LunchMoney Lewis understands the mechanics of a hit song. As a songwriter and producer, the Miami native has already anchored a few bangers for his high-profile chart toppers in his early career. His most recent collabo: Nicki Minaj’s Caribbean-influenced “Trini Dem Girls,” off her The Pinkprint LP. Not only did LunchMoney supply the song’s feel-good beat, but he also held down the track’s hook duties.
The 27-year-old’s ear for fine tunes can be attributed to his parents’ love of music and his upbringing in a studio ran by his brother. “I couldn’t go to the studio everyday because it’s like you got to do your homework. You can come on a Saturday and sit down and shut up and watch,” he recently told VIBE. “So it was that type of environment, but I definitely got to have an early view of what it’s like.”
Those Saturdays spent soaking in studio time proved lucrative for the future hitmaker. While hiding in corners of his family’s Circle House Studios, LunchMoney was jotting notes on techniques and styles, and filing them in his mental vault.
As LunchMoney racked up his musical ammo, the Kemosabe artist unloaded rounds of fire for artists like Meek Mill, Juicy J, Rick Ross and Puff Daddy, to name a few. In addition to supplying hits for other entertainers, LM recently cranked out his own catchy chart-climbing cut, “Bills,” which made Billboard’s Top 40 songs.
VIBE recently got a chance to speak with the star-in-the-making as LM discussed “Bills,” working with Onika, his friendship with Salaam Remi, meeting Nas and much more.
You’ve worked with some high-profile artists. Have you ever told someone to change a verse?
Oh, yeah. I’m real collaborative. I’ll come up with a hook in the studio and someone may have a verse. [An artist and I might] write a lot together and our team may be like, ‘Hey man, I think you should do that verse over.’ Some rappers ain’t going to change it, and the good ones who take critcism well, will. But some of them give you their A-plus every time but you got to look at [others] and say like, ‘You might want to change that.’ For singers, you got to do that takeover. They either ignore your email or they just be like, “I’m not changing it.” Ricky Reid, who did most of my album, did “Talk Dirty” for Jason Derulo, and he said he wanted 2 Chainz to say a different drop at the front, and Chainz was like: ‘Nah, I ain’t dropping it,’ but he changed it.
How was working with Nicki Minaj?
Nicki is super talented. She’ll take ideas and be like, “I want an idea for this.” She’ll take it and develop it from there. We did a little camp for her and I did that “Trini Dem Girls.” I’m Jamaican and I knew that she was Trini and the track gave me this Caribbean vibe, so I made it to where she really liked it. I knew everybody was going to give her something big and poppy or something like “Did It On’Em,” or something real rappy. So I knew one thing that I can do and nobody else can do so I picked the reggae shit. That was a blessing.
Your song “Bills” cracked Billboard’s Top 40. How’d that song come about?
We did the Jessie J record “Burning Up.” In that session, everyone was kind of tired. I was still kind of turned up so Ricky Reid played the “Bills” beat. He played it and the first thing that came out my mouth was, “Bills.” I had moved to L.A. from Miami, I’m in my twenties, I’m out there, I got Wi-Fi, all this stuff and it was like straight divine. We wrote the song in like 30 minutes. We were like, ‘Is this some fluke shit? Do we have the chemistry?’ And then we went to the house, worked for a week, and did like five, six, eight songs.
I understand that you have a close relationship with Salaam Remi and you’ve spent some time around Nas.
Salaam Remi named me LunchMoney. When I was younger, I was always rapping. When I’d come around [with] my brother, they’d be like [to him], ‘Yo, tell your brother to give us a sixteen or something.’ I was always like the rapping little brother. I was musical and [Salaam] played bass and drums. He just took me under his wing. I got to watch him do God’s Son, and “Made You Look.” I was like, ‘Wow.’
Were you in the studio when Nas and Salaam worked on “Made You Look?”
I didn’t sit and watch him make it, but I was around the God’s Son process. I got to see that because of Salaam. In the middle of that, he named me LunchMoney. He was teaching me how to write songs and make beats. He’d be like, ‘Write to this and come back,’ and I would just sit there, try to go home, record myself, come back with homework, and be like, ‘What you think?’ He’d be like, ‘Nah son, you got to take that back.’
Did Esco drop any jewels on you?
Not really. You just got to watch. The jewels come from observing like, ‘Yeah, I saw how he moved the hook here.’ He found out Salaam was calling me Lunch. He’d be like, ’Yo, Lunch.’ (Lowers his voice) Nas is a quiet dude but he’ll acknowledge you. Any time I got to peek into industry stuff and music, I was always quiet because I just wanted to learn and soak it up. I was just taking little stuff with me, going back to my little corner and figuring it out.
Your songs tackle serious issues yet the music comes across as fun. What’s your approach to songwriting?
[My team and I] don’t go in [to the studio] like we got to write this grand pop. It’s like a lot of hip-hop-infused, jazz, rap, a lot of pop [in] a melting pot because we all listen to different aspects of music, which makes it kind of cool. Some people will have to compare it other things but it’s like real topics but fun. “Bills” isn’t fun but it feels fun. That’s the whole basis of everything.
When did you decide you could do this for a living?
When I first got an artist to cut one of my songs. I was like, ‘Alright, I got one person so I should just keep doing this.’ I went through a lot of young trials in music when you’re like, ‘Maybe it ain’t for you.’ I like validation from music people, people who actually play instruments and people who are really in the music and be like, ‘You should keep doing it, you got it.’ The chase is fun.