For the rapper Guapdad 4000, Cash App isn’t just a useful tool to share money or another passing fad in hip-hop. It’s a literal part of his creative process.
“I picked up on it so much that I started using it in my toplines [the main melody on a song’s early demo] when I’m trying to write catchy shit,” he told me. “‘Cash App’ always comes up.”
Cash App comes up for a lot of other rappers too: In just the last year, Conway’s talked about sending stacks to his child’s mother while he’s on the road, City Girls have bragged about getting so much money through the app they don’t need 9-to-5s, and Lil Durk’s pledged to send funds to friends in need. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly when shouting Cash App out became commonplace; there are hundreds of references to it in rhymes. It was entrenched in the hip-hop lexicon before Roddy Ricch’s 2020 megahit “The Box” (“She sucked a n-igga soul, gotta Cash App”), although Guapdad calls that “the biggest example.” But in just a few years, the app has become ingrained in hip-hop culture, beginning, as so many modern trends do, in the south.
“Cash App’s explosion actually came out of Atlanta, which makes perfect sense,” says Web Smith, founder of 2PM Inc. and an ecommerce analyst. “You can see a graph of this boom occurring from Atlanta and along what I call the SEC South. It’s Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, which is incredibly odd for a technology company. It shows that outside of Silicon Valley, outside of the west coast and New York City, the real adoption was occurring because of Black culture in the south.”
Cash App was founded in October 2013, and is owned by the Jack Dorsey-led financial services company Square, which invented those iPhone card swipe attachments used by every coffee shop and recently acquired majority ownership in Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service for mysterious reasons that might just relate to Cash App—which Jay-Z is now in charge of. Square’s card readers bring a sleek genericness to any kind of transaction, but they never permeated the zeitgeist like Cash App has.
“This partnership will be a game-changer for many. I look forward to all this new chapter has to offer!” Jay wrote in a March Twitter thread about the deal. In a statement from Jesse Dorogusker, TIDAL’s interim lead, he pledged “access to financial systems that help artists be successful,” though the specifics are still murky for now.
Very often, what becomes mainstream pop culture starts off in the Black community, and both Guapdad and multi-platinum Portland rap star Aminé have noticed that Cash App is used significantly more than any other money transfer app by the people around them. (Some artists, like Teejayx6, also reference the major bank-affiliated Zelle, but its presence in hip-hop is still quite niche).
“ICash App is just such a big app at this point, it’s utilized by so many people, that it was always going to make its way into lyrics,” Guapdad explains. “It’s the most socially-discussed money transfer service in the world, I would say. [It has] good design, the UI is so friendly. People fuck with it, and it makes the money feel less monetary and more like a utility.”
“This isn’t even just rap, this is just Black culture in general. Venmo is people in your business, and we don’t like people in our business,” Aminé explains. “I have a Venmo, but I don’t really use it anymore…It’s made for white culture. ‘Drinks with Sarah.’ The plug [emoji] for the electricity bill. Black people are not spending their time typing in what they’re paying for.”