Cracking PIN Numbers: The Rise of Scam Rap

Lucas Foster takes a fascinating look at the movers and shakers in the scam rap subgenre.
By    July 23, 2019

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Lucas Foster is really banned from PayPal and CashApp.

Among the most obviously untrue myths that Americans believe about ourselves is that we value hard work. 

America is a country controlled by a vampire class of financiers, lobbyists, venture capitalists, and weapons manufacturers, many of whom are undoubtedly pedophiles blackmailed by foreign intelligence agencies. These robber barons in Audemars watches run elaborate, intentionally confusing money-making schemes that victimize normal people while discussing themselves and their business in the sunny language of Californian New Age psychobabble and humanitarian liberalism. Wall Street and K Street and Palo Alto success stories are deified as exemplary specimens who “worked hard” to achieve the near mythical American dream of hedonistic consumption. In this fantastical simulation, “elbow grease” stains the thousand dollar shirts of intergenerational wealth, artificial intelligence is being developed for the benefit of all rather than dystopian corporate surveillance schemes, and Raytheon champions diversity and inclusion while manufacturing Space Age weapons to incinerate the black and brown people who defy American imperialism internationally.

In reality the defense contractors, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, Silicon Valley technocrats and options traders who hold all the cards are scammers: these vultures perpetuate endless myths about their own competence and intelligence so they can gut the remaining functional limbs of our economy for parts and laugh at the cereal-eating proles from their private apocalypse bunkers.

It follows that Scam Rap is having its moment in the sun. A new cohort of outlaw proletarian folk heroes are storming rap with cowboy bravado and cyberpunk drip, gleefully and stylishly exposing cracks in the cybersecurity of the banking industry’s opaque, “foolproof” consumer end payment apps and becoming the card-swiping, bank account-spoofing, app-cracking heroes we didn’t know we deserved. 

The North and South Poles of 2019 Scam Rap are Guapdad 4000 and Teejayx6. Guapdad is a silk-tongued LA-by-way-of-West Oakland socialite decked out in designer du-rags who spits an endless supply of ridiculous anecdotes and high level pimp game with California Cool. Teejay is a 17-year-old Detroit street rapper with an ear for simplicity and a pen tuned to efficient, 2 bar story-telling. Guap hangs out with (and scams) Drake to an audience of two hundred thousand adoring instagram followers, while Teejay is laser focused on the transient lifestyle of a teenaged Michigan cyber criminal. Together they offer opposing views of how to hold a middle finger to “respectable” work and how to look great doing it. 

Guapdad’s been at this for awhile, his pristine production, finely-tuned singing voice and effortless flow can all attest to this. 2017’s Scamboy Color is certainly canonical to the nascent microgenre, and a carefully curated selection of singles and b-sides released over the last 18 months saw him continue to explore his God-given gifts as a singer and rapper, but right now he’s having a real pop cultural moment that is as much about Guapdad 4000 the personality as it is about Guapdad 4000 the artist. 

Andy Warhol supposedly said that “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art” and he might as well have been describing what Guap has been up to in 2019. Since “retiring” from scamming and moving to LA last year he has charmed, seduced or entranced everyone he comes in contact with. He’s the type of character who could tell you about his fraud game and convince you to hand over routing numbers in the same breath, and his aura is communicated just as powerfully through media interviews and instagram posts. “Whenever I see you pull up on the block, usually you’re on some sort of motorized scooter, or rented wheels bike, and you always seem like you have Henny in the middle of the day, and then you always seem like you have a new girl with you, sometimes one you just met an hour ago” Adam22 observes in Guapdad’s Independence Day No Jumper interview and Guapdad laughs.

Along the way he met Drake (Drake compares him to notorious cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who Guapdad refers to as “the Bhagwan” who’s “the most articulate, saucy motherfucker” who “only talks to his bottom bitch, Sheila” and “enters into rest mode like Odin”), they made a bet on the Finals and Guapdad “lost,” leading to Drake posting a video of Guapdad 4000, aka the Scam God, aka the Bhagwan, aka the Valentino Vampire, running through Bay Bridge traffic in a dinosaur costume on Instagram. In the ensuing viral nanosecond Guapdad released and promoted “Flossin” which is, by any reliable metric, an excellent pop rap song accompanied by a luxurious and pornographic 4K music video. 

James Delgado’s production is comfortable and atmospheric rap&b fare, a wistful fingerful of piano keys and a melancholy layer of synthesizers paired with a liquid, rolling grouping of snares and claps. It’s a worthy canvas for the aspirational, anthemic chorus and a single cashmere-smooth verse. Where the track sees Guap displaying moods candidly, making cool pop music in warm, ethereal tones, the video is right in your face with it. He sings the chorus while getting head in a Range Rover, ghost rides the whip as two young ladies twerk out the sunroof and back seat, and dances in an undoubtedly overpriced hunting camo fit on top of a high rise. 

A few weeks later he teamed up with Sacramento gangsta rap veteran Mozzy for “Scammin,” which is the song of Scam Rap’s summer. Where “Flossin” is digestible club music for Drake fans and Guapdad’s budding harem, “Scammin” is lurching, hardcore LA Gangsta Rap with little thought for crossover appeal. 

Guap’s summer has been more than a few great singles. he was a standout on Revenge of the Dreamers 3, the culturally omniscient compilation album by J. Cole’s Universal imprint Dreamville, and his current media tour has displayed him as one of the more entertaining interviews this side of Riff Raff. In Hot 97, No Jumper, and Sway in the Morning appearances Guapdad cuts a worldly, articulate figure, with his education from a French language private high school in San Francisco as apparent as his West Oakland street smarts. He has a habit of inventing and flipping slang on the fly and a politician’s ability to control rooms and narratives. Should his rap career inexplicably fail to launch, he has a future in any one of the dozens of hip-hop adjacent reality shows.

Teejayx6 could never be a socialite, he’s too busy getting to the money, and his music lets you know exactly how he does it. He’s at his best when he’s listing off complex money-making schemes that involve VPNs, white-out, fraudulent checks, payment apps, crossing state lines, and a whole lot of finesse in a working class, no-frills monotone flow. Where Guap is the retired “Scam God,” now comfortably positioned in the entertainment industry’s managed and managerial class, Teejay is still on his grind. He shoots his videos in convenience stores, hotels, and Air B&Bs, where he explains what he’s doing with a laptop and dozens of stolen credit cards. 

Where Guapdad seems name search himself every few minutes, Teejay only utilizes his Instagram and Twitter accounts to sell his Cash App and Apple Pay fraud methods or post strangers’ social security and bank cards. Certainly, his instructions to “please hit my DM if you got a bank account” on “Dynamic Duo” are given in earnest.

On his most recent release, July’s Fraudulent Activity, Teejayx6 is relentless. The strategy for hacking your subconscious here is a brute force attack, banging bar after bar over your head with all the subtlety of a pistol whip. Every track is a barrage of facts, scenes, and scenarios that are simultaneously outlandish and one hundred percent believable: the Goldilocks zone for reality rap. Indifferent to his or others’ feelings in the winner-take-all games he plays, Teejay delivers tales of high tech cybercrime with the exuberance of a 17-year-old and a poet’s feel for ironic details (he steals his little cousin’s identity and bribes him with action figures, takes a flight to Philly for a Philly Cheese Steak, and tells his other cousin to sell weed at a lemonade stand at various points in the project).

Each track is between 2 and 3 minutes and the beats are fittingly utilitarian: brutal and funky Detroit bounce stripped down to piano keys, snares, and synthetic bass. Teejay doesn’t engage in the fashionable trappings of modern rap song construction, there is no auto-tune, or singing, or even sing-song hooks. Every bar is delivered with a breathless urgency, communicating his deadly seriousness about his illegitimate business. You would think he would drown in the monotony, that tracks would become redundant, and you’d be wrong. This is the best way to display his strengths: straight bars and a sense of humor.  A tour de force of penmanship and charisma smooths over errors, making a habit of being off beat seem more like a stylistic choice than an error; it’s one take raps by a man who wouldn’t deign to waste his time with rapping the same line twice.  

Fraudulent Activity’s seventh and final track, “SilkRoad,” conjures a headspace that any scammer worthy of the title has inhabited: late at night, no sleep, intoxicated on some ungodly cocktail of research chemicals, scrolling through dark net markets in a lonely and disorienting blue light trip. .onion darknet markets, like the now defunct SilkRoad and DreamMarket, are lumpen-capitalist Christmas catalogs, where any desire of the flesh, no matter how debased, can be fulfilled with a few clicks and a release of bitcoin. A wrong click, a wandering eye, a morbid curiosity can all lead to the darkest corners of the cyber ghetto, where sex slaves and unethically farmed human organs are advertised with the disaffected language of online retail.

Teejay probably came here to purchase some bogus card numbers, or SSNs, or CashApp accounts, but took that wrong turn to a Red Room, one of the semi-mythical live streamed on demand torture porn access points: “Then I went and saw somebody kill themselves in a Red Room/ It was dark as hell a white girl in a bath room/ She overdosed on pills all you see is some perfume” That hook takes place in the digital simulacrum, and the verse brings you right back to the realities of Detroit’s streets, where a fiend runs off with his money and Teejay cuts off his fingers, before using his own thumbs to scam a corny white boy out of six thousand dollars on Tinder. This laser-precise display of what makes Teejayx6 a unique and intriguing artist is an excellent send off for the tape. 

I would not go to Detroit without an RFID-blocking wallet. Besides Teejay and Kasher Quon, the city has managed to accommodate the hyper self-aware Scam Rap collective ShittyBoyz. Their most talented rapper, ShittyBoyz BabyTron, is a 120 pound white kid who compares himself to Drake Bell and nonchalantly discusses five figure fraud plays in the same verse. As funny as that is, his bars on the two singles he released this July are no joke. The Boyz and their fearless vanilla-hued leader have carved out a niche for themselves in Detroit and thanks to a combination of talent and meme-ability will likely have staying power on the internet as well. 

This summer certainly won’t be the last we hear of Guapdad 4000 and Teejayx6, and rap being a copycat game, probably won’t be the last time we hear someone rapping about VPNs, jamming cloned cards in bank machines, “fraud method” pyramid schemes, or crossing state lines on someone else’ dime. Teejay and Guapdad are undoubtedly excellent rappers moving towards their prime, but the aesthetic appeal of scammers in 2019 rap transcends these two singular talents. In the late stage cirrhosis mode of capitalism, a time when political figures seem to be manicured grifters, each human is a data-quantified personal brand, neoliberal ideology is insidiously injected into “inspirational quote” and “#hustle” monoculture, and every normal working class person knows we will work until we die, it is cathartic to celebrate those who bypass the whole charade and play a game of their own rules and making.


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