Guapdad 4000’s life sounds like a movie. Within minutes of our recent phone conversation, he’s filling me in on the comic book club that he recently started with Thundercat and Isaiah Rashad. The California-based rapper/producer, born Akeem Douglas Hayes, is currently reading author Jonathan Hickman’s run on Marvel’s Avengers.
Twenty minutes on, near the end of our conversation, I ask Guapdad, 28, to describe his average brainstorming session. “I’ll do a fake brainstorm session right now... Boogie’s asking to do the video for ‘Hairless Horseman,’” he says without hesitation, referring to the standout song from his latest EP Platinum Falcon Returns, out now via TWNSHP, LLC, and ADA Worldwide.
“The horse has to have a Gucci saddle,” Guapdad insists. “We gotta be in full Polo attire, but the Polo attire is Guapdad merch we’re gonna drop with the video. What’s something cool we can do to market this video? Maybe we can put a guillotine on Fairfax. Who can build a guillotine? I might build a guillotine.”
From music videos where he’s the face of a train to his vaunted Rona Raps web series, Guapdad and his team channel his boundless creative energy into everything. He’s as comfortable bumping elbows with J. Cole and his Dreamville camp during their Revenge of The Dreamers III sessions as he is sporting a shimmering 10-foot long du-rag on the GRAMMYs red carpet.
Guapdad may love himself a good spectacle, but he works hard to ensure his personality doesn’t overshadow the most important aspect: the music.
“I’m so melodic most of the time, I know a lotta shit is going over people’s heads,” he elaborates. “I see the bars people quote, and it be the obvious ones. I think people respect me as a lyricist, but I’m up there when it comes to the complicated shit.”
Guapdad 4000 has come a long way in a short while. He’s ready for his respect. Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: The first time I saw you was in the video you recorded in your car about being addicted to anime and chicken wings. Do you still feel like your life is spiraling out of control?
Guapdad 4000: Every day. I went to a dinner date last night and just came home from it, so you know how I’m rockin’. It’s funny because that was one of the early factors that worked against me being taken seriously. But now that so many people take me seriously, what a tight ass way to be introduced to an artist.
Where did the idea for that video come from?
I had originally went viral for my 24th birthday. I went on this whole thing where I was like, “Oh, this is the start of my career.” It was a call to action. I couldn’t recreate that magic. I was leaving YouTube from this thing one of my managers, Sam, had set up for me, and I kinda wasn’t feelin’ it. I just sat up [in the car] and kept it 100, bro. People love my birthday video because I was just doing me. It wasn’t a skit. It wasn’t like a Fatboy thing or a Shiggy thing; I was just being honest. I said, “I’m just gonna turn on my phone and say how a nigga feelin’ right now.” And that video popped out. Most millennials can relate and go through the same shit. It got to the point where I realized in order to connect to human beings, you gotta be a real human being.
You definitely can’t make a Guapdad in an algorithm. As someone very active on social media, what are your favorite and least favorite aspects about it?
My favorite aspect of social media is my career, and my least favorite aspect is my career. I just told this to Bryson Tiller the other day. He’s so revered and so legendary because he can exist outside of social media. We don’t give a fuck about what Bryson Tiller posts on Instagram or Twitter, even if you’re a die-hard who secretly knows where his mama lives and shit. You don’t give a fuck what that nigga posts on the gram; you just want him to drop a song. Period. That’s not the case for me just yet, and I’d like it to be. But because I came in the game via means of social exposure through the platforms, I’m kinda glued to it. That’s not a timeless thing, and I wanna grow to make timeless music. A goal of mine is to work beyond that limitation.
As a progenitor of the form, what’s your definition of “scam rap?”
Rapping about identity theft and the lifestyle that comes along with it. And I’d leave it at that. You see different people approach it differently. I took a less regional-sounding approach to it compared to other niggas in [the San Francisco Bay Area] who talk about it or the California/Detroit abridged sound where most of scam rap exists. Then you got people like Money Man; he was rapping about scamming for a hot one.
I was always happy to be on the forefront. I was the mainstream face of it for the brunt of whatever run you could say it had. I pride myself on that. I’m from the Bay; I’m big on niche cultures and the creation of subgenres, and it was tight to be a part of one.
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How else do you feel the Bay Area has inspired you as a musician?
It’s the charisma, man. Everyone I look up to in the Bay, I like their personality. They flossy, or they was a nigga that had bitches, and that shit was inspiring. Like when you look up to a nigga, and he’s genuinely Mr. Bitches, you want to emulate that.
The Bay Area is a very accepting place. We don’t deal with a lot of the prejudices I’ve been made aware of as I traveled the world. I felt like it was always cool to be a weirdo. We was surrounded by so much art. We surrounded by murals and programs and modes of creativity and self-expression. I never felt weird doing what I was doing. I fucked with the street niggas, the Bebe kids, the badass kids, the Cambodian hood niggas from across the street. Everybody thought it was hella cool that I be drawing and that I paint, and at the same time, I could come out and be bad with them. That was something I was tight at; they showed me love on it. The openness is something I’ve always fucked with.
That creativity shines through in a song and video like “Lil Scammer That Could.” Where’d the idea for the video come from?
That idea came from a brainstorm with the homie Chris Simmons. He already had a treatment ready, and he’s from the Bay as well. He’s a person that knows I’m ready to break all the rules. I’m ready to do whatever we need to do to have something look tight. He had presented me a thing, and he was nervous whether Denzel [Curry] was gonna like it or not, and I was like, “Aye, bro. My niggas gonna trust me. We just need to rock.” And then he sent me the treatment, and we just enhanced it from there.
I’m the type of nigga who, if you tell me to get on a plane, I’ll want it to be a plane from the 1970s, and then it turns out the plane was a vagina the whole time. I get as random as I can and spitball ideas, and then we fuck with it. Chris is talented enough to make it happen. I trusted his vision, and he trusted mine, and that shit came out monstrous.
Platinum Falcon Returns is your second EP of the year. What inspired you to follow up the first Platinum Falcon project so quickly?
In my mind, I was never gonna stop dropping music this year. Once we came up with the idea to release some EPs—and by we, I mean my manager—I was all aboard with it. I like cinematography and being thematic in that way. All of these songs are hella old to me. It’s just my way to catch niggas up to where I’m at, talent-wise. I’m not there no more. I can sing better now than I could when I made “Deadly Summer Assassination Squad.” “Choppa Talk” was the first indie beat I ever sat down and tried to produce. I’m now 30 beats into that sound.
Did the want to catch your fans up influence the idea of releasing the Platinum Falcon series as EPs as opposed to longer projects?
I like to arrange things by the mood or the topic or the feeling. I never do it by the bounce because I don’t want any of my projects to sound the same. I just kinda arrange it how I see fit. I got so much music, man; it’s hard. The past two sessions with James Delgado were 10 songs deep. I hate when rappers say, “We did 30 songs today.” When I’m in a session, and I make five songs, four of them are hella fucking tight.
There’s a difference between dropping 30 songs and having five of them be good versus dropping five songs and having four of them be good.
I’m blessed to be there because that wasn’t always the case.
How do you feel you’ve grown as a producer?
That shit kinda snuck up on me because I’ve always been producing, but I’ve also been learning this whole time. Fucking with James Delgado specifically, I’m super hands-on. I’ve basically co-produced everything you’ve ever heard. I don’t ask for no credit or try to do the co-production thing or anything. I’m just in the studio telling niggas exactly what to do. I didn’t realize that that was a pseudo learning experience until I picked up my laptop, and I was tight as fuck. I’ve been taking notes this whole time and didn’t peep it. That’s something that’s just improved on some practice makes perfect type shit, too. My learning prowess is so exemplary; it allows me to be ahead of the curve by accident. If me and the average dude start on something, I’m starting on four, and he’s starting at zero.
You’ve mentioned how much your management and team help your process. How integral are they to bringing your ideas to life?
My team knows I’m willing to do anything and everything. It’s just about putting the creative facilities together to make it happen. My manager is good at that and brainstorming; so is my photographer Paul and my little cousin Cole, who does all my graphics. It’s always a combination of us all. I’m always a fan of speaking on that because I already do everything else creatively. Before I got Cole to be serious about graphics and design merch and shit, I was already designing covers and writing my own raps. It’s all my vision, but it’s facilitated and executed by my team.
What do you wish people would notice about your music that they typically don’t?
I ask for more people to go on Genius and read the lyrics. I’m so melodic most of the time; I know a lotta shit is going over people’s heads. I see the bars people quote, and it be the obvious ones. For some of these songs, especially these last two EPs, I’ve been dropping S-tier bars like this is an MMORPG or some shit. Niggas just gotta pay attention. I think people respect me as a lyricist, but I’m up there when it comes to the complicated shit. I’m not tryna be the next J. Cole or Lil Wayne, the greatest rapper alive, but I’ve got the potential to be up there, so I’d like people to acknowledge that.