Oakland-raised, LA-based rapper Guapdad 4000 can best be described as a combination of the slick-talking Vallejo rapper Mac Dre and Joanne the Scammer -- the online personality who lives for drama, robbery, and fraud.
Like Joanne (internet comedian Branden Miller's alter-ego that went viral in 2016), Guapdad lives by a philosophy of scam-or-be-scammed, and his hilarious Instagram and YouTube videos on the subject could be considered a body of work in their own right. On his debut mixtape, Scamboy Color, he puts that ethos to laid-back, West Coast beats that hark back to Mac Dre classics like "She Neva Seen" and "Not My Job" with modern flourishes like sleek synths, autotuned flows, and trap hi-hats.
Since the release of Scamboy Color in December, Guapdad's star has risen rapidly. He's working with EMPIRE, a San Francisco distribution label that features buzzworthy indie hip-hop acts like Brockhampton on its roster. And he's being booked to open for some notable up-and-comers like Lil Xan and SOB x RBE.
The video for "Scamboy," the lead single on Scamboy Color, is a crash course in internet inside jokes and cultural references -- designer brands, anime, Oakland's criminal underworld -- at the heart of Guapdad's humor. It opens with a Tim and Eric-esque infomercial, where Guapdad introduces himself as the "Prada Pastor" of the "First Fruadvengelical Blaptist Church," preaching the gospel of credit card fraud and identity theft. After addressing his congregation of aspiring conmen, Guapdad -- in his typical absurdist style -- rides around West Oakland on a horse while flashing his gold teeth and pile of (probably other people's) credit cards.
Guapdad says Scamboy isn't just a persona -- and that he has some shady online dealings in his past. But much like former drug dealers-turned-rappers often relate the street hustle of their past to a "by any means necessary" approach to music, Guapdad translates the concept of scamming into a larger statement about survival and self-preservation.
"The essence of this whole scam and finesse movement has been generalized into essentially getting yours by any means," says Guapdad, whose real name is Akeem Hayes, in a recent FaceTime interview. "I started scamming out of necessity. Nobody wakes up and says I'm finna scam a million people -- those people are usually evil. I'm not an evil dude but I'm not a hero: I'm an anti-hero."
Those questionable ethics might raise some eyebrows, but hip-hop is a genre where outlaws can easily become folk heroes, and Guapdad embraces that. He's comically narcissistic and in-your-face about his sins and bad habits (chugging Hennessy from the bottle is a big one), yet endearing with his Urkel glasses and love for Pokémon.
"This is the age of weirdos, and I'm a complete strange guy," he says, explaining his resonance with the current zeitgeist. "I've got a lot of urban appeal because I'm from West Oakland, but my taste is 100-percent Asian in terms of media and cuisine because I grew up in a Filipino and black household, and I've always been obsessed with Japan because of the cartoons and manga."
As with many people who grew up obsessed with the internet, branding comes naturally to 25-year-old Guapdad, who's garnered organic buzz without any features from high-profile artists. In the 2000s, he used his weird sense of humor to attract big followings on MySpace and Tumblr, which he parlayed into his upwards-of-24k followers on Instagram and Twitter respectively. But he remembers one particular moment that helped his fan base multiply: A video he posted on his 24th birthday, where he addresses the camera while lounging in fur coat, bathed in $100 bills.
"I did this whole spiel about drinking Hennessy and catching all the Pokémon, and it just went crazy from there," he laughs.
This video and others on YouTube and Instagram where Guapdad plays up his comedic persona (this one about his anime addiction is also a gem) give his legions of young fans another way to connect with him outside of his music, and they've already absorbed the bizarre slang Guapdad's coined. One of his nicknames for himself, Ferragamo Falcon, spawned a litany of alliterative, luxury brand-referencing lingo, like "Louis Vuitton leveled up," "Dufflebag Damier Dove," and "Hermes Hawk." (At one point, he stops our Facetime interview to introduce me to his dog. When I ask what breed it is, he says it's a "Balenciaga Boston terrier.")
But Guapdad doesn't want to be known as a joke rapper. Those he looked up to in childhood, like Eminem and Ludacris, parlayed humor into successful rap careers. "Plus I'm from Oakland, so my main influence is Mac Dre of all people. He was the most animated rapper of all time," he adds. "My goal is to be taken serious as an animated rapper, not a comedian-turned-rapper."
Guapdad 4000 opens for Lil Xan at Cornerstone in Berkeley on Jan. 31 and for SOB x RBE at the Fox Theater on Mar. 17. More info here and here.