"Making it rain" is the act of wantonly tossing stacks of cash into the air. Normally this practice is performed in a club, and dancers clamor for the bills, pick them up, and then forever worship the rain man for the demigod that he is.
The concept is discussed ad nauseam on hip hop radio. Rhapsody lists a dozen artists with songs entitled "Make It Rain," including Atlanta snap music group D4L. As they so eloquently put it in their version:
Make it rain
I make it rain, ho
I make it rain
I make it rain, ho
Other emcees are equally vague when it comes to discussing the topic. Though everyone from platinum selling emcees to rappers unknown outside their own bedrooms claim to be practitioners, they never get into specifics. This leaves me with many questions about the ritual, including: Does making it rain tend to incite greedy riots? Do the folks picking up the cash have to pay taxes on their earnings? Is it against fire code?
But mostly I wonder – has anyone has made it rain, ever? I personally have never observed the practice, despite having attended hundreds of rap shows. In fact, the more I hear about making it rain, the more I'm convinced it's the bling equivalent of Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster.
And so as befits a legend, I recently decided to undertake my own Discovery Channel-style investigation. If making it rain does not actually exist, I would like proof. If it does, I would like to catch some of the money.
I begin my quest where any intrepid pseudo-anthropologist would -- YouTube. Within a few minutes I've uncovered a video of a rapper I've never heard of flashing wads of cash at a Chili's somewhere. But after a full half hour of searching I can't find proof of a single rapper making it rain. Perhaps that's because in each instance the cameraman has had the good sense to set down his equipment and make a mad dash for the cash?
But I will not be discouraged. When an opportunity arises to interview singer and Carson native Ray J, I decide to take the matter up with an actual rain man. Though his songs use both hip hop and R&B beats, he's definitely got the mentality of a bling rapper down cold. He's forever focused on his cars and his women, and in his hit song "Sexy Can I" informs us that
I make it rain in the club
Like…oh, ohh, ohh
Though I'm skeptical, I figure if anyone has the resources to make it rain it would be this man, born William Ray Norwood, Jr. He's got an admirable sales record, after all, as well as royalties coming in from shows like Moesha, in which he appeared alongside his older sister Brandy. But particularly lucrative has been the sex video he shot with socialite Kim Kardashian, the large-caboosed reality TV star and daughter of OJ Simpson's lawyer. He reportedly got a million bucks for its sale to porn company Vivid Video. (Kardashian herself got $4 million, but there's no word on whether she's gotten into the weather-altering business.)
Today at the Manhattan offices of his Koch record label he wears a white t-shirt and a red Los Angeles of Anaheim ball cap. He looks almost exactly like he does on his album covers, or, if you prefer, on the sex tape.
We exchange pleasantries for a little while, and then I set my chin in my hand to let him know it's time to be serious.
"Have you ever actually made it rain?" I ask.
"Oh yeah, we made it rain a little bit last night," he says, adding that the location was a Bronx club, at a show I strangely had no knowledge of. He adds, a bit defensively: "Everything I sing about is usually real."
The way it works, he explains, is that he gets 100 dollars worth of ones – or 1000, whatever – and tosses them out to the crowd using a palms-out, horizontal propelling motion.
Contrary to what I'd imagined, however, he says the folks in attendance never trample each other while grabbing the dough. "When you make it rain," he explains, "what's so crazy about it is that the money just falls on the ground. Everybody knows just to let the girls get it."
The last part hits me like a brick to the chest. Only girls are allowed to pick up the money? That sucks!
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He adds that the first time he ever made it rain was at a Houston strip club when he was 20, and that his favorite part of the ritual is, "seeing the money going up in the air."
"If it's a 'rain storm,'" he concludes, "everybody's in there making it rain, and they like to get trash bags and buckets to put the money in there. It's crazy."
Yes, it does sound crazy. But maybe it's just crazy enough to be true. Although I'm still not totally convinced, his big brown eyes seem to reveal at least he believes he is telling the truth.
I say goodbye, making him promise to call me the next time he's going to make it rain, or at least send me a text message when there's a rain storm in the forecast. For the time being, I put my investigation on hold.