There are a ton of things that can turn an ordinary New York City commute into a Mad Libs exercise. So when a Brooklyn rapper jumped from an ice cream truck onto a bus while firing a flamethrower for his music video (out today), we weren’t surprised, necessarily, but we had questions. Aside from the obvious inquiries, like who has a flamethrower at their disposal and how one finds an ice cream truck in New York City during November, we wanted to get to know the man behind the frantic headlines.
According to the news, the fire-wielding man behind the stunt was Brooklyn rapper Dupree G.O.D. One glance at streaming services might give you the impression that he was a relatively new rapper, but that would be wrong: Born Christopher Dupree, the New Yorker has years of experience under his belt as WordSpit, which might recognize from America's Got Talent, a Roc-a-Wear campaign, and a pretty catchy McDonald's jingle. He changed his name to Dupree G.O.D last year.
Dupree's music as WordSpit was a fusion of the best parts of rap and rock and roll, mosh pits included. He, along with other artists like Ninjasonik, is a part of the tapestry of New York rappers from the mid-aughts who made it acceptable for successors like A$AP Rocky to experiment with scenes outside of hip-hop. His music is no longer backed by a live band but sounds more like an intergenerational mosaic of inspiration than one that transcends genres.
"We took those shots of being the skinny jean-wearing weirdos even though we were rapping crazy," he told VICE. "Our predecessors were looking at us like, You're rapping hard, but you're wearing skinny jeans."
Produced by Powers Pleasant, "WuTang 4Da Children," the song that he jumped on a New York City bus for (and subsequently was charged with reckless endangerment), blends samples from the legendary rap group over a U.K. grime-inspired production, much like rappers Pop Smoke and Fivio Foreign popularized in Brooklyn's drill scene.
"We wound up putting the ODB sample in there and I ripped the Wu-Tang chants from the internet," he said. "The song had this aggression that felt new but still gave me an aggression like if I was walking down a dark alley in a hoodie in the 90s. When I made the song, I wanted to reflect on that era of music where it was gritty and grimy but still eloquent."
In a year with so much pent-up aggression, watching Dupree jump from vehicle to vehicle like a Marvel character is somewhat satisfying. "WuTang 4Da Children" truly captures the energy of a chaotic 2020 and gives an intriguing glimpse of what it feels like to be on the other side of virality.
How did you come up with the idea for this video?
I wanted to make sure I captured iconic Wu-Tang moments. If you look at the 36 Chambers album cover, it's them with these stocking caps. If you look at the "Da Mystery of Chessboxin" video, it's them resembling the cover. I wanted to revamp that and bring it into this year. For the ice cream scene, "C.R.E.A.M" is one of Wu-Tang's most commercial songs. It was for women but it was still raw. I had to add something that was true to me, which was the sexuality and provocativeness. I'm about wanting to make art that people can have a conversation about. The video would've been fire regardless, but if you see a chick throwing a flamethrower from between her legs like she's having a fire orgasm, who's not talking about that?
Why a flamethrower?
Fire is provocative. Fire is passionate. When you think about fire you think about passion and intensity. The flamethrower was a representation of if you saw me rapping in front of you—and the shit looked cool as fuck.
Were you worried about what would happen after you got on the bus? Did you think it that far through?
I did not think it that far through. [Laughs] It was something that literally just happened in that moment. This is why we love New York—because anything can happen. To see the media spin it, like I was a terrorist or a part of Antifa, was hurtful because I'm a Black guy and I'm actively in my community. I do a festival every year where we feed 300 people and have games for the kids and do giveaways. That was weird for me.
Did you think about the passengers on the bus at any point or were you just creating?
I apologize if I scared anybody or if I delayed anybody's travel. I don't want to fuck anybody's day up or make anybody scared. That's not what we're here for. We're creating art, bro. We're not trying to hurt anybody.
Your video begins by saying "Risk ya life for ya art." By the time that I saw the post you had already turned yourself in. Do you think you put a target on your back during an already tumultuous year with police?
It going from A to Z was super interesting for me because that wasn't the intention. I was just excited. I can see how things could get blown out of proportion.
As a Black man in America, there are certain things we can't do or we are not allowed to do that other people can do and it will just be considered as "Boys will be boys." I risk my body when I'm performing and I'd do that for any form of art as long as people aren't getting hurt. I've been risking my life for art.
Are you allowed to say what you were charged with? How much trouble did you actually get in for this?
We would probably need a follow up for that. [Laughs]
Your name is making rounds because of this stunt, but people probably don't realize that they might already know who you are because you changed your name.
I wanted to change my name because I felt like WordSpit didn't represent who I am right now. I changed it to my last name, which is Dupree, and G.O.D for grandeur, opulence, and decadence, because that's the legacy I want to leave behind.
Last year, I started doing viral pranks, dramatizations, and comedy skits. Coming from being a very serious rapper, comedy wasn't my thing. I wanted to give more personality to the internet, so I took a year to do that and sprinkled music in between. The funny thing about the headlines was that they put "Rapper Dupree G.O.D," so a lot of the following I had from doing skits thought, Oh, wait he raps?
Sonically, what would you consider the difference between your music as WordSpit and as Dupree G.O.D?
WordSpit was traditional hip-hop. WordSpit had to be about bars. That's what people knew me for. It was just about free expression. I would rap anywhere and with anybody. I added a band [We the ILLest] and that gave me a different aspect of music technicality. I started adding rock and roll elements. We did lots of mosh pitting before that was a thing. People were recognizing me and my band for rock and roll-esque music. In 2018, I moved into the atmosphere of making music no matter what it was. If I got a track and I wanted to sing, I'm singing. If I got on a track and wanted to scream, I'm screaming. I wanted to move into a realm where I could create whatever I wanted.
I felt like WordSpit was restricting me because when you heard that name people would put me in the backpack rapper space that I didn't want to be in. At the end of the day, I'm a wild boy. I've built stage shows off moshpitting and jumping in crowds and just fucking shit up. I wanted something that reflected that. The rap music I make now, the world music I make now, is a symbol of that. It still has rock elements, it still has bars, but it can go anywhere.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Kristin Corry is a Senior Staff Writer for VICE.