Clearwater, Florida, home to white sand beaches and Scientology’s hulking “Super Power” complex, was the scene of the thousands-strong pro-Trump flotilla in 2020 that set out to break the world’s record for the largest boat parade in history.
On one recent Friday evening, I found myself stuck in traffic there.
It was pouring rain, and I was riding shotgun in a Rolls-Royce with a 38-year-old MAGA rapper named Forgiato Blow. We were on our way to have dinner at Hooters.
Only half of his face tattoos were visible from where I sat: a diamond balanced on the coiffed hair of a cartoon Richie Rich on his cheek. Two interlocked Rs—to stand for Rolls-Royce—nestled next to his ear. And the Bitcoin symbol peeking out from under his red, white, and blue “American Gangster” cap.
As we inched our way up the Gulf to Bay Boulevard, rain thudding against the windshield and sunroof, I almost forgot how we must have looked to passers-by. The Rolls-Royce is painted cotton-candy pink and neon blue. It’s covered in drawings of dollar bills, Bitcoins, piggy banks—and Richie Rich. On the hood are the words “Trump’s Nephew.”
Forgiato Blow, whose real name is Kurt Jantz, is not Trump’s nephew. But the illusion is a key part of his alter ego. It’s also the name of his latest album.
While Jantz was parking, a man outside Hooters laughed. “Who the hell drives that? Captain Crunch?”
I repeated the joke over dinner, with his producer Dexter Drayton (aka FangaLee) and another up-and-coming MAGA rapper, Stoney DudeBro.
They laughed. Jantz wasn’t as amused.
Jantz, who calls himself the “Mayor of MAGAville,” has been at the helm of a niche music subculture that he calls “MAGA rap,” or alternatively, “patriot rap” or “MAGA music.” Jantz and others in this genre co-opted the loudest, flashiest elements of the massive South Florida rap scene—and used them to make music about Donald Trump.
“I look at Trump like a rapper. A hustler. The man. Ballplayer. You know what I’m saying?” said Jantz. “He’s got everything he wants.”
Jantz has been making music since 2013. Back then, he’d rap about money, cars, guns, and women. He never achieved any mainstream musical recognition of note, but like many other MAGA World celebrities, he was later able to carve out a niche for himself within the movement surrounding Donald Trump. In 2016, he put out his first pro-Trump song, “Silver Spoon.” Today he’s got more than 116,000 subscribers on YouTube, racks up hundreds of thousands of views on his videos, and has streams in the millions on Spotify. His “Let’s Go Brandon” Christmas single (he recorded five versions of “Let’s Go Brandon” tracks in total) hit over a million views on YouTube. He’s collaborated with Vanilla Ice and Rick Ross (though, to be fair, their collaborations have been less about MAGA and more about partying in South Florida).
“I’ve always thought I was the Donald Trump of rap,” said Jantz. “In the music industry, everyone loved me, but nobody wanted to support me on a big record label. Or everybody wants to support me and be my friend when they need something from me. I felt like that was like Trump—before he was president, everybody loved him… Said he’s going to be the president and they said, ‘No way.’ And then what happened? He became the president. That’s like me and music. I said I was going to make it through, you know, being a white rapper.”
Since Trump left office, Jantz has continued to record MAGA music at breakneck speed, providing anthems to the right-wing culture wars raging across the U.S. If the dissident right are upset about something—vaccines, critical race theory, the plight of Jan. 6 defendants—you can bet that Jantz has a song for it. His song “You Can Call Me Kyle,” which sampled Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” was an ode to the teenager who was acquitted on homicide charges after he killed two people during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020.
“Sorry people had to die that day, but this patriot is never afraid,
If you need a bodyguard, baby you can call me Kyle
Just a proud American saving my country in Kenosha right now”
MAGA rap is an increasingly crowded field, dealing with a very limited set of subjects; at least five other MAGA rappers also released songs about Kyle Rittenhouse.
Many of his songs celebrate the most ghoulish aspects of capitalism, perpetuate harmful stereotypes about the LGBTQ community, and glorify violence—but he doesn’t seem to think he has a moral responsibility as a musical artist to think about those things.
In one of his newest tracks, titled “War Ready,” he sings, “Trump we ready for war; BLM we ready for war; Democrats we ready for war; Patriots we ready for war.” When I asked him about that song’s meaning, he got defensive and brushed off any implication he was advocating for violence.
“War... it's like, it's just a word. It's just like, we're ready for whatever,” Jantz said. “You can take a word and try to make it into something it's not. It's not like a real war. Yeah, just like the word war, as in movies, it's just like, we're ready for life, like life's war.”
Jantz’s profile recently got a big boost following a collaboration with J360, another white MAGA rapper who’s from Ohio. They put out a track called, simply, “Matt Gaetz”, lionizing the pro-Trump Florida congressman (who is currently under investigation for allegedly sex trafficking a 17-year-old). Gaetz agreed to appear in the music video and later tweeted a link to the song.
Jantz also released a song this year called “CPAC”, named for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. That was personal to him, he said, because of how many followers he got when videos of him rapping and dancing with Trump ally and political strategist Roger Stone outside the 2021 conference went viral.
Still, members of Congress and political action conferences, typically dull topics, are unusual sources of musical inspiration. I asked Jantz if he was trying to get younger generations into MAGA politics through rap—attempting to make MAGA cool.
“MAGA already is cool,” he replied.
“But my fans aren’t teenage boys,” he added. “My fans are 50-to-60-year-old people that probably never listened to rap music in their life. And I make them love rap music. Now they love rap music.”
Later, over cheese sticks, buffalo shrimp, and chicken wings at Hooters, he would directly contradict this statement, bragging about how kids love his music, which was one of the reasons he tries to keep his lyrics clean.
Music has always played an important role in cementing group identity. This may be especially true for the MAGA movement, which is galvanized by collective faith, worships Trump as a Christlike figure, and views “liberal” values as fundamentally anti-Christian and anti-American. Jantz and other MAGA rappers are making their songbook.
“There's people that hear the songs and they might understand the movement better. They can come out to the rallies. Culture is big in anything you do,” said Jantz. “People will say ‘80-year-olds at Mar-a-Lago probably aren’t playing your music.’ Everybody at Mar-a-Lago is playing my music. You go to a Trump rally, every car you go by, five out of ten is going to have my songs playing.”
When I arrived at Clear Track Recording Studio earlier on Friday, I had expected to meet a swaggering South Florida party boy whose lifestyle and personality reflected the tats on his face, the lurid colors on his car parked outside, and the bombastic, at times offensive, lyrics in his songs. That character, whom I’d seen on videos and newsreels, was Forgiato Blow.
But Jantz was a different character. He was talkative, yet subdued, and solitary. He’s focused on trying to reach a certain level of success, but he has no idea what that looks like.
He says he doesn’t drink or do drugs. He doesn’t even like being around people who are inebriated. He said that might have something to do with his dad’s alcoholism—but he later insisted there was no relationship between his father’s substance abuse and his discomfort around drunk or high people. He said he eats at Hooters almost every day, and always orders wings. He’s hooked on soda, regularly guzzling gallons of Dr Pepper, Fanta, and Coke. He told me he finds it hard to sleep.
He doesn’t care for movies or TV. He doesn’t play video games. He says he’s never read a book—not a single one, not even in school. He doesn’t have much of a dating life. He has a few friends, but they tend to “change every two years.” I asked him who his favorite artists were, and he began rattling off names of contemporary rappers like Lil Baby and Future, before eventually admitting he just listens to Sadé constantly.
He thinks he’s hard to be around for more than a few days at a time. He said that he has an addictive personality, which seems to be reflected in his obsessive work ethic.
He spends most of his time in the studio, where he churns out multiple songs in a single day. He conceded he probably records “too much music,” given the size of his base.
“I constantly work. That’s all I do. Most people be like, ‘Oh, when’s the last time you had fun?’ Never. Never. I thought I’d get to one place and then I’d have all the fun,” Jantz said. “But I just keep trying to go further, and I’m never satisfied with what I’m doing.”
Meeting Trump was definitely a highlight, said Jantz. He lit up when he recalled the first time he met him in person. He said that Trump “broke Secret Service protocol” for him: He used Jantz’s own pen to sign something for him, which is apparently not advisable for a sitting president.
When Jantz sent him MAGA merch from his website, he received a signed letter from Trump thanking him (Jantz excitedly pulled up a copy of the letter on his phone to show me). Jantz even made his adoration for Trump permanent, with a tattoo rendering of his face on his thigh.
He said he doesn’t really buy into any of the QAnon stuff but does believe “Trump will be the sitting president by the end of the year.”
“Trump physically told me that,” Jantz claims. “When I was in Sarasota a year and a half ago, after he wasn't the president, he said he'll be back before it's over, but he needs my help in 2024, he's going to get a third term because this [Biden] is an illegitimate president.”
Jantz took a private jet to Washington, D.C., to participate in the protest on Jan. 6, 2021, but he says he “was nowhere near the Capitol” and was instead taking photos with people and signing autographs. He said that’s why he’s not really worried about federal agents coming to talk to him.
Jantz likes to think that the Forgiato Blow brand has a little something for everyone. In addition to rap, he dabbles in country music and rock. But he especially casts a wide net for the MAGA crowd, winking to everyone from politicians, crypto bros, Trump-loving moms, and Proud Boys.
He has a giant Bitcoin symbol tattooed onto his face and painted on his car. Bitcoin enthusiasts exist across the political spectrum, but there is crossover with MAGA World. So the symbol has relevance in the context of MAGA. Jantz, however, says he’s never owned any Bitcoin—the B stands for “Blow.”
He also sells a T-shirt on his website that says ‘“POYB,” an acronym for “Proud of Your Boy” used by the far-right street-fighting gang the Proud Boys. But on his T-shirt, the acronym says “Proud of Your Blow.”
He’s friends with former Proud Boy Chairman Enrique Tarrio (who is currently detained, facing federal conspiracy charges linked to the Jan. 6 riot). He regularly raps about Tarrio. He even collaborated with Bryson Gray, another MAGA rapper, on a track called “Enrique.”
“I’m a Proud Boy like Enrique/ I’m in too deep,” they rap.
Jantz insists he’s not a Proud Boy himself. “I look at the Proud Boys as just like, a second, smaller line of police officers that show up to places and protect old people at events,” Jantz said. “But I mean, I’m not in a gang, no.”
He goes out of his way to justify his existence as a white rapper—he says his unusual appearance was crafted specifically so that he’d stand out. His producer, Drayton, is Black, as are many other MAGA rappers whom he collaborates with regularly and calls his “best friends.”
But at the same time, he makes content that props up racist stereotypes. For example: his song “White History Month,” another collaboration with J360.
“I’m a patriotic misfit, I don’t need a stimulus
Lookin’ for a couple more, things I can offend you with,
I was born on March 31 — Black History month. White paint, white gloss, on my double R truck,
I’m in Florida south of Georgia, I’m in Trump Country,
Got two million dollars cash and that ain’t drug money”
Later, J360 raps, “I don’t mess with no Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion/ These bitches good at sucking dick but they be lacking in talent.”
When I met Jantz last Friday in the studio—which is owned by Scientologists— he was working on a new track that had the chorus, “We need to pray.” He typically free-styles his lyrics, spitting out a line and then repeating it over and over before eventually landing on a suitable rhyme. The result is songs that can sound a little like grievance word soup. He was working with the phrase “Keepin’ it biblical” when we got there, and after trying on several options, he eventually settled on “Sleepy Joe is a criminal” as a rhyme.
Similarly, he managed to rhyme “They shooting in Portland” (a nod to right-wing rhetoric about leftist crime in liberal cities) with “still got babies aborted.” In that same track, he squeezed in references to CNN, COVID-19 lockdowns, Barack Obama, voter fraud conspiracies, and Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 attack.
But his primary focus on Friday was to put finishing touches on another new track, which he planned to debut the next day at an “anti-grooming rally” outside Disney World in Orlando that he’d helped organize.
The song, if it was a hit, would be an anthem for the latest right-wing culture war issue: grooming children, and Disney.
Disney has found itself in the middle of a growing maelstrom after the corporation, amid public pressure, withdrew its support for Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. The new law bans schools from offering any resources or talking about anything vaguely linked to sexual orientation or gender identity to kids up to age 12. It comes amid a flurry of legislation nationwide looking to restrict the visibility of the LGBTQ community and dismantle trans and gay rights.
Critics of Florida’s law, which now include Disney, have been bizarrely accused of supporting “grooming.” This narrative has been promoted by right-wing figures with huge platforms, including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump Jr. In recent weeks, the “pro-grooming” narrative has given way to wild conspiracy theories claiming Disney is on a covert mission to indoctrinate children with a satanic agenda or is a front for a secret pedophile ring with ties to Jeffrey Epstein’s “island.” It’s a new excuse for haters to traffic in tired transphobic and homophobic slurs, bashing members of the community as sexual predators.
This rhetoric has also led to threats targeting the LGBTQ community and real-world harassment. The far-right has been doxxing school officials who they suspect of being “groomers.” Earlier this month, two gay dads and their young kids were on an Amtrak train headed up the California coastline to San Francisco when they were accosted by a man who shouted homophobic slurs and called them “pedophiles” and “rapists.”
Jantz’s new track samples Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”—specifically the part in the song where they shout, “Hey, teacher! Leave those kids alone.” In Jantz’s version, “Teacher” has been replaced with “Disney.”
In the song, he expresses nostalgia for the older Disney movies (“You know deep down Snow White was probably pro-life”) and a desire to go back to “the good old days” when “parents taught their children.”
If there’s one thing that Jantz is especially sensitive about, it’s money. References to wealth are embedded in the Forgiato Blow brand. He loves flashy cars and flashy clothes. He loves Richie Rich, the ultimate “poor little rich boy” who, despite growing up in the lap of luxury, had no real friends. But he says that all those specific references have nothing to do with him or his upbringing—they’re just about Trump.
The “Blow” in Forgiato Blow is not a reference to cocaine, the drug of choice for people who have too much money. “Forgiato,” Jantz says, is a reference to an American manufacturer of specialty-car rims of the same name. Blow, he says, is an acronym for “Been Living Off Wealth.”
Jantz’s late grandfather was Stuart Arnold, who founded the wildly successful Autotrader magazine featuring classified ads for cars. Arnold owned a ton of property in the Tampa Bay and Clearwater area. After his death, his family put one of those huge parcels, which includes a tennis court, up for sale, priced at more than $10 million.
But Jantz insists he’s never seen a cent of his grandfather’s money and is entirely self-made. “People always say, ‘Oh, you had it easy, you were some spoiled, rich white kid who got homemade lollipops every day,” said Jantz.
He said his mother was a dog groomer and his sister worked in Walgreens. (VICE News was unable to verify the claim about his mother, but we did find a marriage notice for his sister that stated her place of work as Walgreens). He shrugged off the notion that he was treated to expensive holidays or other luxuries growing up; however, obituaries regularly depicted the late Arnold as a doting grandfather who loved to take his family on yachting trips.
Like Arnold, both Jantz and his sister attended Admiral Farragut Academy, a private military boarding school located in St. Petersburg, Florida (today, tuition for full-time boarders is more than $50,000 a year). The grand stucco buildings, surrounded by palm trees, that make up the academy used to be part of a luxury beachfront resort popular among “snowbirds” during the Jazz Age.
But Jantz’s claims of being self-made don’t exactly add up, based on the information he gave us. In addition to making money off his music and merch on his website, he says he rents out his fleet of expensive cars via the app Turo. However, questions remained about how he could afford certain aspects of his lifestyle. For example, the private jet he took to D.C. on Jan. 6 (he later said he hates private jets because they’re “too small”). The red, white, and blue Louis Vuitton sneakers he was wearing in the studio when we met him retail for over $1,000. He drives two Rolls-Royces. “People think a Rolls-Royce is so expensive,” said Jantz. “It's not that expensive to have a Rolls-Royce. I pay like $4,000 a month.”
Then there’s the time he spends in the studio and the time working with the sound engineer, racking up hundreds of dollars in a single session.
I never got to see where Jantz lives. Before arriving in Florida, he’d made vague promises that we could tour his home. But he’d seemingly had a change of heart once we were there. He wanted to meet us anywhere but his house, and eventually told me he “doesn’t let anyone visit his house.”
On Saturday, the Orlando sun was beating down on the entrance to the Disney World resort, where hundreds of right-wing activists had gathered to protest against a conspiracy theory.
This, Jantz said, was MAGAville, and he was its mayor.
He was there in a biker vest, and his producer FangaLee was dragging a speaker around in a small wagon while trying to keep his camera trained on Jantz, collecting B-roll where instructed.
To an outsider, the scene looked like a sort of through-the-looking-glass Disney World. MAGA celebrities and characters swanned around, meeting fans and posing for photos. There was someone in a full Mickey Mouse costume who would end up featured prominently in the final cut of Jantz’s music video “Hey Disney.” Attendees were invited to purchase memorabilia of their favorite real-life characters: Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Tucker Carlson.
There were at least eight candidates for office there getting signatures, including far-right U.S. House candidates Christine Quinn and Laura Loomer, a self-described “proud Islamophobe” who has tossed her hat into the ring for the Florida House, running as a Republican.
The 45-year-old man in the Mickey Mouse costume, Jonathan Ritchie, told me he’d been going to Disney World since he was 2 years old—until recently. “Never was politics or wokeism involved in Disney, but in the last ten years it has become aggressively worse, promoting homosexuality in children, grooming children,” Ritchie said. “We believe Disney supports pedophilia.”
When I asked him to give some examples, he replied, without taking a beat, Frozen.
“Yeah, it’s about a princess, but it also promotes homosexuality,” Ritchie said. “You have to watch it.”
Someone had even taped a sign above the official Disney sign saying “Pedo World.” (This was, apparently, a step too far; the local sheriff's department interrupted the rally to remove it.)
The rallygoers gave very different reasons for why they were there and what they believed Disney was doing. Some were angry about what they saw as Disney’s “woke” agenda—pointing to a leaked video that showed Disney executives discussing making a huge push to make their content more inclusive through LGBTQ and minority characters.
“This is supposed to be a family-oriented park. Look what they stand for! You call this a family affair when they’re basically supporting pedophiles,” said 78-year-old George, who declined to give his last name.
Lightyear, the upcoming Toy Story spinoff, is set to feature a kiss between two women. The scene had been cut by executives but then was restored to the film following staff anger over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Variety reported. This was a particular source of angst among the crowd.
“In Lightyear, a guy is kissing a guy,” said George. “Do you like that? Do you like a girl kissing a girl?”
(It’s unclear where George got his information, but the same-sex kiss is between a female character named Hawthorne, voiced by Uzo Aduba, and her girlfriend, according to Variety.)
He wished Disney movies were the way they used to be: He particularly yearned for 1946’s Song of the South, a movie that’s been widely criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes. (Disney never released the controversial film on video and it’s not available on Disney+.)
Eddy David, 17, who said his favorite Disney character was Darth Vadar (Lucasfilm’s 1977 character, purchased by Disney in 2012), came to the rally in red, white, and blue armor. Toy Story used to be his favorite movie, he said, but the prospect of a same-sex kiss in the Lightyear spinoff has made it difficult for him to continue enjoying the franchise. “It's meant to just be a show about toys going on little adventures,” David said.
Meanwhile, Laura Loomer said her favorite Disney character was Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
“I was concerned with how pretty Ariel's red hair was, or how pretty her purple top was, and I loved the fairytale story with her and Prince Eric,” said Loomer. “I wasn’t worried about whether Ariel was bisexual.” When I pointed out that Ariel was half-fish, she said that was irrelevant.
“That’s fantasy—little kids can dream about unicorns and think about it,” said Loomer. “If your kid is going to eat grass, are you going to say they’re a cow? Kids put all types of things in their mouths, they put dirt in their mouths. They put glue in their mouths. When I was a kid, I would put glue or grass in my mouth… Do I identify with a cow because I put grass in my mouth?”
Some drivers passing by the rally flipped off the protesters or yelled “Fuck you!” through their windows. But the near-constant honking indicated that a lot of passers-by actually supported the protest.
All these conversations were happening against the backdrop of Jantz’s music video set.
Jantz’s new song, “Hey Disney,” was thrown together in less than a day, seemingly without much care for the harm he might be causing by bolstering narratives that equate support for LGBTQ visibility with pedophilia. His lyrics were simply convenient rhymes and rallying cries for a rolling right-wing grievance circus.
On Friday night, the track was locked, ready to debut the next day. But he seemed to be second-guessing himself. He mentioned that his mom probably wouldn’t like it, mainly because she worries about him attracting controversy.
We were standing outside Hooters after dinner. It had stopped raining, and he pointed out the full moon, which was reflected in puddles across the parking lot. He said he was superstitious about full moons because “bad things always happened to him” on those nights. Then he asked me what I really thought about the “Don’t Say Gay Law”—if I thought, like the lyrics in his new track, that kids were “just making things up for attention.” I replied asking whether it wasn’t more important to teach kids about acceptance and being themselves from a young age, so that if they did end up identifying as LGBTQ, they felt empowered to come out. He didn’t push back. He didn’t say anything in response, just stood there silently for a moment.
Then we got back in his Bitcoin-adorned Rolls-Royce. He had a long night ahead of him, preparing for the music video shoot the next day. Since last weekend, his “Hey Disney” music video has racked up more than 25,000 views.
Follow Tess Owen on Twitter.
Additional reporting by Magdaline Duncan