Flat Out with WifiGawd
© Shan Wallace
The Uptown DC DIY rap standout was groomed to be an underground force from birth.
Over the past five years or so, rappers within Washington DC’s metropolitan area have developed a cadence and production style that has become nationally recognized as the DMV Flow. The beats are typically stripped down, mainly consisting of ominous key strokes, and 808s that sometimes go into a pocket similar to the drumming you’d hear in the city’s native go-go genre. The vocals are punched in a few lines at a time and in flow, it’s a branch off of the Migos-led Atlanta tree. But as time has gone on, aspects like the DC accent and flow patterns have advanced the sound into its own distinctive thing. The artists who rap in this style like Q Da Fool, Slime Goon, WalkDown Will, and others find themselves in an oversaturated pool of peers, since that’s what the majority of the area flocks too. But, that also gives them the upperhand in the likelihood of blowing up locally — and hopefully nationally. DMV artists who operate outside of this are less likely to receive the same sort of local adoration out the gate, but because of that, they are forced to expand their networks in hopes of catching a buzz elsewhere, whether that be digital or physical.
“I wasn’t really getting a lot of support at home when I first started so I had friends in places like Richmond, Virginia that was going to colleges and shit,” DC rapper WifiGawd tells us on a hot afternoon, leaning on an ancient-looking balcony in the city’s Malcolm X Park. “I would go to VCU and do a random college show and they showing me mad love. So I seen that and I was like, ‘I’ma just do this shit since niggas at home is not really tapping in how they should.’ But it’s all love, you know. I love everybody from my city and I got love now so I don’t give a fuck.” WifiGawd’s music doesn’t belong to any singular locale. He wields a deep, scratchy voice that matches perfectly with the playful, chaotic beats that he chooses to go over. When he started uploading his music to SoundCloud in the mid-2010’s, he found community in fellow artists throughout the country who — though they proudly repped where they were from — had a post-regional sound that could catch on with kids that were interested in DIY adaptations of varied rap sub-genres. The platform helped him connect with artists in places like LA and NYC, and as he started traveling to these cities, his online presence began to swell. But being an artist is something that Wifi sees as the only realistic lifestyle for himself, regardless of the commercial success it may bring. He was groomed to be one from birth.
In the beginning of his childhood, WifiGawd lived in DC’s Southeast quadrant, where he says he gets a good deal of his fashion inspiration from. But it was his formative years living in Uptown DC where he participated in many of the artistic endeavors that his family was involved in. He frequented DC venues as a child while his parents and extended family performed. By the time he was eight years old, he already knew how to DJ vinyl records and transfer his mixes to a cassette tape. “My peoples put me on,” he explains. “They made me an artist, bruh. All my elders were like musicians and artists — creative people. Instead of having teachers that wanted me to learn the American format and go to college, I had elders telling me I’m the greatest. I was looking at being creative like I’m supposed to do this. Like I feel wrong if I’m hindering my creativity to go work a normal job. Like, I would never do that.”
There’s a free-spiritedness to WifiGawd’s artistic approach that makes more sense when finding out about his rearing. He exists in a world that almost makes it impossible for him to fail because he will create no matter what happens outside of it. That can be seen in the volume of releases he’s had over the past few years. Since 2016, he has released somewhere around 20 projects, both individual and collaborative. On each entry, he has a fair amount of high energy tracks that insight Three 6 Mafia or Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz-like energy (which triples when he performs live in the middle of mosh pits) and songs that trance-like video game production that he harmonizes over. His most recent release was Heat Check Vol. 2, a collaboration with producer Tony Seltzer that dropped in April. Songs like “Legg” capture his aggression and juxtapose it against bubbly synths while “Fancy” finds him in a dazed weed cloud, asking to be left alone.
“I think my best music, in my opinion, be my chill shit,” he says, which side of his musical offerings he enjoys most. “That's my favorite shit and that’s because I be probably in a good ass mood, hit some good ass weed. That’s the feeling that I love. But I know when I’m like turned up, aggressive as hell, niggas love that shit too.”
As COVID-19 and quarantine life has taken effect, Wifi’s approach to his artistry is starting to change as well. With more time on his hands, he’s begun to experiment with producing — not only for himself, but also to collaborate with artists in a different way. He’s also masterminding plans to one day open a boutique in DC that’ll have hard-to-find vintage clothing that ranges from Ralph Lauren to staple items in the DMV area like New Balance and Solbiato. He recognizes that everything he does creatively right now, because he lives in the DC area, might not catch fire as quickly as other places, but being from The District is also a privilege that he wants himself and peers to start realizing more. “I don’t know about an advantage or a disadvantage, but I would say I feel more unique because I know the culture of where I’m from is very unique,” he says before we go our separate ways. “Like when you from here, you got a certain vibe that comes with it. Even though we all different it’s still a certain vibe that comes with it. I mean the disadvantage would be like it’s not really a music hub for the industry. But besides that, we got our own swag. I love it.”