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Introducing Scam Rap, Where Card Fraud and ID Theft Reign Supreme

Like Atlanta and lean, or LA and weed, Detroit's new strain of rap has its own set of signifiers: bank account drops, Bitcoin and fraud.

by Ryan Bassil
14 August 2019, 10:31am

Teejayx6 image from "Swipe Story"official video

Before Detroit kid Teejayx6 turned 12, he knew how to scam adults on Twitter. "I used to make a fake warehouse page, saying I was a store," he said in a recent No Jumper interview. "I'd put a fake location in the bio area thing, then I'd post Xboxes, TVs, everything on there – sell them for like $500." That was, as he called it, an original scam that "everybody probably did". On a bad day, he'd be able to make $50. On a good one, about $2,000. As he recounted all of this, he giggled every so often. He wasn't bragging so much as answering the questions put to him, as breezily as someone taking you through their step-by-step recipe for fluffy pancakes.

After Twitter came Instagram, then credit card scams and what he says were $10,000 earnings. And yet, despite the scamming, Teejayx6 wanted to be a rapper. And so, when he was about 15 or 16, he merged both vocations. He started rapping about scamming. “If you ain’t got no money bro, trust me you can’t be stressing / I’m about to teach you how to swipe from these little lessons,” he spits on “Swipe Lesson”. The June 2019 track then basically delivers on its title, teaching you how to credit scam: from picking up Bitcoin, downloading a VPN, then operating from a safe location (AKA “go to Starbucks but don’t forget to bring your computer.”)

Teejayx6’s process of using music to coach fans on operating outside the law isn’t novel. Tutorials have long been an element of rap music, whether with Biggie’s “Ten Crack Commandments” or more recently on Jay-Z’s “The Story Of O.J.” where he references flipping property in Brooklyn. What separates Teejayx6 from the rest, though, is that he’s talking about fraud. After all the clue is in the name: this is the world of scam rap.

Officially the genre’s been around for a couple years. Bossman Rich's colossally loud and overt “Juggin Ain’t Dead” dropped in 2017, and featured the rapper flashing immense stacks of cash while rapping “bitch I need a couple of bands, it’s time to load up / hit Bitcoin, them ops about to load up.” As a broader interest in scamming has increased, however – see: Anna Delvey, the fake socialite, the McDonalds Monopoly fraud, Boris Johnson selling a Brexit lie – and more of us have gained easier access to the dark web’s credit drop websites, scam rap too has become more prevalent.

In June, Teejayx6 released a mixtape called Fraudulent Activity. You can guess what it’s about – doing illegal shit, and in particular scamming, whether through a Tor browser, an app, or in real life. On one track named after the inaugural dark web marketplace “Silk Road”, he raps: “Cat-fished a lame white boy for six thousand on Tinder / Scammed a cameraman for a video, then blocked him on Twitter.”

Musically, his stuff isn’t shonky, uploaded-to-YouTube-only-rap, either. For evidence of: a) how much money Teejayx6 is allegedly making; and b) his quirky, frenetic and engaging flow, you’re gonna want to watch “Dynamic Duo”, his collaboration with Kasher Quon. Between fanning out dollar bills to show they’re real (or at least very good duplicates), the two engage in bar-for-bar storytelling reminiscent of the blow-by-blow narrative deployed by Dr Dre and Eminem on “Guilty Conscience”. But Teejayx6 and Kasher Quon's delivery bristles with the frenzied back-n-forth of someone aware they’ve got to complete the song before a fed or opp knocks their door in.

It's worth lingering on how “Dynamic Duo” provokes loose comparisons with Detroit native Eminem – scam rap in particular seems to be flooding out from Motor City. The city's arm of the genre made enough of an impact that in 2017 prosecutors started to take note of Detroit's Selfmade Kash, who wrote songs “Scam Likely”, “Still The Swipe Goat Freestyle” and “Swipe In Peace”. Earlier this year, Kash was charged with identity theft, wire fraud and possessing an unauthorised access device (broadly, the term used when someone's messing with credit, debit, ATM, bank cards and so on). His arrest may not have been a huge surprise, really, considering he overwhelmingly incriminated himself. Prosecutors indeed took note of not only his gold credit-card necklace (take a look at it in the “Swipe God Freestyle”) but later mentioned that he "posts pictures and videos on Twitter and Instagram containing large amounts of money, credit cards, and credit card skimmers to promote his proclivity for credit card fraud", according to The Detroit News.

In fact, a whole load of up-and-coming young Detroit rappers aren’t shying away from mentioning scamming in their lyrics. BandGang are one crew from the area who Teejayx6 credits as kicking off the scam movement. On recent BandGang member Lonnie Bands song “Come Here”, he boasts about knowing “One ho sell pussy, other one scams” while fellow Detroit rapper Drego refers to being “with the scam man”. It’s a bouncy, club rap tune, yet, just like “Dynamic Duo”, a similarly feverish flow rides atop the beat.

Of course, other scam rap isn't exclusive to Detroit. Most prominently, there's Guapdad 4000 from Oakland; or, for club-pop fans, a couple of lines on the Lil Yachty penned City Girl's summer smash "Act Up". But as one comment on YouTube reads “you can tell Detroit rap from the production”. Because whether it's scam rap, or simply rap from Detroit (like Sada Baby and Drego's huge "Bloxk Party"), the city's sound sits somewhere between the club and the street, bassy and loud, coupled with what's often a fevered, Duracell-bunny adjacent flow.

That scam rap even exists highlights a cultural shift toward technological, data-driven/psychological crime, where everyone from rich wannabe socialites to pseudoscience Instagram therapists are on the hustle. In this case, as with weed or coke rap in the past, the rappers involved aren't shy of being brazen about it too, regardless of how true-to-life their stories are. As Teejayx6 says in his No Jumper interview: "Even if I was under investigation, there is no proof, there's no video proof, I could be saying all this, it could be a lie, it could be entertainment."

For now though, if you’re looking to scam, it wouldn’t do you wrong to head to the comments of any of these rappers videos, where people offer advice on how to scam (presumably to scam you, in the same way Teejayx6 started off scamming people on Twitter, of course). Or you could just enjoy the music: there’s nothing else like this, right now.

@ryanbassil