Hefna Gwap: The Bay to NY

Hefna Gwap is a rapper from East Palo Alto california. Founder of the Elegant Caviar Group and a Smokers Club member, he made the move from the Bay to New York last year to push his music to the next level. I caught up with Hef at a recording session late last week at Premier Studios.

How was the whole process of moving to New York? What brings you here?

First off, I have two daughters. Everything I rap about I was doing it. I was selling dope and running in houses and robbing and shit. I had my first daughter (she’s two now). When I had my second daughter, it was a wake-up call. Alot of my close friends started getting killed or going to jail. Alot of people I shot videos for, alot of the people I was editing videos for got killed. Some of the people’s videos I was editing , they got killed right after I moved to New York in October. I was happy to leave, I did alot and I didn’t want to do that type of shit any more.

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How has your experience since you been here?

Besides going to film school, this is the best thing that happened to me the last six years. I’ve done more in the last six months than probably in my life. I learned so much. I was a bit scared (to come here), I come from the hood and moved to Bed Stuy. Moved from the hood to the hood. People fuck with me, out here you get recognized for your talent. People appreciate what you do out here.

What elements of your personality do you bring into your music?

I like to laugh, I like to be funny. I enjoy all aspects of life. We from the trap, so the trap is really a trap because all you think about what is around you. Noone’s stopping them from traveling ¬†or from leaving, but they don’t want to.

You feel your music is a product of where you grew up, being from the bay?

I was into Juvenile and Hot Boyz and shit so I may rap like them but the message I put into my music is more positive. More mayor-ish, like the mayor of the hood. Show the young black men out there that you can put your mind to something you can’t do whatever the fuck you wanna do. Telling my life and sharing what I been through.

What inspired you to start rapping?

Remember when Juvenile came out with that “Paper chaser, you got your block on hot”. I used to live in a mobile home and that came on and I seen him with the gold teeth and everything in the hood. She ¬†My grandma bought me a¬†karaoke¬†machine that Christmas, and after that I started rapping over Hot Boyz tapes. Had the gold grill since I was 16, Rapped through school, through high school. Mac Dre was the biggest too.

My cousin she was a booster, and she used to boost shoes. We used to go to Six Flags and she used to bump E-40. Old school E-40 when I was 14, 15.. Shoutout to E-40, Rest in Peace Mac Dre.

What’s Elegant Caviar?

It’s not a lifestyle, it’s a delicacy. The elegant part is the way I wanna live. The way me and my clique is living. I don’t eat meat, we find different types of vegetables and wines and shit. The caviar is from the streets. Fish eggs, fish scale, cocaine. Caviar is the way we were living.

You’re a vegetarian now?

Pescatarian actually. The past since I’ve been in film school, I’ve learned to have¬†discipline¬†and keep myself ¬†disciplined. If you wanna live a different way, you can do different. So I just wanted to try not eating meat for years. Because it gives you a different way of life. You appreciate vegetables from different countries now. If I can do one thing consistently, then I can do other things. Discipline, personal shit.

How do you feel about the live shows you’ve done. What makes a good show?

I think the Eminem song ‘Lose Yourself’. I think that’s the perfect song to hear in your head before you go on. When I go on stage , I don’t even see my friends. I’ll be shaking hands but I don’t remember. It’s just me and the mic, there screaming. Always lose myself, I don’t even remember the shows. But now I get to watch myself and study it like a football tape. I’ve been winning alot of people over with my performances, that’s when they understand how serious I am.

Are you a sports fans? If you were to compare yourself to an atlete in any sport, who would you say compliments your style as a rapper. 

I’m a just Bay Area sports fan. San Francisco Giants, 49ers, San Jose Sharks, Oakland A’s. Thats it.

I would say since I’m young and I’m attacking the game. I would say that somebody who likes ¬†everybody and everyone likes them would be LeBron. Everyone seems to like me and if they don’t like me they’re really hiding . ¬†He’s so young and so talented and he just keeps getting better and better. Maybe I’m on the same ladder as LeBron, because people expect me to get worse but they just end up getting¬†mesmerized.

I’m on my LeBron shit. Throw me the ball, LeBron on them.

What’s up next for you?¬†

Up next is Smoker’s Club tour. I’m creeping through the back doors (pause), I’m doing this film shit. Hopefully this is working out for me where I’ll be able to drop a movie or a tv show in the next two years. Pray to the lord I’ll be writing a show. That’s what I wanna see .. a HBO contract.

Photos by Rocky Li

Shoutout to AJ of ALE Studios for letting us chill in his spot. Many of the items in this shoot were from his personal vintage collection and available for sale.

Download Hefna Gwap’s Illustrious Goons mixtape on¬†Dat Piff. You can him on twitter HERE.