It’s almost too easy to pigeonhole Floridian rapper Wifisfuneral when you see him. From his name to his look, the Palm Beach-bred rapper born Isaiah Rivera in the Bronx, New York has got “Soundcloud rapper” written all over him — among other things. Yes, there’s a face tattoo and yes, he’s got that devil-may-care air about him that marks some of today’s hottest up-and-comers from both his state of origin and his chosen streaming platform. However, despite the provenance of his fiercely passionate and deeply personal rhymes, he still rankles at the term “Soundcloud rapper.”
Look past the ink and his gamertag-esque nom de plume, though, and you’ll find that there’s more to Wifi than meets the eye. Like many of his peers from Lil Xan to Playboi Carti, Wifi’s rap knowledge actually runs deeper than you’d expect. He cites The Notorious B.I.G. and Big L as his influences and is quick to explain that his attraction to rap music is basically hereditary. His father was a battle rapper in the Bronx and his rap career started when he encountered Biggie’s “Mo Money, Mo Problems” video at just nine years old, impressing him and informing his young dreams. From then on, he says, he was destined for rap stardom, dropping out of high school to record and pursue his goal with rapid-fire raps independently released to — where else — Soundcloud.
Unfortunately, the young rapper — he turned 21 this past March — almost had his career, and his life, derailed before it even got started. During the recording for his first mixtape, Black Heart Revenge, Wifi accidentally overdosed on cocaine and Adderall. After working to get clean, he followed up with two more digital-only albums, When Hell Falls and Boy Who Cried Wolf, garnering the attention of Interscope Records along the way.
Now, with his latest tape, Ethernet out via Alamo Records and Interscope after delays caused by sample clearance issues, and featuring appearances from fellow Soundcloud-kids-turned-serious-artists Lil Skies and YBN Nahmir, Wifisfuneral is ready to make his unusual name, which is a reference to his DJ’s best friend who committed suicide, a household one. He sat down with us on his bus (along with special guest Lil Xan) during his Orange County stop on tour with Pouya at The Observatory in Santa Ana to talk about the generation gap in hip-hop, his goals for the future, why he so staunchly refuses to call Ethernet an album (instead preferring “mixtape”), and why first impressions matter so much in rap.
What can we expect from Ethernet?
It’s really not an album, it’s a mixtape, to be real with you.
Do you still make that distinction?
Yeah, a debut album is like your first impression. When you think about Nas, you think about Illmatic, you don’t think about Stillmatic, you don’t think about It Was Written. That’s why I haven’t dropped a debut album yet because I feel I’m just not at that level right now, where I’m comfortable enough to be like, ‘Alright, this is my debut album, I’m ready for people to judge me off this album.’
This is just me showing once more another form of what I can do on a more creative tip, sonically. This project is more of a mature sound, it’s more of me just putting consecutive good records together. Whether they’re a minute long or whatever, they’re just really good f*cking records and I can confidently say that I haven’t dropped a project that from start to finish is just good records. Even if you don’t like it, you’re gonna be like, ‘Yo, that was a good ass record.’
What do you think it’ll take for you to feel like you’re ready to drop a debut album?
When I’m ready to do this [raises hand] and everybody screams because I just raised my hand.
You got your first exposure to rap at a really early age, because of your father and the “Mo Money Mo Problems” video right?
I saw Puff and Mase on the screen and I asked my mom, ‘What they doing?’ She said, ‘Rapping.’ I said, ‘Do they get paid to do that,’ and she said, ‘Yeah,’ so I said, ‘Well, that’s what I’m gonna do.’ That’s how I started rapping. I wrote my first 16 [bars] at seven years old, starting recording my first song when I was like 10. Nothing really started going for me until about three years ago.
Three years ago was when we got a ball at least and decided that we could build from this. It wasn’t on some like, ‘I hope, I hope, I hope.’ Hope just went out the window, we just believed in the product, we believed in the music, and we believed in the movement, so we just executed in the best way that we could execute.
Why did you believe in it so strongly?
I want it more than other people but I want it for positive reasons. I don’t want it for greed. I don’t want everything that this whole industry has to offer and tell you that it’s for my own selfish pleasure. I’d be lying to you. I’m doing this because I want to prove to myself that if I’m really going to do this sh*t, I’m gonna really do it. I wanna go out like, ‘Wifi really did this sh*t, he wasn’t one of these rappers who worried about being in his perfect niche or worried about just doing this for the financial tip.’
Yeah, I’m trying to take of my family, but at the end of the day, I’m trying to build a legacy. I actually put my blood, sweat, and tears into this. This was my passion when I had nothing in my pocket and I was eating dollar cakes. I just see things completely different. I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I know you probably heard J. Cole’s “1985,” where he kind of goes in on Soundcloud rappers. Why do you think there’s such a generational gap in hip-hop, from the perspective of a younger artist coming up and being the target of this type of thing?
Let’s go back to the ’80s. Sugar Hill Gang makes “Rapper’s Delight,” Kurtis Blow has “The Breaks,” that’s hip-hop. People that are listening to The Bee Gees or The Beatles or grew up on real soulful Black music were like, ‘This isn’t music.’
The ’90s comes in. It transitions into boom bap, ‘this isn’t real hip-hop! What are these youngsters doing? They’re just talking about bustin’ guns!’ Gangsta rap comes out, ‘all this is is just thugs,’ and it just keeps going on and on. The last generation is considered hip-hop, but all it is, is just the evolution at the end of the day. That’s like every rock and roll fan being like, ‘No, this is real rock and roll,’ at the end of the day, you’re doing the same sh*t. You’re using the same f*cking instruments, you’re making the same music, it’s just a different sound. It’s a sub-branch. It’s the same genre.
A kid that’s eleven years old isn’t gonna like conscious rap. You just gotta accept that, that’s how it is. That’s like a father being mad at his child because he’d rather have him play with a yo-yo than a PS4. Hip-hop’s gonna live through kids. At the end of the day, just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean the next man won’t.
Right. Kids are drawn to what entertains them.
Exactly! Wu-Tang Clan out here still touring and we’re not bitching about it. There’s nothing to bitch about. We respect that. Respect us.
Lil Xan: (breaking in) Every generation is gonna hate the new generation. It’s just always gonna be like that.
Yeah, I’d be lying if I said I hate kids, or if I didn’t say, ‘I don’t understand kids, I don’t get their humor, I don’t get why they like certain music.’ But, do I hate to the point where I don’t accept it and stay in a bubble, closed-minded? Nah, bruh. That’s not how life is.
Actually, this venue is where I’ve seen a lot of Wu-Tang, but it’s also you guys and MadeInTYO and others as well.
I grew up on nothing but that. My dad made me listen to every album from ’90 to 2001, in a Timberland box full of tape cassettes. Every boom-bap album you could think of. The first album I ever listened to is Ready To Die. It’s just different times now, n—-s can’t go back to ’94. N—-s is not just on the block. Game Boy Colors didn’t just come out. MJ is not the best basketball player in the world anymore.
Who is the best basketball player in the world, while we’re on the subject?
How do you feel those tapes influenced you?
Yeah, ’cause that’s actual knowledge. They’re not saying dumb ass sh*t. Regardless of if you don’t like it, if you’re too ignorant to accept the fact that it’s knowledge, the black-and-white, cold-hearted fact is, it’s knowledge.
I’ve not heard one boom-bap album that’s not inspirational in some way. Tell me one boom-bap album that you listened to and didn’t get a message from.
How does that relate back to your music?
Every song that I’ve ever made is expressing an emotion or a current life situation that I’m going through right there or right now. I give it to you raw and uncut. If I’m back on drugs and I’m f*cked up, because I really have a drug problem, that’s what it is. If I’m being sober and I’m trying to get well and better my life, that’s what it is too. Listen to it, turn up if it sounds cool, but I’m not saying ‘Go pop four sticks and drink a four,’ you feel me? But this was a lifestyle.
I look at life completely different from a lot of people. I’m blessed that oxygen still flows through these lungs.
What do you want from Ethernet when all is said and done?
I just want people to accept Wifisfuneral. Love me, hate me, have an opinion, but accept it. Stop acting like I’m not dropping good records. If I was making mediocre music, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in.
Ethernet is out now via Alamo Records. Get it here.