“Back Then I Would Feel So Safe and Loved:” Guapdad 4000 Returns Home

On '1176,' Guapdad tackles the loss of his childhood home to gentrification, battling quarantine exhaustion and letting the song cry with nostalgia for his family’s chicken adobo.
By    May 21, 2021

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The first time I was introduced to Guapdad 4000 it was on this very site back in the summer of 2019. There stood the rapper staring pensively through Hunter S. Thompson-esque yellow aviator shades, a pink durag and holding a colorful bouquet of flowers. He was already a fully-formed Instagram influencer completely immersed in clout-chasing method acting but as the article’s summary image, he didn’t necessarily embody what I imagined the poster-child for scam rap to look like. Still, his and Mozzy’s “Scammin” remains to be a hallmark of the sub-sub-genre that eventually landed Teejayx6 an HBO documentary a few years later. It’s a bonafide PIN-snatching anthem, a dark-webbed lurking, survival of the fittest homage so long as your iPhone has NordVPN installed and an hour of battery life. Since then, the former internet personality from Oakland turned rapper, singer and producer has been popping up everywhere and riding that Scamboy wave, whether it was stealing the show and studio time on the Grammy-nominated Revenge of the Dreamers III or hopping on a high-profile remix on Thundercat’s Grammy-winning It Is What It Is.

A Guapdad feature nets you an infectious melody, at least one witty one-liner and above all else his undeniable charisma. His debut album Dior Deposits had plenty of that signature charm but it was often interrupted by too many collaborators (nearly 20 guest spots across 14 songs). The artist also known as the Ferragamo Falcon is a man of the people, afterall. What came next was an unexpected turn given the unprecedented pandemic and the rare alone time that a musician as in-demand as Guapdad was afforded. He first responded to the world shutting down by working relentlessly, releasing his weekly Rona Raps freestyle series with some more of his high-profile friends for three consecutive months. He dropped nearly a dozen stand alone singles, too.

But when left to its own devices, the subconscious has an unexplainable aversion to escapism. Guapdad kept returning to the memory of his West Oakland childhood home that his family lost due to an adjustable-rate mortgage, a handful of missed payments and a city surrendering to another wave of gentrification. “With everyone else — the rest of the world dealt with [Covid] when it first got here. I distracted myself with work, with my talents,” Guapdad said. “But in a world where you can’t really distract yourself because demons moved in with you, niggas can go outside and not deal with anything. You can take everything at face value, including yourself. [Covid] changed all that.”

His new album, 1176, is named after that childhood home. It’s featured prominently on the cover as a meteor shower rains down overhead, catching the surrounding neighborhood on fire. Guapdad stands with his grandmother, pointing to the sky above while his friends shoot dice nearby, unbothered. 1176 isn’t necessarily left field — Guapdad has showcased his ability to be emotive, it’s just that his penchant for being provocative often took center stage because of his personality — one that is the amalgamation of Nick at Nite reruns, alliteration-heavy alter-egos, Airbnb threesomes, semi-ironic corner store durags and of course, scamming. With nostalgia embedded in his DNA, it was only a matter of time before the pop-culture references gave way to actual, real-life reminiscing and on-wax introspection. It took a global pandemic and a kindred spirit in producer !llmind to get there. But Guapdad 4000 has arrived — on his own terms and with a fully realized origin story.

1176 continues that Little Scammer That Could narrative with authenticity and a whole lot of heart. It’s Guapdad’s love-letter for closure. He pays tribute to the blueprint of his own work ethic: his parents’ hustle as Filipino-Americans to give him a better life even if it sent them to jail on more than a couple of occasions. He improvs an entire conversation with his overbearing yet over-caring Uncle Ricky who may have introduced him to the street life a little too young. Guapdad still does plenty of weird, quirky stuff though too, like sample Alice DJ’s “Better Off Alone” for the project’s introduction and attempt to (and successfully) make a Filipino wedding song on “Chicken Adobo.” According to Guapdad: “I want[ed] to make a song about food but I’m gonna equate it to love. I had to make a song about chicken adobo because when I think of chicken adobo as a food, I think of the nostalgia behind it and the aroma — how it fills the room. I feel so warm. I feel nostalgic now. Back then I would feel safe and loved.”

On the 7-minute “Last Call”-esque outro “Stoop Kid,” Guapdad remembers a younger him as a bit-character from Hey Arnold!, just high off edibles with more complex sartorial choices. “I seen graffiti spray on this porch/ .223’s make him lay on this porch/ My daddy asked if I was gay on this porch/ ‘Cause I was fuckin’ hoes when he had court.” Nearly everyone in or about to enter their 30s has a worldview shaped by the refresh rate on their open browser tabs, and before that, by colorful cartoon programming and some serious Golden Age Thinking for the ’90s that they grew up in. Guapdad is no different. But he also absorbed everything he could from the stoop of 1176. – Patrick Johnson

So we’ve made it out of a generational pandemic… almost. And you managed to work through it by releasing a new album. Tell me how else you dealt with the isolation, the lockdowns and everything else from both an artistic and mental health perspective.

Guapdad 4000: Let’s start artistically. I started this process at the top of the [Thundercat It Is What It Is] tour. It was going great, we’re killing it and it all seemed unstoppable. I was learning so much and experiencing so much. If you know Thundercat then you know he’s just a big ball of the purest emotions so I was growing as an emotional being on that tour. I learned something from every tour that I go on and it’s usually technical stuff, but on the Thundercat tour I really learned empathy from him. To be honest, I’m not very empathetic.

Why would you say that you struggle with empathy?

Guapdad 4000: Because empathy requires a certain amount of emotional understanding and I’ve always been kind of disconnected with caring — past just wanting to know or wanting to understand, but I still wouldn’t care if that makes sense.

So how did Thundercat help?

Guapdad 4000: Thundercat just cares man. He’s a good friend and it’s hard for him to not influence your feelings — ‘cause he’s processing like 70,000 emotions all the time. So that’s what I was learning from him and it was great — and then that gets taken away with Covid. It cancels all our tour stops. I was talking to Jack Harlow and we think we’re still going to go on tour. We don’t. So I’m at the house and I say, “aight, what else can I do?” Me and my manager came up with Rona Raps.

You were dropping like one or two of those per week and I appreciated them not only because of the artists involved – Isaiah Rashad, SiR, Boogie, Yachty, Buddy, Wiz, Denzel Curry – but because there was a lot of freedom and a lot of joy. Everyone was just having fun showing off their skills.

Guapdad 4000: Yeah, man. I was gonna rap regardless. I was gonna go on the internet and just drop freestyles by myself. But Sam was like — Sam’s my manager — “well, why don’t you call up some homies? Everyone’s at home anyways. Why not do it with some friends?” I was like, done. Watch me execute. Called every nigga I knew and we did 13 weeks straight and dropped a song after every Rona Raps episode.

It was a prolific run. Do you have a favorite freestyle session in mind?

Guapdad 4000: Well the Platinum Falcon tape is a classic project. Honestly, both EPs [including Platinum Falcon Returns] are beautifully constructed, curated and produced. A nigga was doing all of these things — I never stopped working, I never had a break. The only thing I stopped doing was traveling. I was in the studio every night and instead of making four songs, a nigga was doing eight ‘cause I was in there for 12 hours, like not showering, not eating, coming home two days later.

I didn’t wanna die off because I’m an independent artist. I had no advance to fall back on. I am the advance. I’m Scamboy Color, Scamboy Advance. So I had to get to it but that took a toll on my mental health, dog. Shit beat me up. That’s why I had to start all this at the beginning because I wanted to segue from the creative into my mental space because it tore me up. With everyone else — the rest of the world dealt with [Covid] when it first got here. I distracted myself with work, with my talents. But in a world where you can’t really distract yourself because demons moved in with you, niggas can go outside and not deal with anything. You can take everything at face value, including yourself. [Covid] changed all that.

It involved embracing a lot of things that I wasn’t ready to deal with yet. That’s kind of why I made the album. It was my own little therapy session to help me get past this because towards the end of 2020 it felt like the beginning of [the pandemic] for me. Everybody else had already went through that grieving period, had already fell off. Some people even died, some people even killed themselves. Everybody had already been hit with the demons at the top of this shit and it hit me only fairly recently because I was the only nigga who didn’t stop.

Looking at your output throughout 2020, I can imagine being exhausted at the end of that run. But I can also imagine grappling with your family history like you did throughout your new project 1176 and that new vulnerability you showcased on the record could add to the fatigue as well. What sparked you to dig deeper and use your old family house as the cover of your new album?

Guapdad 4000: Yeah. As the golden child, which most artists are in their families, we’re the golden children, unless you come from like the fucking Jackson 5, it’s usually just one. It’s the one that made it out. That’s me. And it’s easy to accept that and the pressures and to deal with your family’s ignorance of the industry and their assumptions and shit like that. It’s easy to navigate past all those pressures that other people put on you, those inconsistencies because you be out in the field, you working and the world is open for you to keep grinding.

But as I’m making this music and I’m dealing with my own demons and shit, I kept going back to this house [Guapdad’s childhood house]. I thought I was over that house. I thought I was over talking about that situation, but apparently I’m not. Because every time this nigga !llmind play a beat it was so hearfelt or had some sort of warm chords so I can’t help but express myself in that way. Flash forward some three months of recording and the album is clearly about the house. What was crazy about the cover is bro, I was so mentally checked out at one point, I was so unsure about everything.

When you become an artist and you start to take this shit seriously like a job, it hurts your ego. I’m a mobile-minded individual. I know I’m destined to be a rich nigga. I just gotta get there, right? I know it, but I’m not good at being rich, not yet. I’m trying to figure out how — because as an album is created, in my mind I’m a god. But as a businessman, it needs to be organized and I can’t even tell you what the fuck kind of skillset i actually have.

You have to compartmentalize the business aspect of it. You’re already creative in multiple forms whether it’s you as an artist center stage, or you growing as a producer, your illustration, just being an overall personality. Business acumen and plotting a world takeover is a muscle to work out you know?

Guapdad 4000: Yeah, but that’s something that hurt a nigga ego. In quarantine when you need to be doing that type of rearranging within your personal infrastructure to adjust to the now new normal, but you end up shying away from that because you’re not good at it. And I wanted to feel good so I just started making more songs and making more shit. And that’s what I got trapped in.

So part of you kept coming back to your childhood home and those memories even if you kept creating so rapidly because you wanted to run away from it at the same time?

Guapdad 4000: Yeah. I wanted to get it all out in the music as much as I could, whether I liked it or not.

That’s always a brave thing to do. The past can creep up on all of us and you can either actively resist it or address those problems head-on. You used quarantine to push through it, it just took a little longer than you might have initially expected. What resulted was your most vulnerable and honest work to date. We’re seeing Guapdad not as just a personality, or as part of the overarching scam-rap movement.

Guapdad 4000: And I want it to be that way. I wanted to just be honest, man. I don’t have a fake bone in my body. I really don’t. It’s easy for me to be fully Guapdad, like the scammer Guapdad that people want me to be. That’s actually me. But at the same time, that’s me in a world that’s actually open when I’m out and I’m able to live that life. But for the past year, man, I’ve been in the house thinking like the rest of y’all. That’s where the thought process started — me being honest about my actual current situation as a rapper, as a person. I’m out in Calabasas… thinking.

1176 presents the listener with your origin story. Is part of that storytelling choice because you’ve felt boxed in with the “scam-rapper” label in the past?

Guapdad 4000: Man, I’m in so many boxes. I don’t care. I used to and I used to be like, “no, it’s bigger than that” because I always had to be bigger than whatever people thought I was, but it’s always going to be like that. I just went platinum yesterday. Again. So it’s like, I’m still getting my accolades and the success has come in because I genuinely have fans and people out there that fuck with me. And some people don’t get it because they didn’t really take the time to listen and just be like, “oh, he’s just a scam rapper.” Then you was never going to be a real Guapdad fan anyway. They might’ve just liked Guapdad at that phase.

It was a strong phase, though. You were also coming up right around the time that your family lost your childhood home, right? You were on the cusp of making the type of money that could save the house, but you just weren’t there yet.

Guapdad 4000: Yeah, it was my most struggle-filled period. When we was losing the house specifically in these last couple of years, like the year that we lost the house was so frustrating for me because — damn man, we didn’t want to have to sell it. I’m a rapper and I’m getting famous. I’m only getting bigger. That would mean that I would eventually hit a point where I can make enough money to pay for it — to pay for my house in LA and my mom’s spot too. I’m trying to do so much but I couldn’t do it yet. I couldn’t afford it at the time.

Shout out to my homie Marcus Peters, too. He came over and we had a good talk in LA. I remember when I made the post about losing the house he was going to buy it for me but the situation was already in place and in motion. So we couldn’t really go back on it. But shoutout to Marcus Peters — he offered to buy my grandma’s house for me so that we could still have it but it was just too late.

Not too many people make it out of Oakland or The Bay period so the ones that do, we fuck with each other to a certain extent. I feel that there’s a mutual respect among all of us. But that just goes to show you what my mentality was around that time because damn man, imagine already having your golden ticket in your hand and you can’t cash it in.

You worked with !llmind to produce the entirety of the album. How did you guys connect and at what point in the recording process did you know that he was going to be the sole person behind the boards?

Guapdad 4000: It just kind of happened. We had a session in LA where we first met and where we also first found out that we was both Filipino. Man, we just felt like best friends from the start. It just felt like he was my big brother, he’s just that cool. We clicked that much. We did four songs in like two hours. And if we’re doing the riddle five songs in two hours just imagine how many songs we had after a third session. I was like, “we might as well just do an album.” We did “Chandler,” “Big Shot,” “How Many.” We damn near did the whole album in those first two sessions.

You managed to pull off a sample of Alice DJ’s “Better Off Alone” which was… unexpected to say the least. The acoustic version was a nice touch and coming in like that for the intro I knew that we were in for something different with 1176.

Guapdad 4000: [Laughs] Yup. I’m happy that you felt that way. That’s the way I wanted people to feel.

One of the tracks that I circled to be sure to touch on was “Uncle Ricky.” I feel like every family has an archetypal Uncle Ricky who’s influential in a good way one day, and not so much the next. So where were you in the process of recording the album when family members like your uncle started to pop into your head?

Guapdad 4000: You know I’m an open nigga, Pat. Forgive me. “Uncle Ricky” was, you know, I don’t know what made me think about my uncle but he just such a crazy character that the grit from the production just reminded me of him maybe. And he popped into my head so I thought he deserved a whole story. I didn’t know that I’d be doing this crazy thing where I’m rapping like both of us, talking to each other. It all stemmed from a freestyle — like I freestyled most of “Uncle Ricky.”

The conversational structure was one of the things – outside the album theme and the openness you have on the first 10 or so tracks – that really showcased how much you’ve grown. You’ve always been able to switch flows, hold a melody but then embedding the narrative and painting that picture… It was a eureka moment. It’s all coming together.

Guapdad 4000: Thank you. What was the real freestyle part where I was going crazy was the second verse where I’m like, “Played ‘Got 5 On It,’ I’m five degrees from a fever/ It’s ninety-five degree in the car ’cause I broke my heater…” I was literally just freestyling that verse and that’s why it’s got the flow patterns all irregular. I just wish I had rapped until I couldn’t breathe anymore.

On “Muhammad” you rap, “Both my parents trap/ And it started with my mother.” What was your relationship like with your parents growing up and what does that relationship look like now?

Guapdad 4000: My parents hustling was just kind of like a normal thing to me. I didn’t realize that it was out of the norm back then. I thought everybody’s parents worked like that — that everybody’s momma was killing herself for her kids. I say it started with my mother because my mom was, to my knowledge, getting money before my daddy. [Laughs] I’ll let her tell it. That’s the reason why I feel like I have the troubles with money now that I have, in terms of spending it, because my parents are just masters of survival. Survival masters. Because that’s what you gotta do when you getting money in the streets — it’s for survival. It’s not for anything else. That’s probably why I attribute that to my ability to move around Hollywood the way that I do, being in rooms the way that I do. I’m in there because I need to survive. If I don’t make any moves, I won’t survive.

You and Buddy continue to showcase that you’re kindred spirits. “PlayStation” is no different. PlayStations continue to be a source of inspiration in rap so what’s the story behind this track?

Guapdad 4000: When I was working I hit up !llmind and I said, “hey, send me some pain. I only want pain.” And he sent me different beats and “Playstation” was one of them. I named the song because I was thinking of things that I had at that house and the music on a PlayStation always felt like you were floating in clouds. To be honest I’m more of a Nintendo guy, but I always had a love for PlayStation, especially because I had a PSP and I’m obsessed with UI and design. So I really always enjoy the PSP — it was so streamlined, it was so cool.

But the song name has no meaning outside of that. I didn’t know what to do on the beat though. I started off with some sort of falsetto but there were no words so I was like, “I’m gonna send this to Buddy.” And he was in the studio just like I was. He sent it back with his, “Flying out frequently/ Constantly traveling…” And I was listening to Mos Def’s “Travellin’ Man” that day so I wanted to talk about that. Talk about tour life and shit since I can’t be on the road no more and all the problems of talking to my bitch, talking to my momma, but on “Playstation” I’m also talking to myself too. I knew where Buddy was gonna take it as soon as I talked to him so I knew what to write about before he even sent it back.

You also shout out “Chicken Adobo” so for the people out there who don’t understand how amazing the dish is, what was the importance of it to your family and your upbringing?

Guapdad 4000: Man, “Chicken Adobo”… To make it make sense, I wanted to make a song for Filipino people to get married to — that’s what I told !llmind before he loaded up a beat. As soon as he played it I was like, “man, I’m so hungry. I want to make a song about food but I’m gonna equate it to love.” I had to make a song about chicken adobo because when I think of chicken adobo as a food, I think of the nostalgia behind it and the aroma — how it fills the room. I feel so warm. I feel nostalgic now. Back then I would feel safe and loved. I equate all that to love.

I love how you approach !llmind with the beat requests with abstractions like “pain” or something as specific as “Filipino wedding ceremony.” Is that how you’re usually working with producers or is this a connection exclusive to you and !llmind?

Guapdad 4000: That’s how I describe things because I see everything as colors and often people don’t know what I mean by like a song that’s “baby blue gray.” So I’ll try to relate that to cinema or just describe it in other terms but even then there are times where niggas don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. [Producer] James Delgado recently told me a few months ago that honestly, this whole time, he’s just been guessing what I’m talking about because I’ll come in and I’ll be like, “I want to make something that sounds like salmon” or I’ll be drunk and be like, “I want a purple uni-kron mega-zord” [Laughs].

What’s interesting is when you first told me you struggle with empathy, the things that you’re describing right now is literally empathy — it comes from a place where there’s a wealth of care and the ability to feel even if they’re abstractions.

Guapdad 4000: Well yeah, I’m not like a robot. But that empathy, it just doesn’t click in a regular way.

Also you said that you see everything as colors. What you’re describing sounds like Pharrell’s whole “Seeing Sounds” — the synesthesia anomaly.

Guapdad 4000: I have to look into it. Somebody else brought that up to me but I always thought it was because I paint and I draw and that’s why I relate so many things to colors. But I don’t know I have to look more into it. I’ve been drawing and painting forever. I started off in first grade or kindergarten with anime and I never stopped. I started with tracing paper just to learn the foundational elements, you know proportions and shit.

I talked about the album artwork earlier and I wanted to shine a light on the importance of having a good team with synergy and people who know you to help deliver that, especially during a time when I couldn’t. So shout out to Paul “The Genius” Middleton for taking up the mantle. And he doesn’t even know me past working together the past two years — he didn’t grow up with me. He’s not from Oakland, he’s from St. Louis and he was able to cover up all that slack and help me see through this emotional pile of laundry and get that shit dry cleaned to create the cover.

On the drawing and animation front, you end the album off with “Stoop Kid” and I have to know if that’s a reference to the Hey Arnold! episode of the same name.

Guapdad 4000: Hell yeah. You remember they had that chant, “Stoop Kid’s afraid to leave his stoop!” I made the song after the first version of “Gargoyles” and that beat forced me to make that song. I didn’t stand a chance when I heard that beat, I was crying. I was crying hella hard both times because I did the first verse, had to take a break then I did the second verse and the outro in New Jersey with !ll. But even when I was by myself, I heard that beat and just broke down — all of this shit hit me, all this shit I’ve been talking about hit me. And I was like, “man, if this album is really about this house, I’m finna say everything about this house,” everything emotionally relevant to me. I just bled it out.

How did your parents respond to the album?

Guapdad 4000: My mom cried. I don’t know if my dad’s listened to it yet, to be honest. I mean he’s heard a lot of the singles and shit but I don’t know if he’s listened to it in its entirety. He’s supportive — he’s always blindly supported whatever I wanted to do but also my daddy like don’t know how to use a phone [laughs]. So like me being so social media forward, he can’t figure that out. And he’s usually technologically savvy as fuck but I don’t know why he’s so slow on the phone but that’s another conversation.

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