Work From Home is a new vertical dedicated to life and culture in the strange and unprecedented situation of self-quarantine that many of us are dealing with right now. From what to watch to how to get a fit off and how to not think about anything, this is our guide to the great indoors. For updates on the spread of Covid-19 and how to keep yourself safe and informed, consult WHO and the CDC.
Like most of us, Bay Area rapper Guapdad 4000 started off this stretch of sustained isolation unsure what the immediate future would look like. A string of tour dates with Thundercat were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, and stuck at home with a busted laptop, he couldn’t even indulge in his plan to hone his beatmaking chops. But Guapdad, whose social media savvy and high-profile friendships have led to a truly unconventional rise in the music world, didn’t stay static for long.
“I had hella free time for maybe the first two-and-a-half weeks of quarantine, and then my career did a full digital turnaround,” he says. “Now I’m fully busy, just all digitally.”
On March 18, he launched Rona Raps, a weekly freestyle series where he and his friends trade verses cypher style through selfie videos. The series has spanned multiple episodes so far, beginning with Compton rapper Buddy, a close friend of Guapdad’s, and has since included everyone from Wiz Khalifa to Lil Yachty and Murs.
“I just hit up people that I know and fuck with or [my manager] recommends somebody. I’m not trying to be like, ‘I know blah blah blah blah blah,’ but I’m friends with a lot of people,” he says. “I’ll see someone in a comment and be like, ‘How did I not think of you?’ That literally happens every week.”
Though the technology and circumstances that led to Rona Raps are distinctly modern, there’s a nostalgic feeling to the whole series, harkening back to the mixtape era when rappers made a point of proving themselves over iconic instrumentals. So far, Guapdad and his fellow artists have used beats like Mannie Fresh’s “Real Big,” Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It,” and Slum Village’s “Players.”
The Rona Raps series has not only provided stress relief for the listeners and artists alike, but worked as subtle promotion for Guapdad’s recently released EP, Platinum Falcon Tapes, Vol. 1, which he plans to follow soon with Platinum Falcon Returns. The EPs are being released in weekly installments, just like the Rona Raps series —while there’s little consistency in our lives right now, at least we can count on regular output from Guapdad 4000.
After the release of Episode 7, we caught up with the scam rap savant to talk about how the Rona Raps series came together, some of the most memorable bars he’s written thus far, and his philosophy for making quarantine content that doesn’t feel cynical or exploitative.
“Personally, I like talking about relevant times on wax where you don’t feel the date. I never like to say years or the actual date or anything, because I feel like that puts a timestamp on the song. If Bobby Shmurda had said, ‘Just caught a body in 2015’ or some shit like that, it wouldn’t have been as tight as ‘About a week ago.’ That ‘week ago’ is perpetual. That’s why the quarantine songs that people are putting out aren’t sticking. It’s almost gimmicky.”
“It was really just in my homie’s backyard with a small crew. [“Trade Places With Them Jeans”] isn’t about quarantine and, like I said, I don’t like dating stuff. I wanted it to be relevant to the times, but I want people to be able to watch it in a couple years not necessarily knowing anything about the quarantine, and just think that was the vibe of the video, like that was just the wardrobe we chose. So that’s what we went for with that. It was awkward to do, because we’re actually quarantined. Nobody was really touching like that. I’m sure the DP was hella spooked.
Rich Brian’s team came to me with the idea and the budget [for the ‘“Bali” video] and were like, “We’d really love for you to be part of it.’” They asked me to get friends to do it. All the rapper guests, I pretty much am responsible for. Kenny [Beats], Denzel [Curry], Buddy, and Thundercat all got locked in because of me and I picked their gifts and sent them out. I just called them and let them know, ‘It’s something super fun, we won’t expose where you live, and we’re doing hella charity, so y’all should fuck with it.’ And they fucked with it. It’s to keep it lighthearted, but also let people know the charity is there. There are still good deeds to be done, all scam shit aside.”
“It wasn’t even my idea, it was my manager [Sam Lancaster], he brought it up. We have brainstorming calls all the time where I throw an idea out, or he throws a potential opportunity out, and then I try to come up with something creative to do to maximize it. We’re always springboarding off each other. He was just like, ‘What if you rapped with your homies over FaceTime or something?’ Then it became over Zoom, and then it ended up with us just recording selfie videos.
I knew I needed a proof-of-concept episode, so I called Buddy, because Buddy will never tell me no. He doesn’t even need to understand it to do it, he’ll just do it. The one with Buddy did so well. I think it was like 350,000 views between just my account and his in one day. I was like, ‘Oh shit, people really fuck with this. This is tight.’ Hella people chimed in, so then I did the next one with Chris Brown, and then Denzel Curry and Wiz Khalifa after that. It’s been growing, I’ve been tapping in. I had an eclectic episode with me, Murs, WowGr8 [from Earthgang], Ramriddlz, and KOTA the Friend. That was fucking amazing. [Laughs] Anyone who wants to get some bars off can do it. It’s a non-serious thing. If you want to display your talent and you’re already famous in your own right, I’ll put you on there.
I see some people being like, ‘So-and-so washed y’all,’ or they try to pick their favorites, but it’s not really about that. It’s a digital cypher for the sake of rapping in the house, it’s not really about like, ‘Who is the best MC of all-time?’”
“I’ve always wanted to rap off these beats, for the most part. Some of them get picked — Ramriddlz picked the “Pussy Money Weed” one, Yachty picked the Mannie Fresh beat. Joey Bada$$ picked “Locked Up.” I picked Destiny’s Child. I just ask niggas, ‘You got a beat in mind that you always wanted to rap over?’ And then, if they don’t have one, I’ll figure it out. It’s been the shit that I’ve always wanted to do and I know that, because we’re putting it on Instagram and not monetizing it, no one can come for me. I can do whatever I want over this public instrumental. [Laughs] It’s not even professionally recorded.”
“I remember when I hit Wiz, he was like, ‘Fuck yes! I was hoping you’d ask me.’ [Laughs] And when I hit Curren$y and Joey Bada$$, that episode they were both in the comments like, ‘We’ve got to do one.’ So that’s how that episode got together. They reached out themselves. And then Yachty didn’t even know what the fuck it was. I called him and explained it, he was like, ‘Oh, sick! I’m down.’”
“I was just trying to poke fun at Chet Hanks. All those memes were popping up at the time, and that’s someone who’s super interesting to me. I went to school with a whole bunch of them, but it’s always funny to see rich kids who just really wanna be cool so badly. You already got it all, you can just be a normal rich person. But acceptance is everything, and since all the Jamaican memes were going around with Chet Hanks, I thought it would be funny if I just referred to him as an actual islanders.”
“I was just trying to be relevant and I came up with the metaphor on the spot. To date, I feel like some of the shit I say, honestly, if a bigger, more respected rapper said it, the tweets would be ridiculous. That comparison was some expert level shit. It was like, parallels with STDs and travel — I just thought it was tight. It was a double-double entendre. Just stretching human linguistics and the English language.”
“I was trying to make that connection work so hard, because I had it in my mind what I wanted to talk about. I was like, ‘Rolling, Crips. Deep, Bloods. Rolling in the Deep, Adele. Red, white and blue, American flag. Yes!’ It finally came together and I was like, ‘There it is. We’re going to America.’ [laughs]”
“You wanna know something crazy? It was so many white bitches in my DMs that were like, ‘You can scare me!’ They’d send me shots of their titties next to their spice rack. It was hilarious. The nudes I got from that were top notch, A1.
Every episode comes with people taking things how they want to take it. You know, art is subjective, it’s completely relative. Some people get mad at certain stuff, some people come up with meanings that weren’t what I intended, but they’re so cold I don’t want to deny it. I’m just like, ‘Good job!’” [laughs]