WifiGawd Got Me Hip

Lucas Foster drops a tribute to the rising D.C. rapper, his choice for the Greatest Rapper Alive.
By    May 20, 2020

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Lucas Foster was reading at a college level when some of y’all were playing Ultimate Frisbee.


Cincinnati, Ohio is never quite beautiful. It’s a Rust Belt city that sunk, shrunk, and withered in the same way that most all of those constantly smog-ridden, silver and rust-colored crevasses of those pockmarked Appalachian hills now are. The decay in the air rises from the slick, sickly brown Ohio River and covers once elegant 19th century brownstones and midrises with both air pollution and a sense of decay a bit more profound than one may find above the clouds or on the coasts. A feeling not of impending doom but a crushing, historiographically profound peak into an empire aging ungracefully. 

Wifi recently said on his Instagram Live that if you smoke mid your thoughts drift into the worst recesses of your mind, because when you are buying mid you are down bad. You drift into that haze of economic insecurity and swirling emotional abysses in a way that is both schizoid and deeply reflective. I was working, or whatever you call affiliate marketing work, at a Buffalo Wild Wings when Trump, on a windswept, sheet grey day in D.C., told a thin crowd of our American carnage. He described “land of abandoned factories, economic angst,” which, as I chewed on hormone-injected, factory-raised, and corn syrup-coated chicken wings, and sat amongst those abandoned factories, I could not quite disagree with. He spelt out a tortured and incoherent vision for a White Nationalist, Hyper Capitalist future, and as that mid pack hit my soul, time slowed to half speed, and I saw a man, likely on high doses of powerful stimulants, preparing to just free ball it. And then the horror sunk in. 

I couldn’t stare down the abyss of greyhat screens and numbers and clickbait holes. I had to go to the only therapy I knew at that time, travelling the post-industrial urban wasteland with my Sennheisers blasting FUBU 05. You probably haven’t heard FUBU 05, because like all of Wifi’s music it was too ahead of it’s time to pop for most of you fucking cornballs, too lo-fi for the A&R’s to be fucking with it, and too raw for all but the rarest. That song I played as I pondered Donald Trump and the apocalypse was “JUGGPACKS,” where Wifi describes how he is moving around Uptown DC with a stick, making plays like a quarterback, and smoking on weed he ran pockets for, on top of the craziest, most complex array of synth and whistle melodies I had ever heard on a hip-hop song. 

I don’t know why his music was so therapeutic for me. I have never pulled up to a stash spot with an automatic shotty. Nor have I ever gone to a party with the intention of robbing plugs. You often hear critics like to smugly deride SoundCloud Rap as “rap for a white and suburban audience,” which is generally the sort of thing someone who would have never been into music discovery to the point where they would have tapped in to WifiGawd music in 2016 would say. And they are dead wrong. WifiGawd got all these beats from Cryjng (a 16-year-old San Diego producer who was in juvenile detention right after this dropped) got off the block and recorded the entire tape in one studio session, then got back to pushing. WifiGawd is not an a self-appointed aesthetic affectation, but a street name appointed to him when, after being kicked out of the house at 16, he had to quarterback those jugg moves off public Wifi, and to this day, bro does not pay a phone bill (POW fact checking and research department has confirmed this).

And as I looked around a city at the last gasps of History’s End, I heard something that captured the moment in the way the pop charts never could. 


It’s been nearly four years since I first heard that album. 

Since then I have interviewed him twice, premiered two of his EPs, and generally maintained a bit of correspondence with a man who I consider to be the Greatest Rapper Alive. That’s a bold statement. How could I, a blogger, claim that a rapper with less than 50,000 monthly Spotify listeners is the Greatest Rapper Alive? Surely the Greatest Rapper Alive is Drake, Drizzy fucking Drake bruh bruh, dropping fye, toosie sliding on em! 

Well the answer is in the music. Wifi has a metronome in his head in the same way a jazz drummer does. Listen intently to his music, starting from the very beginning of his catalog. The percussive patterns he chooses are sophisticated, riding the pocket of the beat in a way that is as polyrhythmically precise as Bernard Purdie: with his preternaturally cool bass-baritone voice manipulating every single syllable to work with every single kick and 808. It’s not necessarily technically inventive, because he writes each bar to interact with each beat’s most invisible percussive corridors and pathways. 

Of course, the intricacies of music theory are never good for one’s soul, body, spirit or shakras. Many a producer has attempted to understand the sweet science without an ear tuned by angels and has found themselves in the pits of hell: time signatures, chord progressions, grating textures all torturing the Third Ear. It’s probably because Wifi puts no thought into his creative process than what his ear and soul tell him to lay down on a beat that his music is so drop dead gorgeous. 

There’s something that hits you in the soul when he goes up a few octaves, figures out his auto-tune presets, and just glides across some ethereal shit like this. You heard it very early, on songs like “Wit My Gang $$$$$ DC 2 la Very Rare Must Collect” With just his hometown partner Jelani Kwesi on the vocal mix, he was able to create some of the most intricately melodic Plug N’ B ever recorded. But the true realization of his potential as Plug N’ B came some time later. 

Up until this point in the high summer of 2018, Wifi had been working exclusively with underground producers, lo-fi drip, filming videos off his android, letting Stevie Franchise put him on top of Nascar b-roll, and focusing a bit more on the concrete in front of his house than play counts and instagram follow backs. Then he was tapped with Tony Seltzer by Lower East Side underground legend TRiPPJONES. According to last.fm, I’ve listened to this song 1007 times. I went on a drinking binge and only listened to this for like 4 days one time, so that might be part of this, but I can still listen to this all the way through, every time. What a classic. 


See a lot of these industry people have been fucking with Wifi on the slick, for years. If you drop a full album with OOGIEMANE in 2017, have crazy drip, and are street certified, they are going to try to lab up your sauce somewhere deep in a bunker underneath Langley. The same part of the basement where they created Kid Buu (a self-admitted clone) in a flesh tube, where Lana Del Rey was transformed into the sort of girl who would sing “my boyfriends cool, but he’s not as cool as me” twelve times in one album and you idiots would say “fye” to eachother, where all sorts of fuck shit is going on. When I interviewed him for the FADER last fall, that shit started happening OD. I’ve heard that every time they try to make a WifiGawd clone he escapes and starts trapping somewhere in the industrial Midwest. Goopchat swore they saw bro in Flint, Michigan, but POW fact checking department confirms that Wifi was not selling automatic shotguns in a KMart parking lot in Flint, Michigan last week. When he showed up to a label meeting in a Gangster Spongebob hoodie recently the Defense Intelligence Agency bought Alamo Records the entire stock available of that piece in the continental United States. 

But Tony Seltzer, no matter how big of a player in the industry he was, was always a real one. So he tapped in with Wifi to give him legit studio time, a mix, a master, and the full album collab stamp. Heat Check 1 was a whole different side of WifiGawd’s music. And since then, Wifi has been tweaking his sound, going across all sorts of different styles. He dropped two of the rarest albums ever last year, a full LP with acidhead reptile from the abyss Hi-C, a full EP of plugged-out ‘98 Suave House beats and exclusive drip, a now deleted tape on his Phonk Revival shit, and who know how many features and loosies. 

Sometime amongst all that experimentation, he innovated his fourth incantation of shit. Linked with Tony Seltzer at the racked up studios in Hidden Hills and Manhattan, and decided he might as well record the best street rap album released so far this decade. 

Heat Check Vol. 2 is soul music. It’s the story of a man, a man on the ascent, a man who came from nothing, from the trench lines that criss-cross Uptown DC not a 4 mile drive from Trump’s Mar-A-Lago North, who was blessed up with the drip since birth but had to get to the bag on his own, and did that all doing what he loves, for the right reasons. In DC respect for him goes so crazy that Chris Richards of the Washington Post confirms he sells out shows once a week. In the music industry the respect goes so crazy for him Earl Sweatshirt co-signed him on stage, Tommy Wright III been tapped in for years, Tony Seltzer just gave him a whole two albums, and it’s been beautiful to watch. 

There’s a really beautiful moment where this comes together: “Shining” is an absolutely ascendant track: those synth melodies that Tony laid down aren’t just two dimensional shapes on a .daw, but sound more like the sonic soundwave of an ink blotter hitting straight water. A few tracks after walking with a stick, to make a flip, he was shinin, on the grind every day tryn’ to make some. And I can tell you when his voice croons those auto-tune melodies hit different if you understand what it’s like to grind every day, for the right reasons, for the art you love and for the people who love you back.


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