Love may be the most popular theme when it comes to music, but it’s tough to argue money isn’t a close second. From Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon and Dean Martin’s comedic take, to the Wu-Tang Clan’s ’94 hit and the Beatle’s anti-taxation anthem, the music industry is flush with artists singing of all things money. It comes in many names — whether it Benjamins, greenbacks, cash, scratch, scrilla, coin, paper, or any other popular slang term you can think of — and though exact wordage may differ from one generation to the next, everybody still wants a piece of it. Perhaps we enjoy hearing musicians sing about the pains of fame and fortune, or maybe we feel at peace knowing even millionaires aren’t satisfied with their cut of the capitalist system. Whatever the reason, there’s no shortage of tunes about money.
Here are our handpicked selection of the best songs about money, whether you’re looking for a R&B classic or a modern rap masterpiece. Whereas some are clear-cut selections, others are notorious fan favorites and deep cuts.
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Always one of the first to come to mind when talking money lyrics, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems was a lead single off Notorious B.I.G.’s second and final album, Life After Death. “I don’t know what they want from me. It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see,” chimes Biggie in the chorus, acknowledging how much more difficult his life becomes as he makes more money. The song is also supposedly a reference to the people around him wanting in on all the money he’s making. Mase and Puff Daddy take the helm during the first two verses, but its BIG bringing it home with his signature flow toward the end.
Money by Pink Floyd, 1973
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is concept album heavily rooted in what can drive the human mind insane — i.e. war, greed, death, time, and money. Obviously, Money deals with the latter category, with guitarist David Gilmour singing regarding its economical importance in society, along with the superfluous greed that often accompanies it. Though short on lyrics, the song gets straight to the point amid ringing cash registers and a signature baseline nearly every musician knows. “Money so they say is the root of all evil today. But if you ask for a raise, it’s no surprise, that they’re giving none away.”
Donna Summer is a Massachusetts icon, the Queen of Disco, and a classic. That said, She Works Hard for the Money is ’80s staple awash rising synths, Prince-y electric guitar, and Summer’s belting vocals. It quickly became one of her signature songs upon its initial release, supposedly chronicling Summer’s actual encounter with a downtrodden bathroom attendant named Onetta. As the title may imply, the song is a testament to blue collar workers, along with the aforementioned woman on the album’s back cover.
There are arguably a swath of Jay-Z songs worthy for our roundup, but there’s also no denying the East Coast wrapper’s collaborative album with Kanye West remains one of his most unique to date. West kicks off the song rapping about inner-city struggle, but it’s Jay-Z who jumps in with a rant regarding his black card, black cars, and all the money in his black bag. Though the listener is perpetually bombarded with the line, “Who gon’ stop me huh?”, it’s Jay responding with best rebuttals. “Yeah, who gon’ stop me? No brakes, I need, State Farm. So many watches I need eight arms. One neck but got eight charms.”
Money isn’t one of the main themes on Kendrick Lamar’s breakout album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, but that’s not to say it’s not a prevalent one. The record is the story of Lamar’s humble beginnings growing up in Compton, California, with money being one facet of the wrapper’s upbringing. In Money Trees, Lamar acknowledges the medium’s inherent power and his dream-like desire to acquire wealth like other well-accomplished rappers. “A dollar might, turn to a million and we all rich that’s just how I feel, now,” wraps Lamar in the song’s closing hook. “Dreams of me getting shaded under a money tree.”
The yin to Jay-Z’s yang, Nas rarely gloats about spending money and living a lavish lifestyle. Instead, Nas relies on his own lyrical savvy to get his message across and Find Ya Wealth is no different. While not about money in a traditional sense, Nas’ song encourages listeners to find the wealth within themselves. “Look way deep inside yourself,” spits Nas in the chorus, “discover the diamond inside, find ya wealth.” However, he soon segues from talking about starting out on the streets to finding different, albeit illegal, ways to make money. “The lifestyle I live is untouchable. So we clutch a few, guns that’ll touch your crew. Cause we learned to do what the hustlers do.”
Only three of the Wu-Tang Clan’s eight members show up in the group’s hit song C.R.E.A.M. but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most recognizable money tunes of the decade. Method Man tackles the main chorus, while Raekwon and Inspectah Deck take the verses to talk about their respective come-ups. “Cash Rules Everything Around Me. C.R.E.A.M. Get the money,” Method Man raps. “Dollar, dollar bill y’all.”
There’s certainly no shortage of rap and hip-hop songs regarding money, but not even new-age pop rock was a form exempt the financial theme. Enter Hall and Oates and the duo’s number-one hit single, Rich Girl. The song refers to an heir to a massive fast-food chain who lived solely off his father’s wealth and previously dated Hall’s ex-girlfriend. Hall never thought “rich boy” sounded right, though, so the song he changed the name to depict a young girl. “You’re a rich girl, and you’ve gone too far, ’cause you know it don’t matter anyway,” begins Hall. “You can rely on the old man’s money. You can rely on the old man’s money.”
Money for Nothing is one of Dire Straits’ most beloved songs, told from the perspective of a hardware store employee watching music videos. The man in the song quickly becomes discouraged with this own line of work, commenting on how easy musicians have it with their leisurely guitar playing and ease bringing home women. Mark Knopfler received heavy criticism for the lyrical content of this song after its initial debut, with many calling it homophobic and sexist. The first verse ends with, “Money for nothin’ and chicks for free. Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it. Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb. Maybe get a blister on your little finger. Maybe get a blister on your thumb.” Hell, most of the lyrics were even pulled verbatim from a man Knopfler encountered in New York.
For Billionaire, the frontman for The Gym Class Heroes (Travie McCoy) joined forces with Bruno Mars for a overwhelmingly-catchy song in which the two envision what it would be like to be — what else — billionaires. They sing about having a show like Oprah, playing basketball with the President, and gracing the cover of Forbes. Travie McCoy even writes off anyone who is “just” a millionaire, though vowing never to use his money for anything other than good. “Give away a few Mercedes like ‘Here lady have this,'” McCoy spouts in the second verse. “And last but not least, grant somebody their last wish.” It’s Mars’ hook that’s the standout, though.
The Nappy Roots don’t merely hint at the subject of money in this song. The band talks about the subject right from the get-go straight through the outro, with a chorus repeating, “Dime, quarter, nickel, penny. Damn, ain’t it funny how we all about the Benji’s?” Different members of the Kentucky-based outfit chime in here and there, talking about turning 25 cents into 50 cents, and how they are going to “cop all them yachts ya got.” It’s not necessarily a commonplace song about money, but hey, the quartet was the best selling hip-hop group of 2002.
Everyone from Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to the Doors and the Flying Lizards has covered Barrett Strong’s classic Motown hit. However, like most covers, most of them do little justice to the original. The song features Strong bluntly declaring money is what he needs, more so than love or anything else. It’s simple and straightforward, with Strong repeatedly singing, “Now give me money, (that’s what I want) that’s what I want.” It doesn’t get any more basic than that.