Culture

Scam Rappers G4 Boyz Are Building the Bridge Between UK and NY Drill

The Staten Island duo's scam rap screamer was a landmark moment in relations between London and New York drill scenes. This is their story.
03 July 2020, 10:16am
G4 Boyz interview
Photo: PR

G4 Boyz, consisting of brothers Buggy and Ice Baby, are spearheading the new wave of scam rap. Hailing from Staten Island, New York, the duo released their underground hit “Local Scammer” at the end of last year. The song is essentially a soundtrack to credit card fraud as the rappers stress about “high service fees” and pray the “bank don’t freeze their funds” over a simple, bouncing drill beat. It quickly became popular in the UK, largely due to a guest appearance from London drill rapper G4 Choppa, who added the novelty of hearing a British rapper on WORLDSTARHIPHOP – the YouTube channel that only tends to premiere American artists.

The song was a landmark moment in the ongoing relationship between the London and New York rap scenes. In 2018, A$AP Rocky released “Praise Da Lord” with UK legend Skepta which went on to be an international smash hit. More recently, UK drill producers have had more success over in the states than UK rappers. London-based producers AXL Beats and 808 Melo helped shape the Brooklyn drill scene by producing for artists such as Pop Smoke, Fivio Foreign and Sheff G, then expanding the drill sound to the mainstream via collabs with Drake. “War”, produced by AXL Beats, and “Demons”, produced by Finesse Forever’s JB Made It and featuring Brooklyn rappers Fivio Foreign and Sosa Geek, both appeared on Drake mixtape Dark Lane Demo Tapes in May.

“Local Scammer” is different, since the UK influence isn't limited to production. From the moment the hook starts, you notice G4 Choppa’s distinct London accent, and bars such as “KMT, that’s a third of the swipe” implement traditional UK drill slang. The classic UK drill sound is complemented by the cool New York vibe introduced by Buggy and Ice Boy on the song’s verses. “These other rappers don’t care, we care," says Ice, speaking to me from his minimalist New York apartment. "We’ve been making money in London for so long – people don’t understand the rhythm, the culture, the energy of it. Why would we use UK beats and not give UK artists a chance?”

The pair spent months engineering Choppa’s sound and developing him as an artist with international appeal. “At the time, Choppa had maybe 60,70 followers on Instagram,” says Ice. “We don’t care about followers though; we care about talent.” Their upcoming single “Prada” is a fun, vibey offering with memorable bars delivered effortlessly over a minimalist beat of elastic bass and synthesized chords. The track follows the sae formula as “Local Scammer”, with Choppa providing the hook and Buggy and Ice supplying the verses. The format seems to be a success: as Buggy puts it, “me, Ice and Choppa – that’s the Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and Scott Pippen [of music].”

Despite their success, the brothers didn't have the smoothest journey into music. Ice didn’t really see the appeal as the pair were already earning money in the streets, but Buggy saw potential and longevity in music. “I was annoyed. My brother was annoying me. It was every day, music, music, music...” Ice recalls. Buggy gave his brother a final ultimatum. He sent Ice a beat and promised that if the song didn’t do well, he would stop pestering him. The outcome was “Patek Phillipe” – a buoyant track featuring Tory Lanez that became G4 Boyz’ first real hit.

Back in March, the duo had their first UK show – a pop-up gig at the Camden Assembly that sold out in a matter of days. “It was a blessing to see not just Black people, but white people, Asian people. It was crazy to see how much our music influenced other cultures,” says Buggy. “That was the point of our music to make people appreciate their own culture more.”

The pair hope that the African diaspora can find solace in their sound. “G4 Boyz make self-esteem music for foreigners,” notes Buggy. Born to Nigerian and Ghanaian immigrant parents, the pair were teased by their classmates for their culture. “I was confused, it made no sense. Why you dissing me 'cos I’m African – it was painful. When I went to school, we had to fight people every day because someone would say something like 'African booty scratcher, you’re poor, monkeys, go back to Africa.' It would be kids that are the same colour as me and I would be like ‘bro, where do you think you’re from?’”

Growing up, the mainstream artists their older brother played never tapped into their complex African identity, even though their mum did listen to Ghanaian artist Daddy Lumba. 50 Cent and Michael Jackson just didn’t connect in the same way. “There was no music to help me through tough times. That’s one thing I like we’re doing. The generation now can listen to G4 Boyz; 13 years olds hear ‘African boy got style’ and feel like they got style.”

A “Local Scammer” remix featuring Chicago drill pioneer Chief Keef has just dropped, with a second remix scheduled for release early next month. The release is symbolic of the global influence of the UK drill sound, and is an early indicator of increased collaboration between US and UK artists in the near future. The pair are also excited about their upcoming project S.C.A.M (Still chasing after money). “It's gonna be crazy to hear A$AP Rocky talking scam, people like Mr Eazi...” exclaims Buggy, before Ice quickly interjects. “Slow down. You’re giving too much!”

G4 Boyz are taking scam rap to a whole new level. Their music seeks to empower, while also helping to bridge the UK and US rap and drill scenes. “This sound has never been heard before. It’s shifting the culture to a new Scam-African-drill type vibe.” Buggy claims, “But more importantly we’re doing this at a time where our skin tone needs it the most.”

@abubakarfiniin