we do stuff that old people be doing. We on a higher level of thinking.
What kind of stuff?
Karmah: The difference between us and a whole lot of other people is we have a long-term goal for Goth Money, and we try and change the whole world. Other people trying to get rich. We still ain’t rich right now, but we still be having connections because we’re trying to change shit beyond the money.
Kane: We’re just trying to get everybody to unite, like no racism. Have everybody on the higher level. You ain’t gotta go to McDonalds and all that; cook your own food. We got people in Goth Money that got kids and shit. We gotta be able to support them now and later, 20 years from now. We don’t make music for the media. We make music for each other.
At my high school, the goth kids were just kids who wore black clothes and listened to metal. Were you guys like that at all in school?
MFK: I went to school for art and painting and film.
Kane: Back in middle school I only used to listen to rock ‘n’ roll. I fucking just listened to random shit like Linkin Park.
Karmah: I ain’t gonna lie, I was thuggin’. I got my GED, and this music shit made me just want to be positive. I don’t know about [Kane] bro, but I listened to Young Jeezy, Lil Boosie. I am from the projects. I’m from Richmond [Virginia].
I saw that you guys had a show on Halloween with horrocore artist Necro. It seems like you guys are in so many lanes.
Kane: Yeah, the show [was] just booked, and he was one of the headliners. We fuck with all types of genres, though. We keep it real underground. We not into that industry shit. We really don’t like it like that. We try to stay toward our inner circle and really support Goth Money as a whole.
So if a major label approached you guys about releasing an album, you’d reject them?
Karmah: We feel as though we finna make our own record label and do everything on our own. We trying to make that Hot Boy, Cash Money type of thing. That’s how we was raised. It’s beyond money. It’s like, how are they going to help us expand the whole movement, you know?
Kane: Everything is independent because Goth Money Records is independent label. Each of us is artists in Goth Money. We don’t have a manager or anything. We do everything independent. If a label was trying to sign us, they would really have to talk to us.
MFK: Master P is like the architect we look up to. A lot of people may look up to Jay Z… We look up to Master P. He’s one of the first to make millions off this shit by himself. And then he’ll help the next man, too.
Speaking of P, who had a big run in the 90s, did you see what Vince Staples said the other day about hip-hop from that era?
MFK: That’s weird. That’s like saying I don’t like Michael Jackson. 90s hip-hop is the foundation for everything. Three 6 Mafia, 1991 tapes. All that DJ Screw stuff. Sounds like he's forcing it.
Kane: I feel like he just said it so people aren’t on some 90s shit because they claim they’re on some 90s, retro vintage shit and that’s wack.
MFK: Yeah, to rap like you’re in the 90s… that’s not cool. But you've got to respect that stuff.
MFK, you mentioned “helping the next man.” That seems like a mantra you guys try to follow.
Kane: The main thing we’re trying to spread, like the message, is to be original and be authentic and be yourself. All of us, we are ourselves. We stay true to each other. We don’t like the negativity. We all positive. We don’t want to be better than each other. We just want all of us to be the best. We all want to shine. That’s just how the world should be. We want to see everybody that’s around us—cousins, sisters, brothers, grandmas—shine.
Karmah: We never have no beef on the internet. We never be disrespecting nobody because we about that money.
Luckaleann: Boys ain’t got no hate in their heart.
When did you guys become so positive?
Karmah: Shit, after doing a lot of negative shit.
Kane: Personally I don’t even have a father. My father was killed before I was even born, so I just took that as all the negative shit. Even if I do negative things, I’m going to learn from the outcome. Because that shit is just negativity that’s going to hold me back, so I got to be positive to live the raw life. The positivity is key man because if you stay positive in your heart, it’s easy to block out the negative. And you’re going to mainly not be around the negativity because you’re a positive person and you know how to remove yourself from situations that you don’t need to be in. And that’s what we try to do.
Because you guys live in separate cities across the country, you probably don’t get to see each other as much as you’d like. What do you do all come together?
Karmah: We just be bonding. We talk music, politics, and real life shit. When we don’t have money and shit, we come together like brothers and survive out in this bitch.
MFK: Everybody's staying at my house right now. Like seven people.
Kane: We had a crazy experience filming a video yesterday, with the Uber driver. The driver was a pedophile. We don’t really want to speak on it, but the driver was a pedophile, and we basically got left in the middle of San Bernardino County, like an hour and a half away from LA. We had to find a ride home after we paid him to get us home. We had to pay double the money to get home in another Uber. Crazy shit.
With you guys all being so young, do you ever find yourself in crazy circumstances while on the road?
Kane: It be out of hand. Sometimes the police come in and shut that shit down because our fans be too turnt up from the energy and everything going on. There’s been altercations where we’ve had to fight people after the show, like white kids that have been racist. It’s been crazy. A lot of shit has gone down with Goth Money.
Karmah: But we never put that shit on the internet.
MFK: We take the negative and put it into the music, low key. Say some fucked up shit happens to us. Instead of reacting to it in a fucked up way, we may just talk about it in a song.
Reed Jackson is a writer living in New York. Follow him on Twitter.