Interview: Wifisfuneral discusses Palm Beach adolescent rebellion, meeting Earl Sweatshirt, and his excellent album "Black Heart Revenge."
Wifisfuneral spent the past four weeks on tour, zooming across the country in a sprinter van driven by his manager. On the day of his New York City show, the enthusiastic and affable 19-year-old, born Isaiah Rivera, arrived at the HNHH office with a surprisingly large posse in tow and the sprinter van parked down the street. He had recently shorn his trademark droopy mop of black hair and bleached what remained a rich caramel brown.
Wifisfuneral was originally conceived as a two-man group comprised of Rivera and his close friend Gabe. Gabe retired from the rap game, now Rivera alone is Wifisfuneral.
Born in the Bronx, raised in Palm Beach, Florida, 70 miles up the coast from Miami, he first generated regional buzz in 2014 when he released the record "Light Skin Trick Daddy." His new album Black Heart Revenge is polished and wrought with pathos and is as good as any project to come out of South Florida this year, including Pouya's Underground Underdog and Denzel Curry's Imperial.
HNHH sat down with Wifisfuneral to discuss his adolescent rebellion, getting to meet Earl Sweatshirt, and the making of Black Heart Revenge.
What were you like as a kid?
I was into anything active. I was always all over the place, and my mom could never calm me down. I never knew my dad, I would just talk to him on the phone. Whenever I'd talk to him on the phone, it would feel weird. My dad used to rap. I didn't have nothing to relate to him on the phone with, so she would just be like "Oh, why don't you rap?" And then around six or seven years old, I wrote my first sixteen. And then I called my dad and I was like "Yo, listen to this."
So you've always wanted to be a rapper?
Yeah, I saw Ma$e in the “Mo Money Mo Problems” music video, and said, "That's what I'm gonna do with my life.”
What was the first time you ever recorded a song?
I was 13 or 14. Yeah, 13 in my crib with a little guitar Rock Band mic connected to Mixcraft 5. Rock Band. With three socks.
Wifisfuneral wasn't your first pen name. What names did you have before and how did you come up with Wifisfuneral?
The first rap name I ever went by was Izzy Kills. (Laughs) I can't believe I'm talking about this shit right now. And then it was Casper Winter Jacket. And then, Mozart LaFleur. That was fire, I don't give a fuck what nobody says. And then I was trying to really come up with something that I'm like "bruh, niggas gotta know who I am.”
I called [Gabe] one day - I woke up at like 11 in the morning - I called him and was like, "what do you think about Wifisfuneral?" And he was like, "that actually sounds kind of hard." And it took a minute for it to pick up on people, because when people heard my name at first they'd be like, "so your internet is dead? What are you talking about?"
Why did you drop out of school?
I dropped out of school basically because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I dropped out around sophomore year. Sophomore, junior year. School wasn't teaching me that for shit. I told my mom already, "yo Mom, I really wanna do this rapping shit, and I wanna let you know right now, I'm really not fucking with school." And like any mom, she was like, "what the fuck are you talking about? You're going to school, I don't care what you're saying."
So I just kept rebelling and rebelling and rebelling and rebelling. Then I got into a fight, I got suspended for like two or three weeks. They were probably gonna expel me cause I had fucked this kid up. Because he said my mom should have committed suicide for no fucking reason, so I was like, “alright, fuck you.” So I got suspended, and it was during exam season, so I told my mom. I was like, “fuck that shit, I'm already fucking suspended. I might as well just get out of here.” And she was like, "no, you're gonna do online school." So I did online school, and she just dropped me out, like fully. After that, I just started doing everything on my own.
Did you move out?
Nah, I got kicked out. My mom had certain rules and regulations to live by, and if I didn't fit those rules and regulations, I couldn't be at the crib. And that's my mom, so I'm not finna just disrespect her word. I wasn't on that, and she knew I wasn't on that, so I packed up my shit and I dipped.
Where'd you go?
How far is that from Palm Beach?
Two hours. I moved two hours away to my homeboy’s crib. That's kind of where I built everything for Wifisfuneral as far as like music, face tats, everything. Everything was done in Orlando.
So do you have a home studio setup?
Yeah, it was a little kind of home studio cause we was all living on a college campus, and they were all living in college dorms - these little apartments. My homeboy Fredo's room - we turned his room into a studio. I slept in the living room with Max P and Solomon.
How long were you out in Orlando for?
Almost a year. Near UCF. I stayed at U House. It's a university housing place. It's really trapped out though. It's a lot of kids selling drugs. People robbing each other in the same building.
You’re a big Earl Sweatshirt fan.
I can pretty much say, my generation can say, we grew up on Odd Future and A$AP Rocky and all of them. A lot of people think that's crazy to hear, because normally you hear people say they grew up on Nas & Jay, and all that other shit. And there's nothing wrong with that because I respect all that other shit. But Earl played a big factor because that's actually what the fuck was going on. At 14, 15 years old, that's the shit I could relate to. That was exactly what was going on in my life.
There’s a Three 6 Mafia vibe in your music. When did you start listening to Three 6?
I discovered Three 6 by myself. My dad is from the Bronx, so he wasn't down with any of that shit. He's a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony fan before he's a Three 6 Mafia fan. But I found out about Tommy Wright III through my homeboy Mishek a couple summers ago. That was around the same time I found out about Three 6. And then after that, I just played their tapes, heavy every single one. Now I know them like the back of my hand.
Why is Three 6 Mafia so popular in Florida?
Because SpaceghostPurrp did a lot of sampling from them, and that's what the whole phonk shit originated from.
The South Florida rap scene is pretty self-contained. There's a lot of artists who are huge in that region but not as big elsewhere in the country. What accounts for that?
I feel like with Florida, not even just Florida but any region - when you finally get the light on it, everybody's like, “give it to me.” And then there's people that are like, “ah well I've been doing this before we even got the light,” so everyone fights for the credibility. It's a big-ass game of high school out here. I choose not to partake in it, coming clean, cause if everyone wants to think it’s a popularity game, that’s on them. My mind is set bigger than that. I'm tryna go over - fuck that.
I heard somewhere you were buying Xans from an amputee. You had a plug.
He sadly passed away. I can't go into too much detail about that. But yeah, that's what I used to do. The amputee, the plug - rest in peace the plug.
When did Earl co-sign you?
How it happened was that my management was doing Florida dates for my tour that they were throwing at the time. I guess on the way to Florida - don't quote me on it because I might be wrong - but from what I remember, I think his DJ, Black, was playing “Surff” on the tour bus on the way to Florida. And was showing him like, "yo, this is Wifisfuneral". And then he was like “Oh shit, I fuck with him, this is tight.” And then we kind of just met each other when he came to Florida. So I'm like opening up for him in Tampa. I'm like performing “Surff,” and I'm looking to the side cause at this venue The Orpheum, the green room is the stairs is right here, and then you gotta walk up the stairs to the green room. From the side, you can have a little view. He's watching me perform, and I'm seeing this nigga go crazy. And I'm like, “oh shit, Earl is actually going crazy to my shit!” After that, he came up to me and was like “Bruh, I fuck with your shit.”
What's he like?
He's a real cool person. Some rappers be prima donnas. That's a nigga that I could say is not like that at all.
When did you start working on Black Heart Revenge?
I had been working on this project called 27 Club that I had pictured to be an album, rather than a mixtape. Around that time, I was really doing a lot of bad drugs. And then I overdosed - and after while I was in the hospital - I came up with the name ‘Black Heart Revenge.’ Because I was like, “alright everyone thinks I'm about to go down, well this is my revenge. I'm about to just fuck everyone up.”
Was that your low point?
I was doing cocaine and adderall. Not a good combination at all. I was doing it because I just felt I needed to stay up. Like, “fuck, I gotta stay up, I gotta make this project.” Because every song I was making at that time was ass in my opinion. I made like 14 songs in fucking five days. I was like. “I gotta get a hit.” I was looking for something in music that honestly I didn't need to look for. At that time, I wasn't like losing my passion for music, but it was becoming too much of a job in my eyes.
When did that happen?
The beginning of this year.
How many of the songs that made it onto the project were made after that?
We made 60 songs, and only 14 out of that 60 made it. 50 or 60. I only picked two out of the stuff we made before the overdose. A lot of people say that when they listen to Black Heart Revenge, they can hear sadness, anger, all over the place. It's like a timeline from start to finish. I start angry, and then calm down by the end of the tape.
On Twitter you said that you want your next album to be inspired by Donnie Darko.
I'm dead-ass serious. I watched the movie again recently, and I was like "bruh, this makes so much sense to me and my life right now." You know how the two inner worlds entwine like that? With the two outside worlds? Jake Gyllenhaal is supposed to save the world because the bad world and good world were intertwining, and if they come together, they're all gonna be fucked. Everyone's gonna die.
What do you do for fun?
Smoke my life away, smoke my brains out. I face a quarter everyday. That's on a slow day. The Backwoods pack? Yechhh. I should be sponsored by Backwoods.
Why did you shave the ‘fro?
The mop? The scab? It was like one big-ass scab. The day I decided to cut my hair was the anniversary of my aunt's death. Even before that, some kid said Wifisfuneral only has an image and that and that because of his hair. People are only paying attention to his music because of his looks. So fuck it, I'm gonna prove this kid wrong and cut my hair.