“Lemonade” And The Rise Of Internet Money
Online, attention is the most valuable currency of all. So Internet Money, the production and promotional collective with the #1 song on Spotify’s domestic chart right now, is aptly named. A remix of “Lemonade,” from the crew’s debut album B4 The Storm, sits atop the streaming platform’s US rankings and is #2 globally. “Lemonade” is battling drill star Headie One for #1 on the UK charts, and on Billboard’s Hot 100 — which encompasses sales and radio play in addition to streaming — it just cracked the top 10 and is trending upward. Don’t be surprised if it tops that chart eventually too.
This is not the first time the Internet Money braintrust has launched a deeply melodic rap song to viral ubiquity. A little over two years ago the collective’s ringleaders — Taz Taylor, 27, and Nick Mira, 20 — helped write and produce a then-19-year-old Juice WRLD’s breakthrough hit. “Lucid Dreams” climbed all the way to #2 on the Hot 100 and cemented the late sing-rapper as one of the most popular and influential forces in the modern mainstream. The next year Taylor and Mira worked together on another breakout hit by an even younger teenage rapper. This time it was “Ransom” by the mumbly but infectious Lil Tecca, who was only 16 when his song popped off, eventually topping out at #4 on the Billboard chart.
Both of those hits had videos by Cole Bennett, a videographer and burgeoning business magnate not much older than the artists he tends to film, whose YouTube channel Lyrical Lemonade has become a hit-making force in the realm of pop-leaning rap. Writing on 18-year-old Lil Mosey’s breakout hit “Blueberry Faygo” this year, my colleague Tom Breihan noted that Bennett’s influence on the look and feel of rap videos parallels the impact Hype Williams once wielded: “In Bennett videos, the visuals are entry-level trippy in that familiar Adult Swim way — clouds floating, CGI faces imposed on everyday objects, goofy camera angles. The colors pop. The special effects are cheap and obvious.”
As far as I know “Lemonade” isn’t named after Lyrical Lemonade, but it of course has a Bennett-directed video anyway. The clip finds vocalists Don Toliver, Nav, and Gunna surrounded by sharks and mermaids in a desert made to look like the inside of a fishbowl. Toliver cruises in a retro convertible that appears to hover over the sand. Nav wanders the surface, bubbles emerging from his mouth whenever he raps. Gunna grasps a fishing rod while perched in a boat wearing a bucket hat that says “SEX” in big, cartoonish letters. It’s been viewed more than 36 million times since premiering in mid-August, but as with most hit songs these days, the success of “Lemonade” has at least as much to do with fan-made videos on TikTok.
“Lemonade” is built around a moody, chord-based guitar riff in the vein of “Little Wing,” “Under The Bridge,” or “Say It Ain’t So,” and booming digital bass. It’s a fine canvas for Toliver’s impassioned chorus about getting head from college girls and tripping on codeine. The lyrics are lifted from a previous Internet Money-produced track, also called “Lemonade,” by “Old Town Road” remix co-writer Jozzy, who is becoming a behind-the-scenes star in the commercial hip-hop realm. But credit Toliver, a member of Travis Scott’s Jackboys crew, for singing the hell out of Jozzy’s hook, pumping it full of fervent intensity comparable to frequent Internet Money collaborator Trippie Redd but with a hearty gravitas that more closely resembles an old soul or reggae singer than a SoundCloud rapper. His performance is the single most obvious reason “Lemonade” has become a hit, and it has become fodder for the TikTok memes that have fueled the track’s rise.
In a Los Angeles Times feature about TikTok’s hit-making power, Internet Money’s Taz Taylor — born Danny Snodgrass, Jr. in Jacksonville in 1992 — said he attempted a paid influencer campaign for “Lemonade,” but the song ended up catching fire organically when a different user’s clip started gaining momentum and spawning imitators. The standard “Lemonade” TikTok routine is less elaborate than most: You just film yourself dancing or lip-syncing to a version of Toliver’s chorus that slows down when he sings, “Off the juice! Codeine got me trippin’.” The choreography is minimal to nonexistent in some of these clips. There’s not really a gag to speak of, or any wardrobe requirement. Regardless, circulation on the app has helped “Lemonade” become the highest-charting hit to date for all three credited vocalists, and a separate remix pairing Toliver with 2020 chart champ Roddy Ricch isn’t hurting the second’s prospects.
There may yet be other hits within Internet Money’s album. It’s hard to predict what’s going to pop off, but there’s certainly no shortage of bright yet druggy boilerplate pop-rap to choose from on B4 The Storm. The collective has positioned itself as a sort of DJ Khaled for Generation Z, cycling through a deep rotation of young stars like 24kGoldn, Iann Dior, and the Kid Laroi plus more established names like Future, Kevin Gates, and Swae Lee in service of what mostly amounts to immaculate, star-studded filler. But Internet Money’s ambition might actually be broader than Khaled’s, their operation more forward-thinking. For one thing, Taylor, Mira, and friends actually produce their own songs — selling his beats directly to rappers through an online catalog is how Taylor originally rose to prominence — and by remaining in the background rather than taking Khaled’s barking mascot approach, they’re setting themselves up to be a brand that’s stronger than any one person.
Internet Money Records is a many-pronged organization. There’s a traditional record label element to it, an imprint of 10K Projects and Caroline Records. The collective also manages and develops artists, and they run a YouTube channel full of tutorials explaining how to make “type” beats for a range of artists, Internet Money’s calling card long before they were attached to hits of their own. Like many young digital-age influencers, the crew lives together in a Los Angeles house, which sometimes becomes the setting for reality-TV-style content. It seems to be a whole flourishing ecosystem of young, mostly white hypebeast types ideally adapted to the current state of the entertainment industry. “I just feel like the whole motive shifted, and [we’re] focused on trying to build the next Interscope or the next Atlantic Records or the next Republic,” Taylor recently told Complex. So yeah, I’d guess attention is not the only currency they’re piling up.
Who says a rock song can’t top the Hot 100 in 2020? It just has to be a rock song by rappers. 24kGoldn and Iann Dior’s “Mood” just hit #1, a first for both artists. Per Billboard, it’s the first song to ever top the Hot 100, Hot Rock Songs, and Hot Rap Songs charts all at once. Big “Mood.”
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” is at #2, followed by Drake and Lil Durk’s “Laugh Now, Cry Later” at #3. The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” climbs back to #4, extending its record for the longest run in the top 5 to 29 weeks. BTS’ “Dynamite” is in at #5, and it’s closely followed at #6 by Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo’s BTS-assisted “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat),” last week’s #1. (BTS aren’t credited on the song this week because the non-BTS version of the song is outperforming the BTS version.) DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s “Rockstar” is at #7, Gabby Barrett and Charlie Puth’s “I Hope” is at #8, and Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” is at #9. And as mentioned above, Internet Money’s “Lemonade” featuring Don Toliver, Nav, and Gunna reaches a new #10 peak — the highest Hot 100 position ever for all involved.
For weeks, Pop Smoke’s posthumous debut album Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon has been lingering near the top of the Billboard 200. This week, in the absence of any major album debuts, the project returns to #1 for a second week. Billboard reports that Shoot For The Stars tallied 67,000 equivalent album units, enough to nudge last week’s #1, 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’s Savage Mode II, down to #2. The rest of this week’s debut-free top 10 includes Juice WRLD, Lil Baby, Machine Gun Kelly, BLACKPINK, Fleetwood Mac, Hamilton, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and Taylor Swift.
Wait — Fleetwood Mac? Yes, a resurgence in “Dreams” streams due to DoggFace’s viral skateboarding video has pushed Rumours back into the top 10 for the first time in 42 years. The album is up from #13 to #7 this week, posting 33,000 units, 23,000 of them via streaming. Congrats to triumphant underdogs Fleetwood Mac!
Justin Bieber – “Lonely” (Feat. Benny Blanco)
This is realer and rawer than I expected from Justin Bieber, and not coincidentally I like it better than the majority of his 2020 output. That said, I agree with whoever suggested Bieber get Mason Ramsey to yodel on a remix.
Demi Lovato – “Commander In Chief”
Lovato is great at these power ballads, and I agree with her sentiments here 100%, but it’s hard to imagine this making any more difference than a scandalized tweet thread about Donald Trump’s many failures.
Lauv & Conan Gray – “Fake”
Behold: One template for early 2020s male pop stardom. I don’t hate it!
OneRepublic – “Wild Life”
I guess Ryan Tedder figures if Justin Vernon isn’t going to make old-school Bon Iver songs anymore, OneRepublic might as well put humongous digital drums under them and slather them in overbearing sentiment.
Tayla Parx – “Residue”
The turn this song takes about a minute in is something special. I also love Tayla Parx’s vocal versatility here, and I love this key lyric even more: “No matter what I do, you’re stuck to me like glue, you leave your residue.”
NEWS IN BRIEF
- “I’m not afraid of criticism,” writes Megan Thee Stallion in a New York Times op-ed, “and ‘Protect Black women’ should not be controversial.” [NYT]
- Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” wasn’t submitted for Grammys consideration. [Pitchfork]
- And speaking of Cardi, she deleted her Twitter, saying it was “a whole bunch of 15-year-olds telling me how to live my life like I’m motherfucking Ariana Grande or something.” [Twitter]
- In an Instagram Q&A Billie Eilish revealed she’s dropping a new song next month. [Dazed]
- BTS upset China when RM thanked Korean War veterans in a speech. [AP]
- Meanwhile BTS’ label Bit Hit Entertainment raised $840M in its initial public offering, South Korea’s largest IPO in three years. [CNN]
- The documentary Shawn Mendes: In Wonder premieres on Netflix 11/23. [Instagram]
- “How do you convince yourself it’s not completely inappropriate and disrespectful to wait outside my home to gawk, stare and take pictures as I walk into my apartment,” asked Justin Bieber on Instagram. “This is not a hotel. It’s my home.” [Page Six]
- Hozier tipped an Irish busker who was playing “Take Me To Church.” [Twitter]
- Halsey stars in a new Budweiser campaign. [YouTube]
- Following their joint performance on the BBMAs, Bad Bunny shared a remix of “Yo Perreo Sola” with Ivy Queen and Nesi. [YouTube]
- J Balvin has McDonald’s merch too. [J Balvin]