Staten Island brothers G4 Boyz (Buggy and Ice Baby) have been in the rap game for a minute and are now rapidly building a huge base of support: at home in NYC, across the Atlantic on our cold island, and beyond.
They’re currently pioneering the uproarious drill version of ‘Scam Rap’ which chronicles the occasional lows and outrageous highs of credit card fraud. For most UK listeners, our introduction to G4 Boyz was the infectious winter-time heater ‘Local Scammer’; over a pleasingly minimalist Drill production, the fraud-money-flexing and West African inflections of Buggy and Ice Baby were held together by London affiliate G4 Choppa’s raspy hook.
US artists sharing a platform with UK drillers was a standout development in transatlantic drill relations, pointing towards the brothers’ wider vision of organically shaping a global sound. Two further drill cuts followed; the anthemic ‘419’ and July’s hugely successful ‘Prada’ which once again platformed G4 Choppa’s knack for catchy hooks.
Superficially, the somewhat untapped subject matter of ‘Scam Rap’ might seem a strange one, but G4 Boyz are speaking to their lived experiences as young men of West African heritage in the belly of the beast, and if you scratch beneath the surface of their boasts and braggadocios, what you’re left with is music intended to uplift communities who are often left with little other choice but to hustle in order to flourish and thrive.
Clash caught up with them to discuss their journey.
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For a lot of listeners in the UK, our intro to you guys was ‘Local Scammer’. The track was perfect because it was wintertime, everybody was hustling, trying to get their money up for Christmas! But you have been in the game for a long time. Tell us about your entry into music and how you got to where you're at now.
G4 Buggy: We've been obviously grinding for a minute, but I won't say we was giving it all we had, because we had one foot in the street and one foot in the music stuff. And when you're doing it like that you don't get the best results. I mean, that's with anything, if you’re half-and-half with anything that you're trying to do.
So, me personally, I just got to a point in my life a couple of years ago, maybe about two years ago, where I was kind of just empty man, like, I had a bunch of other money that I'd been saving up from just hustling. And I didn't know what to do with it. I wouldn’t say that it was legal. So it was just me sitting there like, ‘man, what am I gonna do?’
I took that time to watch this documentary called The Secret and it was about manifesting what you want in life, and I also took that time to get closer to God. I said, ‘you know what, I'm gonna give this music thing, everything that we have,’ because I'm tired of just hustling and hustling, not knowing when the next dollar is gonna come in and looking at that money.
And then I went to my brother with this new revelation. He wasn't with it. He was like ‘I'm not about to start doing shows for no $500, $1,000, $1500 dollars, man. I can make $10,000 , $15,000 in like one week!’ Music is very hard, you know? Everybody don't win, everybody don’t make it. And I told him, ‘look, let's do one more song. And if this does not work, I promise you can go and be the biggest hustler of all time. Go and be Scarface!’
So I found this beat. I gave it to him. And I told him like, ‘yo, go do what you have to do and come back with it.’ He came back with a song called ‘Patek Phillipe’ which ended up featuring Tory Lanez. That was the first time I actually saw a real light in this tunnel that we'd been travelling in, and that's when we started to take music seriously and then boom!
About a year later we ended up signing this artist called G4 Choppa, because we’d seen that the UK movement was picking up pace very hard. But me and my brother have always been into the UK movement, three years ago we did a song with Blade Brown.
He’s a legend in the streets!
G4 Buggy: He’s a legend! He reached out to us because of us doing what we do out here and real hustlers connect. So when that happened, we dropped that song and the video, he flew out to America. So many people were saying, ‘why you got this guy with a British accent on your song?’ I was just shocked like, ‘y’all don't even know, the UK scene is crazy.’
So to see New York people take UK drill beats but don't collaborate with the artists … I was like ‘nah, y'all crazy!’ So we ended up signing G4 Choppa, who reached out to my brother Ice and we ended up moulding him for a good seven to eight months, just kind of letting him be more prepared for the American sound but also kind of moulding a sound where it could be appealing to both crowds, without losing his sound.
That’s when we came up with ‘Local Scammer’ and we was ready to go!
Are you finding music as a lifestyle more fulfilling than hustling?
G4 Ice: Honestly, like my brother said if it’s not about our lifestyle, I don't want to do the music. If you notice with ‘Local Scammer’ it's very different compared to regular drill. Because we're giving you elements of our life you know, us being African, coming over here, giving you African Scam Drill that's never been done before, the blend that we're doing. And people know, especially in the UK, y’all know the deal. A lot of people out there know what's going on. But they don't speak about it. So we want to be the people at the forefront to come and speak about what's going on. If we can't blend our lifestyle with the music, we don't want to do the music. For me, it’s gotta come organically. That’s what it is for me.
Drill is definitely the current texture for rap in the UK and the US. As rappers who have rapped on all kinds of productions, what’s the specific appeal of a drill beat?
G4 Ice: I mean the original drill came from Chicago with Chief Keef and guys like that. For me, we know how Chicago drill beats go, we know how UK drill beats go.
Now with me hopping on a drill beat, I didn't hop on it because it was a drill beat. When I hop on it, I wanna make it mine. We want to come and do this thing different. I’m gonna come give you a UK dude. I'm gonna give you an African boy from New York City. I’ma blend everything. I want to give you something different. I can’t really say what a drill beat is because now we’re creating our lane with beats.
G4 Buggy: You nailed it. It started in Chicago, then migrated to New York with Bobby Schmurda. Then after that it went to the UK and you guys took it and made it your own! And the same thing with New York, so it’s like it's like music in general. There’s always evolution to it.
So, like my brother said, we take anything and we make it ours, we want you to hear about what we're doing and how we’re doing it. Most of the time when you hear drill artists, they talking about spinning the block and doing this and doing that. I mean, we could do that because we’ve been through that.
But let's talk about a whole topic that no one ever speaks about. It's like this dark cloud that no one ever speaks about. And we're gonna do it in an appealing way.
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You touched on it before, but tell us a bit more about how the relationship with G4 Choppa came about.
G4 Ice: G4 Choppa reached out to me like a minute ago, a while back. We actually named him G4 Choppa. With me and my brother, when it comes to making music, you know with all the talent that God has blessed us with, we’re like what are we going to do to make the world say, ’yo, this is different!’ I feel some artists don't want to mess with UK artists because of the way they deliver their sound.
It's kind of hard for US artists to actually get what you're saying or actually take it seriously. We put Choppa through artist development. We actually signed him before any type of records [were released]. We actually went through and coached him, at the same time being like ‘do not leave who you are behind.
We want n****s to know that you’re UK but you've been in Brooklyn, you've been over here. Let n****s know that we know what's going on.’ You know, that's how it came about.
He’s signed to your label. Have you got any other UK artists that you’re currently developing?
G4 Buggy: Yeah, but honestly our main focus right now is G4 Choppa. That's why we've been trying to keep on doing records with him, because we know we have a platform. When he reached out to my brother Ice he had like 70 followers.
G4 Ice: 60 followers to be exact!
G4 Buggy: Okay, 60 followers to be exact. And now he has 10,000 followers in a matter of months. So we want to just focus on him right now, so he can be able to have his own platform, cos’ right now he's still working on it. And we are too, but we want to keep sharing it with him. So when it's time for him to officially release his single under the G4 imprint, it could be massive. So we have this little game plan that we're running right now.
Is Choppa of West African descent too?
G4 Ice: Yeah he’s of African descent, from West Africa.
Cool. A thing that really stands out is your celebration of West African identity in your bars. This is prominent in Black British music at the moment. Is that the case in the US, or is it not so welcoming?
G4 Buggy: No, it's definitely not. I mean, we are kind of just setting that trend now. I would say we are like the forefathers of appreciating your African roots. I'm not saying others haven't done it. Honestly, it's different when artists have been in the game for 10, 15 years and they do it in a more enlightened way, which is the best way, but we're doing it in a way where this is our truth in the hood, what’s going on, what's happening right now.
We all want that Martin Luther King Dream, but right now, what's going on, not just for Africans, but most foreigners. When you think about it, being a foreigner, we’re all fighting for the same thing, we all go through the same thing. You all get looked at the same way most of the time.
Most of all, we wanted to make records that a younger version of ourselves would listen to. Because when we was going through what we was going through at a younger age, there was no songs that we could put on to pick us up, to make us feel better when people used to call us 'African booty scratcher’ and ‘you stink’. We didn't have nobody to say, ‘African boy got money. African boy got style.’ There was nobody to say that to us.
So we grew up hating everybody that didn't like us. Now there's a 13 year old kid, 14 year old kid, who can be like, ‘man, I feel good to be African. I feel good to be Asian,’ or whatever your culture is. It’s basically foreign empowerment music man. That’s what we’re doing over here and hopefully it rubs off on other artists who wanna do the same.
I think that’s why your music has been so embraced in London. We’ve got so many communities that need uplifting … so when my dad left Egypt and touched road in London, he was definitely scamming, just to stay alive! Has scamming always been a topic in your bars?
G4 Ice: If you come to New York, you know the deal if you say G4 Boyz. Ask Blade Brown! I don't want to brag like I got this thing locked down but they're going to tell you.
Like my brother was saying, first of all I didn’t want to do music because the simple fact was I was already doing this play right here, to go do music and get caught up in a situation, that was stupid to me. Two is whatever these rappers actually have, like we had we had it.
We had Patek Phillipe watches before these rappers was actually talking about it, so I'm like ‘bro, there’s really no point to it.’ So that's why when he said, ‘bro, we have to make a change,’ if you notice in the song ‘Patek Phillipe’ I was like yo, if I'm going to do something, we have to be ourselves and let the people know what's going on. So in the song we say, ‘I be scamming on the low’.
G4 Buggy: You gotta give them baby food, slowly, until they get it, you know? Before, we used to make music for other people and my brother kind of said, ‘look if you want me to do music, we're gonna do it our way, talking about what we want to talk about, especially if we’re not doing it anymore.’
You did a London show in Camden before coronavirus really messed everything up. Tell us about the vibe at the show.
G4 Ice: It was crazy man, crazy!
G4 Buggy: I was kind of nervous because it was our first time doing a show outside of the country. And, um, you always feel the energy from the UK in terms of support, but to put up tickets and to sell out in three, four days, it was like ‘wow’! It was a crazy feeling. To go out there and then to get a text from A$AP Rocky like, ‘yo, man, I heard you got a show tonight. I'm coming!’ I was like ‘yeah, okay’! I was already building a relationship with Tion Wayne, and he wanted to come out. It just magically happened, all praise God you know.
You guys are so raw with your energy like y’all really jump around. Y’all don’t stand around chillin’. Y’all get dirty, y’all bust heads, man! It was really dope to have all that come together.
The latest drop ‘Prada’ has been another massive track. It did big numbers in Ghana and Nigeria too. Is the plan for you to take your sound global?
G4 Buggy: Yeah, organically though, you know? We’re not trying to fit in, we're not trying to go over there and say, ‘hey, look at us.’ We're just doing what we do and letting people see what we do, because one thing we realised is that you can't go chasing down things, you have to just be yourself and continue to grow organically.
I truly believe God will bless you with that energy. So it's dope to see that your own home team is supporting you amongst African giants. I mean, being number one on iTunes and Burna Boy is number two, shout out to Burna Boy though! Being number one in Ghana and Sarkodie is number three. These are all legends in their own right, so to be number one for that moment is definitely God’s blessing.
G4 Ice: That’s right, like my brother said we're doing things organically. We’re not trying to push it to where it's supposed to be pushed but whatever God is saying and doing for us, we gonna do it man. We’re just here to show them our culture. So yeah, it's a blessing … praise God.
How important is your faith when you’re making music?
G4 Buggy: Yeah, everything that we do, man, like we really built a strong relationship with our God. Obviously what we're writing about is what we've been through, what we have experienced. It’s just giving a soundtrack to people who go through things, because you cannot ignore what's out there. To take our personal experiences and to write it down and to let other people enjoy them in the way they do, that’s a blessing.
What are your future plans? Is there an EP coming? More collaborations with UK artists in the pipeline?
G4 Ice: Yeah man, most likely if everything goes well and we get to drop it by God's grace, it's called ‘SCAM’ as an acronym for ‘still chasing after money’. Me and my brother man, of course we got flavours.
G4 Buggy: All I’m gonna say is shout out to all the people out there in the UK, shout out NSG, shout out to Tion Wayne, of course shout out to A$AP Rocky. We got something special coming, it’s gonna be crazy when you hear A$AP Rocky on a record talking about scam! Just get ready man.
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Words: Robert Kazandjian
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