By Shannon Carlin
LunchMoney Lewis has got bills to pay. Luckily, it just got a whole lot easier for him to pay them. Since dropping his debut single “Bills”—a soulful ode to the struggles of being a working adult—back in February the song has reached No. 1 in Australia, seen its video hit nearly 5 million views on YouTube and been added to the shortlist for this year’s song of the summer.
It’s an unlikely topic for a summer jam: Who really wants to be reminded that their cellphone bill is due while they’re relaxing on the beach listening to the radio? But Lewis gets at the lighter side of bill-paying while still noting very real concerns ranging from worrying that your credit card will get declined to struggling to put food on the table. Feeling overwhelmed by piling up payments is something anyone of any tax bracket can relate to. No one can escape the dreaded taxman, but thanks to Lewis, you can now dance to a song that pokes fun at him.
“I think it’s something people can relate to and I think that’s the basis of my music,” Lewis, whose real first name is Gamal, tells Radio.com of the track, which will be on his debut EP, slated to drop April 21 on Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Records. “What I’m trying to do is make songs that allow people to have fun, but also evoke an emotion, something that’s true and honest. Life doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, you can still have fun.”
Lewis says he spit out the “I got bills” hook seconds after hearing the piano from on high beat from Ricky Reed, who produced Jason Derulo‘s “Talk Dirty.” Lewis wrote the rest of the track in just 30 minutes and laid it down that same day in the same studio where he had written the Jessie J song “Burning Up” only hours earlier. Lewis was inspired by his recent move from Miami to Los Angeles and all the expenses he was racking up. It’s that honest take that he thinks led to his song’s popularity.
“The moms love it. The kids love it. They can all dance to it, you know? But,” he says, “it always starts a cool conversation like, ‘I have student loans’ or ‘I just moved to Manhattan and I don’t know how I’ll pay my bills.’ I like seeing that it sparks a bigger conversation.”
That ability to get at the heart of a universal topic is also the reason Lewis is being called “Hip-Hop’s Everyman,” a title he’s very interested in keeping. “I want to make music that people feel like they connect with,” he says. “I really want to make music for everybody.”
Before the release of this song, Lewis was known as a songwriter, working on tracks for Jessie J, Juicy J and Fifth Harmony—that is if he was known at all. Many simply know him as that guy who sings the hook on Nicki Minaj‘s Pinkprint track, “Trini Dem Girls,” which he also wrote. “It was kind of crazy, that whole experience,” he says. “I owe it to Nicki for keeping me on that song, it started an interest. It was also really fun to be able to show some of my culture.”
Lewis’ Jamaican heritage is something he can’t help but include in his music. Reggae was the first music he ever heard thanks to his dad, Ian Lewis, who played bass for the reggae band Inner Circle, best known for their song “Bad Boys,” which later became the theme song for the show Cops and a bonafide hit. “The honesty of reggae music and the rhythms of it,” Lewis gives as a reason to love the genre, which recently found its way back into mainstream culture due to Snoop Dogg, Meghan Trainor and MAGIC!’s summer smash “Rude.” “It’s really fun to see it make its way into mainstream and stay in the mainstream. I think people like reggae, the vibe of it.”