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BEAST FINANCIAL: THUG MOTIVATIN'
Donald Trump inherited his success. Sun Tzu’s approach to feminine psychology was summary beheading. Are these people to whom one can reliably turn in uncertain times? Buffalo’s own Bags of Money (his real name) came up from the streets, turned to crime and did a stint in prison. Now, he’s a legitimate success and his new book, Thug Motivation, aims to make you one, too. Plus, he’s read The Art of Seduction so you don’t have to. Bags of Money spoke to The BEAST recently about why it feels good to be a gangsta. Get out your copy of Wealth of Nations, bookmark Urbandictionary.com and thug up, son!
You offer in Thug Life the promise of kids—anybody, really—being able to achieve success “without basketball, rap lyrics and guns.” Why do you hate the American dream?
That’s exactly what it is, man. There’s like ten dudes in the world livin’ successfully off of rap music. But every day, some dude is walkin’ up to me, like, “Yo, I rap.” Okay, dude, but you gotta understand the business. Having the talent to rap is—I don’t know how much of it will get you to a successful place. But, the amount of people trying after this one single goal is incredible.
Same thing with being a drug dealer. Everybody’s doing it. Your chances of comin’ up are so slim.
Basketball—dude. If you got Michael Jordan talent, there’s still so many politics involved in gettin’ you where you gotta go. You gotta go through the school process, this process…
There’s other things you can do—god ain’t put us here for them three things.
You mention in the book a statistic you read that more people in this country have heart attacks on Monday morning on the way to work, than at any other time. Do we work too hard? Are our priorities misplaced?
Americans generally work hard and get paid little to do so. I think we—each one of us, has an obligation to ourselves to work smart. Instead of working twenty years to make somebody else rich, work ten and make yourself rich. You’re interviewing me…Why not take that experience and add that with what you observe at the [BEAST] and open your own magazine in a couple of years. [ed. Are you reading this, Fallon?] You know what I mean? Go platinum! Sell a lot of units. Push it like you’re helping them push their product.
That’s what really epitomizes this capitalism: when everybody pushin’ hard.
You also caution readers, in the section “Check Yo’ Bitch,” to have reasonable expectations for success. Maybe not conquering the world right away.
You talk a lot about the lessons of incarceration—a familiar narrative, unfortunately, for many black youths, who are imprisoned grossly disproportionately to their white peers. Malcolm X also talked about the street education and, in his case, the jailhouse education. Is there is a point at which those skills you’ve acquired, and the lessons you’ve learned, can actually help end the legacy of the jailhouse pupil?
There’s a saying that, “A smart man learns from experience, but a wise man learns from the experiences of others.” Now, I’m not suggesting everybody [reading Thug Motivation] is wise, but the pain I felt from twelve years incarceration…Perhaps you can hear it in my voice, or perhaps you can see it in my swagger. But, I’m not never playin’, because I really believe in every word of this Thug Motivation. And it’s real. It is what has brought me up. I would hope anybody that has exposure to it is able to get enough from it, so that they can move forward without having to go through all that pain. Unfortunately, stress and pain are stuff we need…The way society is set up, some of the decisions are made for us. But, you gotta take responsibility for your choices.
And that’s sort of what you’re talking about with “King of the Yard”: there are things you can’t control. So, you have to make decisions, to adapt.
Work within the framework you have. Keep your mind open, so when you see the opening—‘cause if you master your framework, there’s gonna be an opening, called opportunity—you gotta kick that door in, right there.
Kick in the door “wavin’ the four-four”?
Wavin’ the four-four! [Laughing.]
I remember reading this economics study of the inner city drug trade that concluded the average drug dealer—the kid who’s clocking—only makes minimum wage.
Yeah! Absolutely. Ain’t makin’ nothing. Quite frankly, I sold drugs and when I did finish my incarceration—we creatures of habit, you know—I went back to doin’ the shit I knew how to do. Even though I had a bunch of good ideas. Dude, that was the hardest shit I did [in my life]. It was no sleep. You’re constantly with these people that are unsavory characters. I like sleepin’ at night, man.
It’s what they call “short money,” basically?
Short money. You can be a genius and get you some long money, and then catch a case in two years and all that money gone. It’s just—dead end.
Did you watch “The Wire” when it was on HBO?
Yeah, I love “The Wire.” And everybody love “The Wire” and they love “The Wire” characters…I don’t know how they forget that everybody [on the show] loses. [Laughs.] I don’t know how they forget that.
If you were a character on “The Wire,” who would you be?
Stringer Bell. Not so much scandalous, though. He’s really kinda scandalous. But I move like that cat.
You stress the importance of “Catching a Bid”—taking some time alone, reassessing yourself. Do you think I’m spending too much time by myself? My hand told me it wants to see other people. What am I doing wrong?
[Laughs nervously.] Sounds like the type of time you’re spending with yourself! I’m just talkin’ about going inside and evaluating the stuff you enjoy doing. Really, evaluating what you want to do with your life. And what can you do with your life—not selling yourself a dream. You gotta be honest with yourself. You can’t say “I’m gonna be a Top Ten R&B star,” but you can’t sing. You can go the T-Pain route, but…[Chuckles.] Don’t stack the deck against yourself, stack the deck for yourself.
Well, that makes sense. But what you’re telling me is that I’m probably not going to get a date with one of the Honey Buns?
Now, why couldn’t you get a date with a Honey Bun?
Well, I see you looking dubiously at my faux-hawk…
What is that, “spike” Lee?
I probably need to “Catch a Bid” in the salon chair.
I think that shit is hot, though, ‘cause it says you is who you is.
I don’t want to pigeonhole you, but are you cool with being characterized as a “black entrepreneur?” If so, do you think there’s a double standard for “black entrepreneurs”—especially as you gain visibility, notoriety—for instance, in the form of unjust pressure to reinvest in communities?
If there is, I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t feel no pressure. I felt societal pressure when I had what they call a “correctional officer” bending me over and asking me to spread my cheeks. Dude, I don’t feed into societal pressure at all. I do me. If I’m gonna give, I’m gonna give. And how I get it, is how I’m gonna get it. I’m gonna follow the laws and little rules and regulations, but I’m pushy with it. Straight up.
Well, then do you feel any inner motivation, once you’ve made good, to spread that wealth? Russell Simmons talks about building communities around black wealth. Or do you think every guy needs to make it for himself?
No. I believe power can be summed up in one word: cooperation. Is there a lot of cooperation out there? Haven’t seen it yet! But, I’m hopin’ for it.
I read an interview the professor and public intellectual bell hooks did with Ice Cube, in which she described her experience with friends after she’d purchased a BMW. They felt she’d sort of betrayed them, and herself, buying this car—almost as though she owed it to them to purchase more discreetly.
That’s bananas…People feed into these things, but at the end of the day—when they’re reading your eulogy—did that shit really mean anything? If it did mean something, did it mean something to you? Stuff like that—what people think about me—I’ve elected at this point in my life to not give a fizzuck.
We can actually say that in our paper…
Oh, is that right? Put it in bold then: I don’t give a fuck what you think. I’m giving back with Thug Motivation.
So, you don’t think people are defined by what they buy?
Hell, no. I’m gonna buy some nice shit, though. I like some hot shit. You sit in the penitentiary for a couple years and have a fantasy that’s like stuck [in your head]. Then you come out here in the free world and get in a position to actually do some things…That’s what life, this capitalist thing, is about. If you can figure it out, that Monopoly game, go and get you some hotels.
In that same interview, Cube described his own experience, of visiting the old neighborhood. He told hooks some people smile to your face, congratulate you on success, but they’re ready to badmouth you as soon as you turn around. Does that sound familiar to you?
What?! Dudes wanna kill me for shining! Is you crazy? It’s real. Being successful, shining, comin’ out there and makin’ it happen…There’s people around you that haven’t figured out how to make it happen. Jealousy and envy—the stories go back to the Bible, duke. It’s real talk. But, it’s all about how you internalize it. I got friends that I’ve given houses to and told them—gave ‘em the blueprint—“Here, this is what you do with it, and you’ll have an Escalade like mine in two, three months.” And they took that information and that house and, uh…they did somethin’ else. You know what I mean? And then when they fucked that shit up, they came back to me like, “What’s up now?” Nothin’ motherfucker! I did what I’m a do for you! Peace! Real talk.
Do you think that’s just people? Or does it have anything to do historically with the black experience?
I can’t talk for the whole black experience, even though I’ve been black my whole life.
Good, I’ve been waiting this whole interview for you to tell me black people aren’t monolithic…
But, within my cipher—I can talk about my cipher all day. I got friends that I’ve given information to and they’ve thrown it in the garbage. And I’ve got friends that took information I gave ‘em and got a million dollars. Straight up. Check my record.
Was Biggie correct? Does mo’ money equal mo’ problems?
Again, you gotta qualify it. If you become a good problem solver, then you learn to look for problems. That’s where a lot of opportunity is. I feel like I had a problem when I was sittin’ in the penitentiary for twelve years. Sittin’ on parole for eight years and my parole officer wilin’ out on me. Fifteen month violation for possession of cell phone…Dudes gettin’ caught with guns out here and they get a year! To qualify as a problem to me, you gotta be, like, Katrina. I just don’t look at things that way. I look at things like, “How we gonna figure this out? What we gonna do about this?” When you continuously manipulate yourself like that—get in and around a problem—[you can make] more money. Yeeeaahhhh.
Keeping it musical, were Three Dog Night correct? Is one the loneliest number?
I don’t know, man.
Is two the loneliest number since the number one?
I would say one is the loneliest number.
Do you have any idea what a “Champagne Supernova” is?
Uh, well, Supernova does hood-type videos…
What’s the sound of silence?
Am I blinding you with science?
What the fuck? [Laughs.]
Right, moving on…In Thug Motivation, you illustrate the notion that success is a process by telling readers: “A dropped pass does not mean your career is over.” Eldridge Dickey—the precursor to Mike Vick who was drafted by Oakland, but moved to receiver—got cut by the Raiders in ‘71 for dropping a potential TD pass because he “heard footsteps.” He was out of football at 25. What would you have said to him?
I would tell him: “Thug up, son. Get your head together. First of all, get back to what you was doin’ good at. You let them cubbyhole you. You’re not working into the framework of what you’re supposed to be doin’. You let somebody choose your direction and then when you weren’t happy with the result, boom, it’s over? Nah. You gotta man up.” He got cut. I woulda been a walk-on for quarterback at the next team.
I was going to follow your advice in the book to visualize success by making an award speech. But, then I remembered I was Time magazine’s person of the year in 2006 and I figured, “What’s the point?” It’s not like I have anything else to achieve.
2006, dude? It’s 2008, right now. You can’t be serious talkin’ about some 2006 shit. In 2006, I had a white Escalade. You know how many fuckin’ Escalades is out there right now? There’s a million of ‘em…Who cares about what happened in 2006? You better try to get right for 2009 right now, dawg.
Deifying myself and creating a religion would probably be a step up. L. Ron Hubbard said that’s where the “real money” is. Do you think it’s a growth industry?
Well, with this religion stuff, man—real talk—you’re just being consumed by yo’ bitch. ‘Cause you not standin’ up in anything. You’re using these different theologies. I believe in god, but I’m not big on “religion.” I go to church socially, to gather with people that do the same thing. Other than that…
Isn’t that secularized notion of church what’s caused Obama so many problems?
Personally…to tag him for what his pastor’s saying—what is that? The church I go to, how am I responsible for what that dude says? So, why would Obama be? The religious thing, as a whole, unfortunately, when I think religion now, I think [of] Catholic priests goin’ after little boys. That’s the first thing come to mind, for some reason.
Whatever. I got a relationship with god, and I think Obama do, too.
The US dollar is tanking—its value keeps plummeting versus stronger currencies—
Dude, I took $1,000 [to the Phillipines, recently] and they gave me 40,000 pesos! It took me at least four days to spend that money and I’m passin’ that shit out. I couldn’t get rid of the shit! They have the equivalent of a $400,000 condominium in Buffalo for $125,000 over there. They’re building everywhere. American money is good money over there.
So, any interest in changing your name to Bags of Pesos?
[Throws back his head and laughs.]
How about Bags of Euros? We did see Jay-Z flashing stacks of them in a recent video.
I don’t know nothin’ about the Euro. But the peso…
Well, a lot of our national debt is currently secured by Asian banks. How do you like the sound of Bags of Yuan?
Gold is appreciating. How about Pot O’Gold?
Pot O’Gold sounds so limited. Pots O’Gold! No, Bags of Money is the hottest name in the industry right now. And I own that name, by the way! Best purchase I ever made.
Let’s talk about your competition in the marketplace. Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret argues people who think negatively suffer tangible consequences—say, financial hardship or developing tumors. Do you think this explains why the government is spraying Dick Gregory’s house with manganese?
Real talk. Managanese—where can I get some of that? It sounds a lot like pussy.
You’re OG, right? An expert on the subject?
Oh, definitely. Been there, done that.
Who do you think is more OG: Alan Greenspan or Ben Bernanke?
Oh, Alan Greenspan. When he was in office, he about that paper. I used to watch him talk and I couldn’t understand shit he was sayin’—and that’s gangsta to me. When he cut the interest rate, everybody be standin’ around. Then they go hit them phones and then Wall Street on fire. That’s power.
This other guy do the same shit, but fuck him. Greenspan’s the man in my era.
So, you disapprove of Bernanke’s giveaway to JP Morgan for the Bear Sterns deal?
That’s bad business, man.
You took some heat for your billboards promoting Thug Motivation in Buffalo.
I would just ask anybody reading: Read the fuckin’ book before you make a comment. God damn! If you knew how stupid you sounded. You take this one word—“thug”—and amplify it through the project…But when you read that thing, you gonna realize the community need that thing right there.
There is a glorification of the “thug” in popular culture. What do you make of a guy like Bill Cosby who has called on young black folk to repudiate those stereotypes?
Come on, man. Bill Cosby put out “Fat Albert and the [Cosby] Kids.” If them dudes wasn’t headed for “thug life,” I don’t know! I ain’t got nothin’ against Bill Cosby, but he’s—there’s OGs and then there’s Old Guys. He’s an Old Guy and he’s been rich a long time, probably a little detached. I’m right here in these streets still. I’m still in it and I’ve been in it long enough to really know it inside out.
I did some seminar classes when I was locked up in jail. My audience was crackheads, pimps, murderers, armed robbers, drug dealers, rapists. I know what to talk to ‘em about.
Your “King of the Yard” philosophy is about who wants success more—doing whatever it takes to conquer the competition. Do you think Naomi Klein is on to something in The Shock Doctrine? That maybe the Bush administration, say by mishandling Katrina or the Iraq War, is trying to be King of the Yard by destroying the yard itself?
It’s an interesting concept. I will say this about Bush: you talk about capitalizing off of these disasters—for that reason, Bush has been gangsta’ through his administration. I was locked up when we had the Twin Towers go down. Bush was right on top of that. Him and Giuliani were like, “Here we go.” That’s what got him reelected, though, and then startin’ the war….People are very uncomfortable with the war, now, but when they knocked down those towers, people wanted somethin’ to happen. That’s what everybody forgettin’. They wanted this war and he gave it to them. That’s gangsta’. He brought it. They ain’t find bin Laden or nobody, but he been bringin’ it to ‘em ever since.
Is that what you have to do when you’re in the game? As Pac said, you can’t let a “pimp smack you up.”
Exactly, you gotta be King of the Yard.
Speaking of the game, Dr. James Lovelock argues in his book The Revenge of Gaia that the game is basically up for all of humanity’s gangstas—that Earth has been overstressed by human excesses and she’s going to start selecting us out. Do we need to check our bitch?
A lot of things changin’ on this Earth, especially in the last hundred years. The type of gains we’ve made the last hundred years…it’s crazy to think. Now, we got all these natural disasters. It’s somethin’ to think about. Do I know whether or not Julio is right? I don’t know. Some shit is goin’ on. But am I not going to get my Bentley, because it has gas emissions? Fuck no, I’m gettin’ that bitch!
You mention in the book women have the power to create life. Do you think Christopher Hitchens is right that their procreative potential makes them unfunny?
I know a lot of funny women. They makin’ me laugh when they ask for money. [Laughs.]
In the section of the book called “Having Sexy Relations” you talk about how growth is sexy. Is that why chicks dig tall dudes?
Even the tall dudes stop growin’, duke! It don’t got nothin’ to do with that. You know that appendage that we have between our legs? Growth is sexy!
Any growth at all? Or does size really matter?
You probably have to ask a girl that. The size of my joint is big, so I want it to matter!
I guess if someone is asking the question, it’s probably already a problem.
Yeah, it probably is.
Bags of Money’s Thug Life is available at his website, www.bagsofmoney.us, and at Amazon.com.
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