Writing Home: The Origin Story of Guapdad 4000
The frequent flyer mile lifestyle is all but impossible to uphold in this time of restricted movement. But when Guapdad 4000 settles down at his digs for an interview with us, he’s aglow with the aura of a jetsetter: shades and sweater and a thin gold chain ‘round his neck. He just flew in from Hawaii, having finished shooting a music video for a new single called Chicken Adobo, a love song inspired by his friends from Filipino and Polynesian cultures.
The clear send-up for the dish doesn’t escape the other proud but muted Pinoys chilling in the Zoom call, and it doesn’t escape me that Guapdad’s first words speaking to us are: “Happy to be home.”
Happy to have you, sir.
“It was a crime and a lifestyle that I used to be involved in that set my mentality, that set my habits, that set my creativity up in a certain way, and now this is the art I make because of it”
Akeem Douglas Hayes was born in Oakland, California and is of black and Filipino descent. He spent his formative years organizing parties in the East Bay scene, and he got his associate degree in fine arts at Berkeley City College.
But perhaps the most formative part of his history is his experience in the trap of scamming and fraudulence, clued in by an illustrious set of nicknames. Aliases like Ferragamo Falcon, Valentino Viper and Balenciaga Bandit sound like the rogues gallery of fly villains from a DC Elseworld, and he wears those names well. “It was a crime and a lifestyle that I used to be involved in that set my mentality, that set my habits, that set my creativity up in a certain way, and now this is the art I make because of it,” he says.
The idea of hip-hop tends to be synonymized with the concept of crime poetry. Even those uninitiated to the genre’s canon view hip-hop, sometimes reductively, as the artistic locus of hood narratives and the struggles that come with them. This is to say that in a way, even though Guapdad has changed lanes, he’s still running on the high horsepower engine of his old scam life. He broke into the scene with his 2017 mixtape Scamboy Color, a slickly produced and lyrically candid account about his scam days.
Since then he’s been refining his recipe for success with every move—putting out hella merch, leading a hyper-viral existence on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, rewriting the rulebook on clout chasing, a concept he interrogated on a Sway in the Morning interview.
Carrying over the lessons he learned from his scam life into his artistry has solidified his reputation as a Bay Area great. He’s becoming something of a pioneer of the subgenre of “scam rap” because of it.
“I do feel the pioneer badge on my chest,” he says. “It’s tight but, at the same time, that metal do turn cold when you realize some people just won’t get it. They won’t ever get it, until later on, when it’s already beyond me, and like, there’s another scam rap superstar. I’d like to consider myself as a person who pioneered the genre. But now, that genre is just kind of a part of a bigger envelope or black book, that I can pull from. Like a category rolodex that I can choose to be a part of or not.”
This understanding of hip-hop’s different styles comes from Guapdad’s deep-running roots in the Bay Area, a place he owes a lot of us his personal and artistic development to. He pays respect to those who formed his sonic heritage before him, naming the likes of Mac Dre, Keak da Sneak, Digital Underground. “Let’s give Lil B his flowers instantly—nobody does—and he’s just as influential as somebody like Chief Keef or Soulja Boy. He was huge for me too.” Even with his modern trap sound, hyphy and boom bap permeate Guapdad’s work, evident in his 2019 debut record Dior Deposits.
“The Bay Area is such a cultural hub for creativity and self-expression. My mind never got hit with the brakes. I never had to hit the brakes in my creativity,” Guapdad says. “And the Bay Area really helped foster that, because of just the natural support that people have for that type of thing goin’ on down there. “
This idea of never decelerating has translated into what he does, even in quarantine. Even before hype for his upcoming album began to build, Guapdad was keeping busy with a project called Rona Raps, a series of virtual cyphers where he gathered friends to freestyle on video from home about the state of things.
“It’s definitely hella telling of where the world was at, at the time. And I feel like it’s a moment in internet and rap history, and people should look at it that way for sure,” he says. There’s also his comic book club with Thundercat and Isaiah Rashad; they’re currently reading Donny Cates’ Knull series for Marvel.
But it seems he’s switching it up with the new record in the works. His new single How Many, produced by Filipino-American producer !llmind goes hard, ingeniously sampling the main book of iconic trance hit Better Off Alone by Alice Deejay and slowing it down to create a love song about the complexities of coming up.
About his upcoming singles and the album as a whole, he says: “They all tie back and relate to the overall narrative that I’m tryna depict with this album, which is really my origin story. Growin’ up in Oakland, being biracial, goin’ through the traumas that we talk about, havin’ the fun moments, havin’ the ratchet moments and just bein’ a part of all of my beginnings, is what [the singles] add to, but they’re their own different chapters.”
Heritage and roots seem to be Guapdad’s artistic polestars. The Filipino experience plays a big part in his life, from the joy of Filipino cuisine—“I call it Guapsilog, I make a Guapsilog in the morning sometimes when I got some leftover meat. I always am cooking garlic rice with that egg. Come on now. Let’s not play with ourselves here,” he laughs—to the darker side of the Filipino condition, of dealing with prejudice.
“I’ll go to a Filipino church with my lolo; my whole life, I had to look at the side eyes from other members at the church. I had to hear racist jokes and insensitive questions about being black and the black experience. I gotta get my head touched because they want to see how my hair feels. My whole life. Even outside of church and other experiences I’ve been in, I’ve been in hospitals, Walmarts, where people are speaking Tagalog and saying things, and they think I don’t understand.”
“I believe in my people. And I truly do.”
So when Guapdad speaks, he speaks from experience, and he counts on this authenticity to come through, wielding his influence and clout to shed light on the Blasian experience. He did it for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and he’s doing it with his music. Despite the anti-black tendencies that seem apparent in the Filipino-American, he believes in his people. He loves them still.
“It’s easy to hate on the indigenous, it’s easy to hate on the darker, and the powers that be have set it up that way,” he says. “But I said that I believe in my people. And I truly do, because with conversations, and new media, social media and exposure, you can nip that shit in the bud.” Guapdad’s music, his content, his story, will be the catalysts. “So that’s how I gotta look at approaching colorism in these countries. If we give people the access to accept this as the new norm, they will fold.”
Listening to Guapdad talk about his plans, it feels like I’m being clued in on a scammer’s grandest heist, one that’ll gut the coffers of white supremacy. And you can’t help but not just root for Guapdad, but also claim with certainty that he’ll pull it off. He’ll let the record speak for itself, but this proud endorsement from the Ferragamo Falcon should be proof enough:
“You gotta listen to it top to bottom. There’s no way you can be a music lover and hate it.”
Guapdad and !llmind’s collaborative album, 1176, drops March 19th via PARADISE RISING. In the meantime, listen to the first single off 1176, How Many.
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Photography Paul Middleton
Interview and Cover Story Jam Pascual
Special thanks to PARADISE RISING and 88rising