At a Denny’s on Wilshire Boulevard, four of the six members of Goth Money wait eagerly for their first meal of they day. Even though it's two o’clock in the afternoon, they all order breakfast plates. Unfortunately, the cook is behind on his orders; their food won't be out for another 45 minutes. To pass the time, they twiddle with their cell phones, watch March Madness, and check their social media fan mail.
“We get a lot of mail,” said MFK Marcy Mane, the group’s lead producer and sole City of Angels resident. “Shit is crazy.”
He reads a Tumblr message from a fan in Houston, begging the crew to visit the Space City before he leaves for the Navy, and a plea from a fan who wants to tour with them. “‘Let me travel with y'all and take photographs of your shows and make beats with y'all,’” MFK Marcy Mane reads aloud. “‘Please, I don’t like school.’”
“Stay in school,” says Kane Grocerys, one of the group’s rappers.
“Please, stay in school,” echoes another Goth Money rapper, LuckaLeannn.
“All these 12-year-old rappers,” MFK Marcy Mane murmurs.
“They’ve got to chill out and experience life,” rapper Black Kray adds from the other side of the table.
MFK Marcy Mane scrolls through the messages and reads another one aloud: “What wave would you consider Goth Money?” He shakes his head. Out of all the questions the crew receives, this is the most commonly asked. And it’s a hard one to answer.
“We don’t really have a genre,” MFK Marcy Mane demurs.
This, however, is not true. Though each member of Goth Money has his own unique style, Goth Money as a whole is a genre unto itself. Some people have called the crew trap goth or goth rap (“I don’t really like goth rap,” says Black Kray, “it sounds weird and corny”), neither of which existed before Goth Money came along.
In the two years that Goth Money has been a crew, they’ve pioneered a new sound that many are still trying to pin down. It’s rap at its core, but it’s not the rap of yesteryear or the rap that you hear on the radio. It’s a leftfield, non-conformist style, stemming from (and influenced by) the depths of the Internet and sprinkled with a hint of chillwave, a pinch of cloud rap, and a spoonful of Auto-Tuning. The crew is DIY music at its best and a perfect example of the creative heights that can be reached when artists are unsigned and don’t have record label execs breathing down their necks.
Goth Money Records, as the crew is officially called, was formed in March of 2013 at the behest of Black Kray, who devised the name and notion of forming a group. Through YouTube, MySpace and eventually SoundCloud, many of the artists already knew about one another and liked each other’s music. Banding together, they realized, was not only a smart way to broaden their fan bases, but it would help them grow as artists, too. “It’s like a power team,” says Black Kray. “Everybody puts their work in and it helps the other person.”
Today, the group has six members in total (including Hunned Mill and Karmah) sprinkled around the country, from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York to Virginia. For many of them, it was more than a year before they’d actually met in person — and to this day, all six of them have yet to perform in the same show. Thanks to the Internet, they’re able to collaborate and co-produce on songs long distance, although they also do a substantial amount of traveling for shows. On this particular Friday, they are headlining a “secret show” in South L.A., which will end up attracting a crowd of almost 400 people.
After their meal, the quartet walks back to MFK Marcy Mane’s Koreatown apartment. Though they’re all of different heights and hairdos (braids, buzzcut, natural curls, bleached blond), it’s clear from their clothing that they’re all part of the same clique. They each have a certain swag to their outfits — wax denim, football jerseys, hunter’s print, gold-capped teeth — and a lackadaisical nonchalance that screams, “I’m not really trying.” Which, in essence, they’re not. They’re not trying to be fashionistas in the same way that they’re not trying to innovate a new sound.
“I don’t even think about it,” said MFK Marcy Mane. “Stuff just be falling into place for us.”
Outside of making music, none of them have jobs — because Goth Money has been that successful. Unlike other up-and-coming rappers, they don’t give their mixtapes away for free — if you want the tracks, you have to pay for them. Also, each member is rather prolific, churning out at least one mixtape a year.
In the next year, the group has plans to come out with their second compilation album, featuring all six of them. Unlike their other projects, the album will be available at stores, an opportunity that they are all excited for. Down the line, their goal is to start their own record label, so getting distribution was the first step.
Back at the apartment, the group reminisces about the time they toured with Swedish rapper Yung Lean, before the topic veers back to their fans. Goth Money has a lot of fans. A lot of fans that vehemently love the rappers and want to be friends with them, if not be them. And that is a problem.
“We always see mad people doing something similar to what we’re doing,” says Kane Grocerys. “They're trying to figure out what we're doing next.”
To prevent this, the group keeps a lot of things secret, like their shows and the name of their future compilation album, and pays close attention to others’ uses of their name. “I research ‘Goth Money’ every day just to keep updated with what’s going on,” says MFK Marcy Mane, who’s been keeping tabs on their name for the last year.
If their cautiousness seems a bit extreme, take into account that they have a lot to protect. Everything they’ve achieved has been through their own efforts. “This is stuff that we do every day and that we really live,” says Kane Grocerys. “We put blood, sweat and tears into this shit.” All of their music they write, record and produce on their own. They book and plan their own shows. And they have built their own fan base.
Kane Grocerys: “We didn’t take no handouts.”
Black Kray: “We built it from scratch.”