The idea blossomed last week at a strip club — or rather, several strip clubs.
Ralo, an Atlanta rapper, and his friend, fellow rapper Gucci Mane, made a round of appearances last week at some of the city’s adult entertainment establishments.
At each one, promoters gave the headliners a stack of bills to “make it rain” — showering strippers with cash in an opulent display of wealth long associated with rappers.
But Ralo, 21, whose given name is Terrell Davis, said he thought of a more noble use for the money.
“We go in the club, and we throw money, but they really don’t need it,” he told The Washington Post. “I said let me get this money and give it to the homeless . . . make it rain on them.”
“Whoever in the club throwing the most money, that’s who gets the most attention. That’s who’s supposed to be the biggest man. I be seeing people out here, they be flipping for these strippers, so if we gonna be bigger than each other, let’s be bigger than each other in a better way.”
So late last week, Ralo drove around in his $200,000 Corvette convertible, looking for homeless people.
He found dozens in a parking lot in downtown Atlanta, standing in line behind a van serving free meals.
What followed — and was recorded, then shared widely on Instagram and Twitter — has some praising the rapper’s generosity and others saying he was demeaning poor people in a low-class publicity stunt.
In the video, he is sitting on the roof of his car, a stack of bills in his hands. Someone counts down. Then Ralo stands and starts flinging bills into the air.
As the bills fall to the ground, people in line scramble for the money. Some grip duffel bags and sprint for the cash. Others hold onto their Styrofoam plates as they stoop to grab the bills. One man asks the rapper to throw more cash his way.
In the background, one man, apparently a part of Ralo’s entourage, laughs hysterically.
“Ha ha, they forgot their food,” he said. “Them folks got plates in their hand and everything.”
Ralo said he had only positive intentions.
“It was like seeing a baby wake up for Christmas,” he said. “It touched their soul. I feel like I got a bigger effect than if I was to throw it in the strip club.”
Later, Ralo took to Twitter and encouraged other rappers to do the same. He called it #RaloHomelessChallenge
“F— going to the strip club, all the n—-s wit money let’s go to all the homeless shelters and make it rain on the poor people… #RALOHOMELESSCHALLENGE”
The rapper has had his share of critics, including dozens who said the display deprived the homeless of their dignity.
“There may be better ways to have a profound impact, but it doesn’t mean an impact wasn’t made,” said John Moeller, the executive director of Action Ministries, which houses and feeds homeless families in Atlanta. “I’m of the belief that if there’s one person trying to do some good in the world, we should encourage that. I celebrate the generosity that was offered up. Maybe the process he used could have been better.”
“Make It Rain” is the name of at least two rap songs and the subject of many, many others — as common for rappers as a touchdown dance is for football players. It was also the title of a 2006 hit by rappers Fat Joe and Lil Wayne.
But the practice spread to other wealthy entertainment icons, even as it came to symbolize rap’s excesses. One candidate for make-it-rain poster child is NFL player Adam “Pacman” Jones, formerly of the Tennessee Titans, who climbed onto the stage of a Las Vegas strip club in 2007 and dumped $40,000 in $1 bills out of a Louis Vuitton backpack.
Chaos ensued, a bouncer was shot and paralyzed, and Jones — who bit a bouncer on the leg and punched a stripper fighting over the cash — ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct.
On Tuesday, Ralo told The Post he was trying to transform a boilerplate rapper activity into an act that could help people. He said he thought his critics were unnecessarily hostile.
“I wasn’t coming up there to flip, to flaunt, to make myself look better,” he told The Post. “I ain’t arrogant. I actually was coming to give back. I wasn’t trying to do a publicity stunt.”
“I really don’t know how they can even say that. That right there at that moment, it learned me a lot about life. I didn’t know that people can turn something good into something bad.”