Every few months, I get lost in GAWD’s SoundCloud. Sifting through the Richmond rapper-producer’s page is like entering another world. It’s chaotic, thrilling, slightly overwhelming, reliably fascinating. Several dozen alter egos and over a thousand songs occupy the space. In 2019, he dropped 33 projects.
If you miss the blog era, or Quasimoto, or when people described things as “based,” you might like GAWD. His songs are strands of dusted-off internet woven into new forms. They could soundtrack Lil B cooking videos or Adult Swim bumpers. They’re bright and busy, released ceaselessly and often dispassionately.
Across his staggering catalog, GAWD raps on everything, produces nearly everything, and features almost nobody. He raps about whatever is top-of-mind (99% of it is freestyled, he told me—you wouldn’t know it). Some of the topics on his September tape GEEZUS PIECE include knowing his worth, rolling blunts, having dreams of being buried alive, navigating this fucked-up industry, and the geometry of the letter L. His voice, baptized in the finest gas and helium, threatens to turn to smoke. He just turned 21, but he sounds like he could be 15 or 30.
His best beats sound like they’re wheezing out of an old boombox. The bass is blown-out. The synths are fossils. The chord progressions are icy and Memphian. Over the last half-decade, he’s cultivated a singular, unmissable aesthetic that your favorite rapper from the abyss wants a piece of.
Wifigawd does. At some point in the last year, the Uptown D.C. rapper bought a beat pack off GAWD and turned it into a whole tape, the excellent Hot As Hell, that continues his scorching 2020 run. Underground veterans and up-and-comers ranging from P2THEGOLDMASK to Babyxsosa and Hi-C have given his towering instrumentals a spin, too. But GAWD was always a rapper first. His dizzying solo work bridges the gap between the platform’s swampy, submerged styles of old and a new wave veering off into faster, glitchier waters. Over a two-hour video call, I talked to the enigmatic artist about signs and symbols, origins and ornithology. His Zoom ID was one of his alter egos: the G-Unit-inspired 65 CENT. — Mano Sundaresan
On Twitter you posted your birthday wishlist — happy belated, by the way — and I was wondering if you could explain some of the things on here.
GAWD: Let’s do it.
GAWD: Alright, so look — this nigga Soulja Boy, as you probably know, when he made his big comeback about two years ago, he was like, I’ma drop a watch and a game. And off jump, I knew that it’s some third party shit, but it’s still cool as a bitch. It’d just be cool to support that nigga.
You gotta support the legends.
GAWD: That nigga is definitely one of the biggest influences. Especially like production and shit, that’s definitely the main reason I always stuck to FL.
You also included on that list “anything w geese on it (not ducks but geese).” What’s your relationship with geese?
GAWD: I need y’all to start asking the geese these questions. When I really got on making music heavy and shit, I started to notice geese around my way. And I thought it was like, alright they’re just here, they’re just here year round. And then I started going further around and shit, and they’re deadass everywhere. I notice whenever I’m doing good shit, or I’m doing shit correctly, they appear. So it’s like, I don’t know, it could be some spiritual shit. I don’t know what the fuck it is. I just know they be following. And they don’t fly.
Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?
GAWD: Not stereotypically. Not in the ~I’m spiritual~ way. I don’t advertise myself as a spiritual person. Do I believe in spirits? Do I believe in the essence of things? Yes. But I feel like people put a lot of marketing into a lot of things.
One more thing off your list: You said you wanted a Quasimoto doll.
GAWD: Alright, this is kind of embarrassing to say, but I’ve recently — like, very recently — gotten into Quasimoto. I didn’t even realize Madlib was Quasimoto, that’s how fucking dumb I am. I’m a music fucking nerd. I don’t know how I missed that shit. Long story short, I heard that shit, and I really felt connected to that shit in a way. And I want that fucking doll.
What are you listening to right now?
GAWD: I’ve been listening to a lot of techno-bass and shit like that. Jungle, techno, whatever that shit’s called. I’ve been listening to a lot of shit like that. Definitely some seventies, oldies and sh– Nah I’ma cut all the bullshit. Last week or two, I’ve been listening to straight my shit. Not my recent shit or the shit that I be making, but really everything. I deadass went back to the earliest shit I have to kind of figure out the direction I’m going in.
That’s interesting because it reminds me of this line of yours that always sticks with me: “Time ain’t even real, so all my old shit is my new shit.” That line is how I think about your catalog. You have so much music, and so much different music, that I can like, pop into any era and it’s like I’m listening to a new artist.
GAWD: A lot of the songs that I make, they’re almost time capsules. I don’t really remember them until I hear them. As soon as I hear them, I know almost every lyric, the time period I made it, where I was, who I was around, all that shit. That was always the concept of GAWD in the first place: just having different perspectives, constantly. Sometimes they align, sometimes they vary drastically. But at the end of the day, really, it’s just a complex.
Do you look back at your old music and feel like you’ve gotten better? Or is it more like evolution?
GAWD: I don’t really think it’s either. I have shit that’s older that’s better developed, structurally, than now. In some ways, I’ve forgotten and lost certain abilities. It’s kind of like a reset every time. I’ve probably started over, as far as my setup, at least four or five times since I started releasing shit. So I’ll get really good on this setup, and then, boom, I’ll move, or I’ll break this, or it’s whatever the fuck happens. And it’s like, reset.
Like, your actual gear?
GAWD: I’ve lost computers. I had a computer crash for like six or seven months, and I just deadass had to record elsewhere and shit.
On your recent tape GEEZUS PIECE, you do the nasally, high-pitched voice. And that was actually why I mentioned Quasimoto earlier, I thought you must’ve listened to him growing up or something. Is that a voice you do to change personas in a similar way?
GAWD: Sometimes yes, but not always. I have a few egos that I do but they kind of vary. They cross over a lot. It’s only a few that are named and used and come up often.
One of your alter egos that really grabbed me at first was Trick Racer. You have nearly a dozen projects by him, including four in 2019. Tell me about him.
GAWD: Trick Racer is a combination of myself and my younger brother’s energy. And in the simplest form, it’s just that youthful energy.
Does the name have any significance?
GAWD: My lil bro was playing GTA — by the way, this is the dumbest story, I don’t even think you should put this in the thing — but my lil bro was just doing some wild shit on a BMX on the fucking game. And this nigga Cron kept saying, “TRICK RACER!” And I heard that shit, and I was like, this shit is it.
GAWD: Yeah. It was one of those moments where it was some dumb shit, and you see what it really represents. Like by the next year, I was like, ok this is deadass some significant shit. This is not some joke anymore, you know?
You have songs like “11 + 1” and “L INTO W” where you just drop numbers. You’re doing some crazy mathematics in your bars.
GAWD: If we don’t have nothing else in this universe, we have numbers. When I was coming up, I used to think there’s no significance. Like 3 could really mean 4, and we would just be like, what the fuck? But there is a definite number in everything. I’m not really saying codes, per se, but it’s just in the sense of like, you have to keep counting.
One of those numbers is 6512. It’s in your Twitter handle and throughout your songs. What’s the meaning behind it?
GAWD: I mean plain and simple, June 5 was the day my mom passed. I always used to look at the date and just think about that shit for a while. And after a while, I realized this shit means something, not even just this but a lot of different things. A lot of dates, a lot of times, a lot of shit means something. Why do we keep record of not just your date of birth, but your time of birth? Why does all of this shit matter? It matters for whatever reason. 6 and 5, it’s like male and female, it’s the hexagram and the pentagram, it’s a lot of different things. But it started as this one day.
Do you feel like things in general are connected?
GAWD: For sure. It’s kind of just a synchronicity in things. Lot of shit be coming together. I feel like that’s just a sign that shit is going in the right direction. It always starts with some dumb shit. You remember the rap parody where the nigga is like, “Psych, that’s the wrong number”?
GAWD: Alright so this nigga, he was on some sort of crisis, deleted all his shit, came back, and was like, I’m more than just a meme. Long story short, he interviewed niggas at Rock the Bells and one of the niggas that he interviewed was Erick The Architect of Flatbush Zombies. And he asked him what his original name was. And this nigga Meechy Darko was like, “This nigga name was GAWD! All caps!” And I heard that shit, and a lightbulb went off. And it deadass started there. It literally started there.
How old were you?
GAWD: I was like, 13, 14, bro.
Making beats at the time?
GAWD: Yeah, for sure.
When did you start?
GAWD: Probably June 7, 2012.
When did you start rapping?
GAWD: I’ve been rapping since damn near day 1. I was rapping before I was producing, really. The point was always to rap on my own beats and change the sound that way. That’s what’s going on, I suppose.
Do you feel like you’re underrated as a rapper? Do people seem to think of you as just a producer?
GAWD: Hell yeah! Hell yes man. I can’t control that though. I advertise my production ten times more than my rapping. It’s only a few times where I’m like, “Hey guys I got this tape on the way, check it out.” Most of the time it’s just like, “Here.” Like I said, they’re time capsules for me. They encapsulate a feeling or thought or whatever the fuck. It might be a joke. It might be a fucking fart. But it’s just sealed in time now.
Do you work a 9-5?
GAWD: Yeah. Temporarily. And if I ain’t have a 9-5, this fucking music shit would be a 9-5. That’s just what it is in a capitalist society. Everybody’s got their 9-5.
Would you ever want to be making music as your day job?
GAWD: No, fuck no. This shit is a release, like don’t ever get it twisted. This is a business for sure, this is a lot of things, a trade, and all types of various terms and phrases, but at the end of the day, for me, from day 1 to sunset, this shit is a fucking release.
How did you and Wifigawd’s tape come together?
GAWD: He bought like 80, 90 percent of the beats. And after a while, he told me, “Yo I’m working on an entire tape completely produced by you.” and I was like, “Oh, let me send you shit outside the snippets, like what the fuck? You’re doing a GAWD tape.” And then he deadass bought all the shit. It’s so funny, people DM me often and they’re like, “Yo, I need shit that Wifigawd got,” “I need shit that whoever got,” and it’s like, most these people be rapping on free beats off my SoundCloud or out of a snippet pack. Like there has never been a time where I made a beat for a nigga.
Yeah I get that feeling listening to this. Like, Hot as Hell is great, but to my ears, it sounds like a GAWD tape with Wifi rapping on it.
GAWD: And that’s why next time we do a project, it’ll be both of us rapping on it, and we’ll both be in the stu, and we’ll both probably produce on it as well. He deadass does produce on the low.
He’s good, and it’s way different than what people would think. It’s like some boom-bap shit.
GAWD: And he can rap on that shit. And that’s what I be trying to pull out of artists. I wanna pull the extension of what your creativity is. Fans are cool, but I’m not trying to make music for what they want. I’m trying to see how creative you are. How creative can I be? How many ways can I say I’m smoking gas? Or how many times can I say those exact words in a different way?
What’s your history with Wifigawd’s music?
GAWD: I was really into [his group] Portal Boyz, and I feel like that was a big deal to me solely because they were a group based in the DMV. Same with Goth Money. You fuck with the locals, whether they see you or not. I’ve ran into Wifigawd a bunch of times. For a while I deadass didn’t think that nigga fucked with me. I thought that nigga deadass hated me or some shit.
To me he’s in that rarefied category of rappers that can rap on anything, alongside Danny Brown and Freddie Gibbs.
GAWD: It’s not that many artists that can really do that shit. But I don’t know, I feel like that’s really my point. Bringing out that level of artistry. Whatever more you can do, that’s what I’m here to encourage. Best believe, when me and Wifigawd do this [follow-up] tape, you will hear some boom bap shit and he will rap on it, and you’re gonna be like, damn what the fuck is this? That’s what I want to hear. Fuck a Hot As Hell, Pt. 2.