Internet Money Champion the Artists Behind the Boards While Creating an Empire Bigger Than Themselves
As the go-to producer collective crafting beats for today’s hip-hop stars, Internet Money is championing the artists behind the boards while creating an empire bigger than themselves.
Words: Georgette Cline
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Not even a brush with death can keep Taz Taylor from the studio. Last February, the 28-year-old producer from Jacksonville, Fla. thought he was suffering from a heart attack at the Internet Money house in Los Angeles, the headquarters of the producer collective he founded in 2016. He was put in an ambulance on a gurney, shirt cut open like a scene straight out of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Thirty people, from Internet Money producers to artists signed to the label, were huddled together in the hospital waiting room, standing by for an update on Taz’s health. When he woke up in the hospital the next day, Elliot Grainge, founder and CEO of 10k Projects—the label Internet Money has a joint venture with—called voicing concern for the producer’s health. Anywhere in the world that Taz wanted to go, Elliot said he’d pay for. Not surprisingly, the Internet Money founder chose his usual comfort zone instead of a peaceful island oasis to rest.
“I go to the studio,” Taz explains, recalling the harrowing ordeal that ended with him back behind the boards. “I walk out the hospital, hop in an Uber with no shoes on and go to my house, shower and go to the studio... I thought I was really about to die and lose my fucking life... So, I made the decision early, like, Yo, fuck this shit. I’m going to have a good, successful year.”
That he did. Though a heart attack didn’t turn out to be the cause of his health scare last year—Taz insists “no one knows” what it was and thinks he could’ve had coronavirus since he was already sick at the time, dealing with depression, didn’t eat for a month and lost 60 pounds—the incident put the battery in Taz’s back to make the hit record in 2020 that would force the critics and internet trolls to finally take Internet Money seriously. When life gave Taz Taylor lemons, he and some of his Internet Money team— Alec Wigdahl, E-Trou, Nick Mira and Pharaoh Vice—along with several songwriters made “Lemonade” featuring Don Toliver, Gunna and Nav.
Released in the summer of 2020, the three-times platinum-selling song’s No. 6 peak position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in November of last year—and still moving around the chart for 29 weeks and counting—proved what Taz has been preaching for the last five years. “Handle business,” he asserts. “Fuck what anybody else got to say. I’m going to get mine done. And it’s going to be amazing. You can only respect it.”
Five years ago, Taz Taylor launched Internet Money, then a fledgling producer collective, and he’s been commanding respect ever since—even if it means bruising some egos along the way. But prior to becoming the go-to producers crafting beats for today’s hip-hop stars, he was a kid raised on a garage band lifestyle. After watching his stepfather practice and play in a local band,at 3 years old, Taz started playing the drums, then guitar and bass. He joined his own bands and began getting gigs at local venues once he mastered the instruments in subsequent years. Learning the history of music—all genres and time periods, says Taz—was part of his come up.
Self-taught and a seventh-grade dropout—Taz was doing “a bunch of hood rat, ratchet shit” and got “tatted at 12”—music became more pain than passion since his parents pushed him to perform and he just wanted to be a normal kid. According to Taz, he sat on his ass for about four years before teaching himself graphic design since he was “on a computer my whole life.” Then, during free time in 2010, he began making beats since he already had a background in music. Kanye West inspired Taz to start producing. Unfortunately, Taz was told to never do it again by the people who heard his first beat. “It was awful,” recalls Taz. “I sampled like a Coldplay song and just did like, trap drums on it.” The negative feedback didn’t deter him.
Around this time, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Selling beats was the only way he could help her out with money, so he went to work. In 2014, he did that and then some, earn- ing $250 for selling his very first beat and $60,000 total his first year in. Taz became a “type” beat-making and selling machine, taking advantage of a growing market on the internet where people were in search of instrumentals catered to a specific artist. He even got into a heated debate with producers 9th Wonder and Statik Selektah on Twitter in 2016, for defending his craft after 9th tweeted, “Note to producers; don’t be a ‘type beat’ style producer...” Criticism comes with the territory.
Taz launched Internet Money that year, welcoming producers Nick Mira and DT, formerly known as Sidepce, to join him after building a genuine friendship online that began from playing PlayStation and Xbox video games together. No clout-chasing included. “They were the only people that wasn’t trying to use me for something, you know what I mean?” reveals Taz, who earned his first major label beat placement in 2017 with Desiigner’s “Liife” featuring Gucci Mane. “Internet Money is basically just a collective of people that I like to work with and fuck with, and it’s, like, cool. I’m just gonna show y’all how to get this money and we gon’ put it on, and I’m just gonna keep a tight-knit circle of artists, producers, songwriters, graphic designers, creatives, managers, A&Rs, like, people I really fuck with, and...this is my nucleus. This is what I build with. This is our trust, so I don’t need to go depend on, you know, rob Peter to pay Paul and do all this bad business with everyone else like you do in the music industry, you know what I mean?” Fair business is what Taz prides himself on. Every person who has a part in creating an Internet Money release gets an equal percentage.
Nick Mira and DT, rising producers themselves when they first joined Internet Money in 2016, were handling business on their own as well, working with then-newcomer Juice Wrld. Now, Nick, a 20-year-old multiplatinum-selling producer with credits including XXXTentacion’s “Fuck Love” featuring Trippie Redd and Juice’s “Lucid Dreams,” has plenty of expertise to share after working with A-list talent and putting in six years behind the boards, which began at age 14 when he started selling beat CDs at school in Virginia. “I’ve been against roles and different labels for all of us to do different tasks because all of us are creative in many different ways, but whenever we put our stuff together, it always comes out good,” Nick expresses of his universal role within Internet Money. “So, my role can be anything, from one day it can be sending beats to artists, another day it can be getting in the studio with the artist, another day can be working on a new song with the rest of the team, recording an artist—I don’t do it that much, but sometimes engineering and actually record. I’m just on it. There’s nothing that I won’t do.”
As Internet Money started expanding the brand in the months that followed, word began to spread about the new kids on the block. “I’d have 10 producers with headphones on making beats,” Taz remarks of the early studio vibes. “I’m running the sessions. Buzz just started going like, ‘Damn, I ain’t never seen no one do this shit like this.’” In addition, Taz was bringing in a yearly income of $500,000 that would fluctuate due to several drum kit websites he owned, which eventually turned into the current website Wavsupply.net.
Then the first wave of success washed over the crew. Internet Money signed a $100,000 deal with Artist Partner Group in 2017, based off one placement and received $50,000 upfront. “Sometimes you have to take small deals or whatever to get your foot in the fucking door,” Taz admits. “Most people would take that $50,000 and, like, go get an apartment or go get a house or go do whatever... I took that and just spent $48,000 on studio equipment.”
Internet Money manager Daniel “Birdman Zoe” Desir, who got his start working with Waka Flocka Flame’s Brick Squad Monopoly imprint in 2011, remembers this being the moment that he knew Internet Money could be recognized for more than just “type” beats and drum kits. “OK, we’re getting a chance at the game,” says Desir, who's worked with Taz since 2016. “Taz took that opportunity, took the money, helped him, all his producers come to L.A. and said, ‘Look, guys, give us a chance. Let’s break these barriers.’”
The proof is in the moves they’ve made. Early on, they did so with the positive reception of Juice’s Nick Mira-produced tracks “Lucid Dreams” and “All Girls Are the Same” in 2017. That same year, Internet Money also landed XXX’s “Fuck Love” with Trippie, a SoundCloud gem that ultimately became the most streamed song ever on the platform in 2019. In 2018, they signed a joint venture deal with Alamo Records/Interscope Records, and welcomed their first artist, singer Trevor Daniel, to Internet Money Records. By that time, there were 15 producers signed to Internet Money and more placements including Drake’s “Blue Tint” and Rich The Kid’s “Plug Walk.”
More artist development followed when they started working with a then-unknown Iann Dior, flying him out to L.A. to record in 2019, and locking in his own signing to 10k Projects that year. Then came their working relationship with rising artist Lil Tecca, and his 2019 breakout song “Ransom,” produced by Nick and Taz, blowing up and landing at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
By end of summer 2019, Internet Money decided to part ways in an amicable split from Alamo Records—“No bullshit, we really are cool,” Desir discloses of the crew’s relationship with label founder Todd Moscowitz—and take their talents to 10k Projects, where they scored a new joint venture label deal. To solidify the moment, Internet Money dropped “Somebody” with Lil Tecca and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, their first official gold-selling single as artists and the lead effort from their debut album, B4 The Storm, released in 2020. However, it was the follow-up single that changed their career trajectory for the better. Last year, “Lemonade” featuring Don Toliver, Gunna and Nav became a certified streaming hit. Now at over 738 million Spotify streams, the track has further proved Internet Money’s dominance in the game.
Three-hundred-sixty-five days ago, Taz had a new lease on life following that sudden hospital visit in 2020. Now, 2021 finds him and the team already in sessions with Lil Tecca, Lil Yachty, Iann Dior, Polo G, Mike Dean, 24kGoldn, Lil Eazzy and Swae Lee, among others. And that’s just in the first 30 days of the year. “They always got great vibes,” 24kGoldn shares of why he hops in the studio with Internet Money, who featured the rapper on “Take It Slow” with Wiz Khalifa and “Giddy Up” with TyFontaine, from the B4 The Storm LP. “Taz is incredible at bringing- ing people together for a common goal: making great music.” Expect the producers to release a sophomore album this year as well as produce projects for Tecca, Iann Dior and Fetty Wap, among others.
Today, there are 52 producers—including Nick Mira, DT, KC Supreme, Pharaoh Vice, Cxdy and JRHitmaker—making beats at any given time and six artists signed to Internet Money Records, including Summerville, S.C. rapper Dro Kenji. The Internet Money movement continues to level up. “He’s the only artist that can realistically keep up,” Taz maintains of why he signed Kenji. “Just because he doesn’t write. He just freestyle shit and he listens.” Why did Kenji, 19, sign the dotted line? “I feel like Taz Taylor is a musical genius, you feel me?” he declares. The same sentiment is shared by Lil Yachty—“Bro a genius”—and Desir—“Fucking evil, crazy genius” when describing Taz, who admits “it puts a lot of pressure on me.”
Right now, Taz is focused on something bigger than himself. “Who’s doing it for kids these days, you know?” he asks. “I have to be that person. Even if people don’t look at me that way, I have to look at myself that way... Instead of me going and working with Drake or working with the biggest artists in the world, I gotta continue to put on the Lil Teccas, the Juice Wrlds, the Iann Diors and the Trevor Daniels, because they’re the next generation.” And for aspiring producers looking to establish an empire like Internet Money, Taz affirms it can be done even when people say otherwise. “If you love this shit and you want to do it, go do it and you’ll succeed,” he conveys. “And everyone’s going to tell you, ‘You can’t do it.’ Stay on your feet and keep running.”
Straight to the charts.
Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2021 issue including Cardi B's cover story, how rappers are legally making money from the cannabis boom and the social justice that comes with it, Snowfall's Damson Idris on how hip-hop impacted his life, A$AP Ferg reflects on the making of his Always Strive and Prosper album, Shelley F.K.A. DRAM talks about his comeback, Trippie Redd speaks on how Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert helped change hip-hop, Waka Flocka Flame checks in with us and gives an update on his Flockaveli 2 album in What's Happenin', Show & Prove interviews with 42 Dugg, Blxst, Lakeyah and Rubi Rose, Erica Banks discusses the making of hit song "Buss It" and more.