In just 15 months, Money And Violence has gone from an addictive local web series brought to life by a group of authentic Brooklynites with a camera and mic, to the top of Jay Z’s YouTube playlist and according to the show’s creator, this is only the beginning.
We caught up with self-taught filmmaker and Money and Violence mastermind Moise Veranu (aka “Rafe” ) who writes, shoots, edits and stars in the increasingly popular internet phenomenon to get the inside scoop on the show’s new partnership with TIDAL, the importance of authenticity, keeping celebrity cameos at bay, what’s in store for season 2 and much more.
Check out our interview below.
Talk a little about how the TIDAL deal came about and what your reaction was when you found out that you’d be announcing it live on stage at the TIDALx1020 concert.
Well, the deal came about due to the relationship that my managers have with Chaka [Pilgrim] and other people at Roc Nation. Them bringing us out at the Tidal concert was an amazing moment. For one, to announce to the world that we had partnered with Tidal gave us access to a completely new platform, but at the same time, we loved the fact that it became another outlet for our content.
And just being someone from Brooklyn, you can imagine the feeling of home pride that we all had to be on that stage and…I could’ve been on any stage in the world [laughs] but, there we were at the Barclays center.
Jay Z has said in the past that while he pays attention to everything, he’s not one to consistently follow many things in terms of entertainment programs, but also that if something is really good, it’ll reach him. You guys were able to accomplish that with Money and Violence. What do you think it is about the series that makes it such a stand out?
I think the authenticity of the series is what creates our public appeal. And when I say that, I just mean that people who are or were from that world can relate to it and for those who aren’t, it allows them the opportunity to take a glance into that world when they never would have gotten the opportunity to otherwise.
In addition to being one of the main characters, you’re also the writer/creator of the series. What was your thought process working to develop a narrative that would tow the line between being authentic enough to accurately represent reality while also resonating with viewers who aren’t familiar with the lifestyle?
My thought process was really just to get the story right. The so-called “street” lifestyle represented in Money and Violence is usually depicted [by other shows] in such a way that people sugar coat it. And that’s just not the truth, you know, because it’s not just black and white. So many times, the part of the story that gets left out is the fact that the reasons a lot of people do certain things in this lifestyle is solely because of survival. They’re in positions where they don’t have other resources, under most circumstances. With most shows, you have “bad” people taking pride in what they’re doing but, these people [on Money and Violence], if they had other resources or something else that they could do, you know, they wouldn’t be doing this. I think that although this has never been represented on the screen, that’s the reality of most of the people that are from this world.
So, I just wanted to show them the story from that side. And I know that that’s something that definitely resonates with the viewers only because that’s not something that’s ever really been spoken on. You know, bad guys are usually just bad guys but, what I like to call the characters on my series are villains with a superhero’s heart.
Who’s been the favorite character among the fans in the series so far?
I think Miz. He’s a no nonsense type of character so, people have gravitated towards that.
As the show has continued to grow in popularity and the audience has broadened, which celebrity has been the most surprising supporter so far?
Funny story. I think it was around the time that episode 12 had just dropped. I wake up one morning and I get an e-mail and it says ‘you have an @ mention on Twitter.’ So, I look at my Twitter and I see a mention from a Twitter account for the actor Michael Rapaport that says “I love the show.” So I go to his profile, check it out and end up being like “nah, that’s not Michael Rapaport.” So, I paid it no mind. Later that evening, my manger reached out and said there was a fight that night at Madison Square Garden and he wanted me to go ( I think it was a Roc Nation event, as a matter of fact). So, I grabbed a few of the other cast members and we went. So I get into Madison Square Garden and as I’m waking down the aisle I hear, “Oh my God, its you!” and I turned around it was Michael Raparpot and he was like “hey, man, I just mentioned you on Twitter this morning!” So, that was very surprising. But, he loved the show.
Another one would be when I met with Jay Z and he told me he loved the show. Or when I met with TyTy and he told me, ‘you know, Jay is actually the one who put me on.’ So, all of those were great moments.
Speaking of celebrities, are there plans to incorporate celebrity cameos into the second season or do you feel like that’s something that would take away from the authenticity of it all?
Well, what’s most important to us is that authenticity. So, while celebrity cameos are something that I’ve entertained because it’s one of the things that could show that the series has progressed and gotten bigger, I’m also not willing to compromise the authenticity to get to it. For example, we had Ebro from Hot 97 on the season 1 finale but it was done in such a way that, some people didn’t even realize it was Ebro.
So I am willing to entertain the celebrity cameos but, only if it’s done correctly. There’s a couple of different ways to do it. I mean, if you look at a scene like the one with me and Ebro, it made sense because he played an old friend of mine from the past who has actually matured enough to not want to be involved in that street life anymore. So, with any future celebrity cameos, they would have to be just as organic as that. They’d either have to play themselves or it would have to make sense in another way. Maybe if one of the characters went to an event or went to a party or you know, just something that would happen in real life.
Without giving too much away, which character is going to have the most surprising or unexpected shift in their storyline in season 2?
What are some things that people can expect to see in season 2 that they didn’t see in season 1 now that you’ve had the experience of putting out the first season?
They can expect a couple of new characters. Probably a little more police involvement and the police having more of a presence. And they can also expect backstory on each character so they can get a better understanding of why they are the way that they are.
Being that the series started out on YouTube, which is free, are you concerned at all about losing your core audience by debuting the second season exclusively on TIDAL?
I believe that the TIDAL platform will really just expose use to more viewers and will broaden our audience, actually. The way that we did the deal, we structured it in such a way that we’re not alienating our day 1 audience from YouTube. So it’ll be on TIDAL first but, everyone will get the opportunity to see the second season.
You mentioned having a heavier police presence for season 2. With everything going on in the Black community from the police brutality epidemic to the culture’s involvement in the upcoming presidential election, are social issues impacting African-Americans something that will be incorporated into season 2?
Definitely. You know, one of the main purposes of Money and Violence from the beginning was just to be able to touch on social issues. Money and Violence was supposed to be, to some degree, “The Black Experience.” In other words, it was created to help people to see certain things from the inside looking out rather than just from the outside looking in.
As the mastermind behind the series who created it with a single mic and camera, you were someone who really embodied the concept of not having much but working with what you had and it resulted in something amazing, which is very inspiring. What advice would you have for other people who are on a similar path or who would like to pursue this the way that you did?
The first thing I would like to stress is the importance of keeping like- minded people around you. Without a collective of people around me who were actually in the same frame of mind, this never could’ve happened like it did. We were just like-minded people with a common goal, but that was one of the most important things because at the end of the day, if you’re pushing one direction and the people around you are going in a total different direction, you can’t really get anywhere. And secondly, I’d say always know that the only human hand on this planet that can stop you is your own. And that’s a testament to my life over the course of the last 15 months; it has totally changed.
And, you know, anything is possible, you just have to put in that effort and put in that hard work and you just have to keep going.
Season 2 of Money and Violence will premiere on TIDAL in January, with the entire first season and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage currently available on streaming service as well.
Non-TIDAL subscribers can get caught up on the first season HERE, but after watching season 1, we’re confident that you’ll be more than sold on that TIDAL subscription come January.