One of the first rap songs I ever learned the words to was “Mo Money Mo Problems” by the Notorious B.I.G. Even as a young’un, I was fascinated by the hook Kelly Price sang: “I don’t know what they want from me / It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.”
That song came out in 1997 when I was still a kid living under my parents’ roof with nary a bill to pay; the only problems I had involved arithmetic. But growing up with two parents who worked blue-collar jobs, I did know that I didn’t have McDonald’s money, and allowance didn’t grow on trees. In my world, less money didn’t mean fewer problems, so it was hard for me to imagine someone could be so rich that they made a song complaining about it.
This year, though, I finally began to understand what Biggie, Puff Daddy, and pre-pastor Mase were rhyming about. No, I’m not rapper rich. The only flossing I’m doing these days is dental. But right before the pandemic, I landed my current gig, which included a nice bump in pay. For the first time in my career, my salary hurdled the six-figure mark. I felt like Jesse Owens with a desk job.
I know I’m not about to wake up to a notification that Uncle Sam deposited $1,400 into my bank account while I was dreaming about a new track bike or air fryer or .003 of a bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have put it to good use.
Looking at my W-2, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve never associated my success or happiness with what’s written on my paycheck, but I was raised on capitalism and bling-era rap. Money has always motivated me. Yet in spite of my new earnings, I still had financial insecurities, especially after leveling up from splitting rent with a roommate to a fly-ass apartment of my own. My cost of living increased — and so did my problems.
Here’s a big (albeit first-world) problem for me: Due to my pay bump in 2020, I don’t qualify for President Biden’s modest yet incredibly useful $1,400 stimulus check. I know someone reading this just rolled their eyes, but hear me out. I’m very grateful that not only am I gainfully employed but properly compensated. But who among us is so well enough that they couldn’t use an extra $1,400? It’s like my mother used to tell me when I’d come home from my after-school job complaining about the few dollars I made in tips after a long shift: Those were a few more dollars than I had before I clocked in. I feel the exact same way about the $1,400 in free money. Whether you think it’s an adequate means of support or not, I’d like to know how it feels for myself.
Without a doubt, the people who are receiving the checks need it the most. Whether they were collecting unemployment throughout 2020 or employed but making less than the $75,000 maximum in order to qualify, the stimmy is a reason to shimmy. I can relate because last year, I actually qualified for the original $1,200 relief payment due to my 2019 income. Now, to discover I don’t qualify for this second stimulus, I can’t help but feel some type of way, word to Rich Homie Quan.
I know I’m not about to wake up to a notification that Uncle Sam deposited $1,400 into my bank account while I was dreaming about a new track bike or air fryer or .03 of a bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have put it to good use. Maybe Biggie was right and it’s all for the best. More money, more problems, indeed — even when it comes to a stimmy.