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Guapdad 4000 Is Coming Home

The Oakland rapper’s ‘1176’ is a deeply personal work that tackles mental strife and the gentrification of his city while still showing off the trademark personality that endeared him to fans. And it’s one of the year’s best albums.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The buzz starts around 2:15 p.m. on Sunday at District Six, a food court tucked between 11th Street and the 101 freeway in the SoMa section of San Francisco. In the middle of a round of food trucks, a DJ plays Bay Area slaps as the crowd starts to veer left, toward the man of the hour, who has just arrived: Guapdad 4000.

Fitted in an oversized letterman’s jacket with “Black Bottle Boys” stitched on the back, white loose pants, and Adidas Yeezy basketball sneakers, the Oakland rapper is surrounded by weed smoke, friends, women, and photographers. He sits on a bench in a makeshift VIP section, and begins to bask in the attention he’s receiving.

“You see how we eating? We’ve got a piece of lumpia and ice cream. It was all free,” he says. “That’s tight.”

The party—which marks the release of his new album, 1176, last Friday—is the culmination of a year of inner tumult for Guap, born Akeem Hayes. Heading into 2020, he was a star on the rise, landing features on J. Cole tracks and racking up millions of streams on songs like “Lil Scammer That Could,” which alludes to his past life. But in the past 12 months, his world has been derailed by the pandemic that decimated his touring income, by the death of an uncle, and by the quarantine-induced reflection period that forced the 28-year-old to face all the mental strife that he had avoided.

All of this is displayed on the new album, which is named after the address of his childhood home in West Oakland. On its 14 tracks, he breaks down the inner conflict that comes with his success while showing off the personality that endeared him to fans—he is the man who bares all of his shortcomings on a song like “Stoop Kid,” but is also the prankster who stopped on the side of the Bay Bridge, hopped out in a full dinosaur costume, and stood in traffic after losing a bet to Drake following the 2019 NBA Finals. Guap can be arrogant, soft-spoken, and vulnerable all at once, while displaying charisma that rivals that of Mac Dre and E-40 and a star appeal that could make him one of the biggest stars out of the Bay.

Guap, who is Black and Filipino, enlisted Filipino beatmaker Illmind, for 1176, his first official ode to his heritage. At the District Six event, it becomes clear those roots are partly why he resonates with his fan base. A security guard hired to protect the rapper immediately introduces himself and asks for a picture.

“Are you Filipino, too?” Guap asks. “I’m peeping that tats.”

“Born and raised in Guam,” the man responds. “Filipino, though.”

“Tight, tight,” Guap says. “It’s crazy, cause I got aunties in Guam.”

Shortly after, Alex Retodo, owner of Oakland-based Lumpia Co. and also of Filipino descent, asks for a picture. Guap obliges.

“For me it’s a journey like we’re here,” Retodo says. “There’s been several [Filipino rappers] that really paved the path, but coming from the Town—and I started my business in the Town—to see somebody who embraces both of our cultures of Oakland and Filipino, that’s like the perfect marriage for me.”

Talking to Guapdad 4000 is like reaching the last page of his diary: Nothing seems to be off-limits. One moment he’s talking about his past life as a scammer or how he lost nearly all his fortune in bitcoin, prompting a move to Los Angeles that launched his rap career. The next he’s bragging about a sexual conquest, or discussing why he plans to take a break from music soon to reset and start therapy. He also discusses why his authenticity gets him features he isn’t supposed to get.

“Man, how else do you think I was able to get the type of features that I got on an album like Dior Deposits, where it’s my first year rapping?” he asks rhetorically. “I got Chance the Rapper and Charlie Wilson on there on one song.”

“You know who the only person to ever do that is outside of me?” he asks. “Kanye West.”

And there are other times he’s candid about how the pandemic nearly broke him: “I done had more mental breakdowns than I would like to have had during this thing.”

But most striking is how he talks about his family, and how his grandfather, as a soldier in Sogod Bay, found a rip in his pocket, panicked, and looked for a seamstress nearby. He quickly fell for the woman and, already armed with California ambitions, he came with a proposition shortly after they met. “I heard this place called Oakland, California,” Guap says, paraphrasing his grandfather. “They said it’s money there.” The couple settled in West Oakland, buying a 972-square-foot house on 10th Street in the shadow of the Bay Bridge, had kids, and made a life.

Guap’s mother found out she was pregnant with her baby boy at 13 years old. He talks about how his upbringing was essentially kids raising kids and each figuring out life on the fly. Because of this, he admits his relationship with his parents is “different.”

“We’re more best friends than anything,” he says. “We all really developed together. We’re so close in age.”

He says his parents turned to crime—sometimes scamming, sometimes robbing—to make ends meet. While in high school, he began scamming himself, even though he doesn’t divulge the specifics of his operation. He also started a group called the YBs, taking on the alias “YB Keem,” with dreams of scamming enough bread to fund a solo rap career. The group threw parties and made themselves into local celebrities. He also started making videos. Some went viral: There’s the one where he’s freestyling naked in Miami, another where he admits his addictions to sex and tacos, and another proclaiming to be so rich he has a stunt man. His biggest came on his 24th birthday—it featured him getting showered in $100 bills. But the money wasn’t just for show, he says; he was making lots of it—some from scamming, some from bitcoin.

“I was saving that up to spend on rap,” he says. “This was back when bitcoin, when one coin was just like $275 at the time. N----, I had $30K in bitcoin.”

But just as quickly as he accumulated the small crypto fortune, he says, he lost it. Details are murky and Guap declines to say when it happened or who was involved, but the money was gone.

“I had some [bitcoin] in a wallet that was offline, and I was trying to get it turned into cash. I was fucking with these Jamaicans at the time that I had met at the Western Union buying bitcoin,” he says. “They was turning all my shit into cash, and one day I pulled up, and the police raided they ass, and they took the girl that I sent in there to jail. I was like, ’Fuck.’ I was just sitting in the car across the street at the Starbucks.”

Broke, he sat in his West Oakland home for days, trying to figure out what came next, even contemplating suicide.

“After that, bro, I’m in my house, I’m depressed, because my mama in jail and my bitches broke up with me, too,” he says. “I’m really down bad. So I’m like, ‘Bro, if I stay at the house, I’m probably going to kill myself or kill somebody.’ Because I’m just like, ‘Man, I’m looking at this pistol like I’m ‘finna up it on somebody for real, because I’m just not happy.’”

Sam Lancaster, who is now his manager, had been pushing Guap to pursue music for years. Lancaster had already been managing artist Yung Pinch, oversaw the Twnship Management company, and had connections in the music business. He wanted to offer Guap a way out of his hustle, despite Guap’s resistance. The two met months prior to Guap’s crisis, but the rapper said Lancaster didn’t trust him.

“I was like, ‘I’m trying to see what’s going on with it,’” the rapper recalls. “And that n---- didn’t believe me because he was like, ‘Last time you came to the studio, you was with your brother. Y’all had credit card readers and hella shit in there. How can I even trust that you serious about this?’”

Now broke and desperate, he chose a different life, buying a one-way MegaBus ticket to Los Angeles at the behest of Lancaster, and got set up at a studio in North Hollywood. Since Guap didn’t have a home, he rapped all day long and slept on the couch. When he needed to eat, he says he’d go to various women’s apartments and eat their food. When he needed to shower, he went to a nearby 24 Hour Fitness. The persistence spawned Scamboy Color, his debut mixtape in 2017. Then he appeared on “Shameless,” a standout track on L.A. rapper Buddy’s debut album, Harlan & Alondra. After a few singles, he was invited to Atlanta to record for Revenge of the Dreamers III, a compilation album from J. Cole’s Dreamville collective. He says he recorded 36 songs in four days during the January 2019 sessions, with five of the tracks ultimately making the cut.

Talking about the experience earlier this month, the normally playful Guap immediately gets serious, talking in a focused tone when Cole’s name gets brought up. The North Carolina MC took a hands-on approach with Guap, offering advice and direction. Guap took it as a sign of respect—if he hadn’t been at the top of his game, Cole would have just stopped by the studio and kept it moving.

“You know your shit is hot, because he finna sit there and talk to you about it instead of being like, ‘Oh, you should change this or do this,’” Guap says. “He not giving no weak n---- no advice, because the level of saucy in there was masterful.”

The songs on the compilation solidified Guap’s position in the rap game, legitimized the social media antics, and showed the world he was more than the funny dude who strived to go viral. But as his status rose, the home that kept his family intact was crumbling. The cover of Guap’s latest album simultaneously tells the story of his family and the evolution of West Oakland from a multicultural, blue-collar epicenter to a symbol of gentrification and the carnage that change brought to the longtime residents who made it a special place. It features the white home he grew up in; in front of it, Guap stands with his grandmother as some of his friends shoot dice nearby. Balls of fire rain through the sky, threatening to destroy the community he grew up in.

Records show the property was purchased for $37,000 in 1981, when Oakland was thought of as San Francisco’s black sheep to the east. At the time, the city’s reputation for crime and drugs overshadowed its hardworking residents. That house raised three generations, providing a sanctuary for Guap in one of Oakland’s roughest neighborhoods. It was where he learned how to make chicken adobo. But it was also a symbol of what was being lost while Guap was chasing a dream. He says his family had an adjustable-rate mortgage, meaning its interest rate could shift at any time. When the family began falling behind on payments, Guap was in L.A., still not in a financial position to save the only home he’d ever known. In March 2019, two months after he got his biggest break in Atlanta, the house was gone. Guap still goes by the old crib periodically—he made a short film in front of it to complement 1176. The pain isn’t going away anytime soon, he says.

“I went back to shoot this short film to go along with this album, and I’m in West Oakland,” he recalls. “We shooting on Day 3, and I’m kind of tired out. Been 12-, 14-hour shoots every day. And right at twilight, soon as the sun is starting to go down, this white couple with matching jogging Nike outfits, brand-new shoes, bent the corner like it was some type of commercial. They just jogging in the middle of the street. I tapped my brother. These n----- stopped the dice game, and everybody just stared at these people. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen that in my life, and I never been angrier at somebody I didn’t know.”

The lead-up to 1176 was arduous, nearly thwarted by the pandemic. Before lockdown, despite house troubles back home, he was still reaching new milestones. He was on tour with L.A. musician Thundercat and had plans for a run opening for rapper Jack Harlow, which would have guaranteed an income stream and more buzz heading into his second album. Then COVID-19 shut all of his plans down. The tour with Thundercat was canceled, and his opening slot for Harlow was postponed. He went back to the Los Angeles home he shares with his videographer, Paul Middleton. Everything he needed to survive—studio, music, touring—was gone. He started “Rona Raps”—a freestyle video series featuring Chris Brown, Joey Bada$$, Lil Yachty, and others—to occupy his time, but sponsorship money was drying up. Guap says he spiraled into depression—though he managed to find a silver lining, as buzz around his work has grown.

“When people ask me how was this year for me personally, one of the roughest ones emotionally,” he says. “One of the most taxing ones spiritually. One of the most nonexistent ones. But when it comes to growth as a businessman and as an entity and as a brand and as a talent, it’s kind of just been snowballing. I can’t even control it.”

1176 shows off Guap’s inner thoughts and conflicts, without sacrificing his personality. “She Wanna,” an ode to the Ying Yang Twins’ “Whisper Song,” is a fun record talking about Guap’s second-favorite subject after scamming: sex. “Uncle Ricky” is a first-person account of a young Guap joining his uncle on a night of crime. But the final track, “Stoop Kid,” is Guap’s most illuminating song to date. On it, he speaks about what his childhood home represents and the stories that made him who is: like seeing his mother go to jail, witnessing someone get killed from his family home’s porch, his father asking him whether he was gay because of his fashion choices. The track ends with a “Last Call”–like outro, where he shouts out everyone who had a role in his come up, including the YBs, Iamsu, and AllBlack, making for an emotional send-off for the listener and a therapeutic outlet for Guap.

“I’m more open than I’ve ever been,” he says. “I cried making ‘Stoop Kid,’ dog. Cried my ass off.”

Guap is, essentially, an arrogant person with a heart of gold. While sitting in the lightly roped-off section at District Six, he encourages fans to come over the barrier to take pictures, and he accepts merch and gifts with promises he will wear it and post it on his social media. But he’s also ready to tell you why he gets so much love. “I’m saucy, I’m handsome, and I got charisma,” he says. He’s also on an evergreen mission for clout. That word has had a negative connotation in hip-hop circles. To be a “clout chaser” means to chase attention, which is seemingly what Guap and roughly 100 percent of the rap game have done since the beginning of time. Guap does it in a humorous, sometimes lewd way. He dresses up in whiteface and has a music video featuring him getting fellatio from two women and ghost riding a Range Rover. When asked about clout chasing, he quickly defends it, explaining its role in hip-hop.

“It can be a good thing,” he says. “You shoot videos, you want more people to see it, and you want them to respect your artistry, and you got clout for that. Put you on a platform. That’s why you want millions of views. That’s all positive clout. You don’t see nobody who show up to the club during the press run with hella diamonds on they neck like, ‘Oh, this n---- is clout-chasing, because he wants us all to post it while he plays his new song.’”

Then he brings up why it’s bad and puts a name on it. He calls out Tekashi 6ix9ine, a New York rapper with a long, troubling legal history known for viral videos calling out some of the genre’s biggest stars—like Meek Mill, the Game, and YG—challenging them to fights and even inciting gunplay.

“I’m like, ‘What is he doing?’” Guap says. “That’s why clout is dangerous. This n---- was basically killing himself in front of us.”

The natural follow-up is: What is it like to be famous? Guap pauses, gives that serious look again, and offers an illuminating answer.

“I mean the good side is my life is free,” he says. “I flew out here. I didn’t even bring my ID. Bro, I’m going to keep it 100. I don’t even know where my ID is. I might need a new one, but it’s like, I never need it.”

But the bad side? He goes back to the ID.

“I don’t need my ID because everybody knows me and everybody knows what’s going on with me. My life so public and I’m not even a full-blown celebrity, you know?”

A couple of hours have passed at District Six, and the buzz has died down a bit. The Backwoods are ashed, the folks are leaving, and the food trucks are closing up shop. Fans pose with Guap as a drone flies high over the complex, capturing the scene. It’s time for the next step in Guap’s rollout. He has plans to do some press in Hawaii, and will certainly promote it online.

But now, he says he’s looking to take a step back from music to work on his ScamBoy clothing brand, build his Twitch channel, and even get back into crypto currency. Most importantly, however, he’s trying to take care of his mental health. Fellow rapper Denzel Curry has suggested a holistic therapist, and Guap says he’s eager to try. For the moment, though, he’s in his element, doing it his way.

“I’m telling you I’m getting money, I’m telling you I’m living nice,” he says. “But I’m telling you, you feel me, n---- also be going through it. I’m telling you I still got to live life like everybody else. It’s just my life happened to have a little bit nicer things.”