Wild-eyed, hair pulled into a topknot and toting a hammer, Hefna Gwap is the unmistakable focal point of his “Pill Machine” video. Released last month, it was our first introduction to the Atlanta-via-Palo Alto rapper, who raps of “making pills just to pay the bills” while outfitting himself with latex gloves and a dust mask. Having recently linked up with 808 Mafia’s TM88, Hefna seems to have finally settled into a comfort zone that suits his wild personality and eclectic taste after spending time in Northern California and New York.

His Designa Scalez mixtape just arrived today, so there’s never been a better time to get familiar with Hefna Gwap. 

HNHH: Where did you get your name?

Hefna Gwap: Shit, just Hefna Gwap. Money and bitches, bitches and money. You feel me– Hugh Hefner, money.

HNHH: What were you doing before you rapped?

HG: I was in film school in Berkeley, California. After that, I was just hustling, really. Just making pills to pay the bills. 

HNHH: So I’ve heard. Do you do lots of your own video stuff?

HG: Yeah, as far as direction goes. Not shooting so much. You know, Elegant Caviar, it’s not all about me, it’s about a whole creative collective. So if I’m not shooting, somebody else is shooting, somebody else is editing. 

HNHH: Did the collective start in California?

HG: Well I started the idea of Elegant Caivar in film school, just because the reason I went to film school was that I wanted to shoot my own videos because nobody was gonna see me— there weren’t no cameras in my hood. So I was like, that’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna shoot videos. Now I’m just more into the direction side, so I just find good people and find people who shoot and are into film too, and we just creatively come up with these ideas and these visuals.

HNHH: So it started based around film, but does anyone else in the collective make music?

HG: Yeah, of course. My brother Lord Plawz, my main producer and DJ. We’ve got a gang of Elegant Caviar motherfuckers running around New York City, and now we out in Atlanta.

HNHH: How did you meet Plawz?

HG: Shit, Plawz hit me on Twitter when I was in the hood, stuck. He hit me on Twitter, said he was living in New York, told me he was interning for Smokers Club and Cinematic. I started looking niggas up and shit, I was like, ‘Well, this look better than what’s going on in my life.’ So I got a one-way ticket to New York.

HNHH: How much time have you spent in Cali, NYC and your current home base, Atlanta?

HG: I was born in Fresno, California, moved out here in 2012, and I just moved to ATL at the end of 2014. So I’ve been in Atlanta for like six months.

HNHH: And did you know TM88 before you moved there?

HG: No, I met TM actually working where I work at right now, Twelve Studios in Atlanta. He came in there, and the first three beats he played me ended up on my project. I recorded those songs that night, I came up witht he motherfuckin’ songs like [snaps]. We ain’t even have a conversation, the songs was the conversation, and that was it. 

HNHH: TM’s given you the trap sound on tracks like “Pill Machine,” but then you’re quoting OutKast on the very trippy “Friendships.” What influences you?

HG: You know, all the OGs in the game. All the West Coast OGs, Dogg Pound, Snoop. We could go back to Mac Dre from the Bay where I’m from… The Jacka, rest in peace to him… Mobb Figgaz. You know, real street music, but then oldies and shit too, The Whispers and The Dramatics, James Brown, Bobby Byrd, David Ruffin. I’m a young nigga with an old soul, you feel me? We grow up in the streets where it’s struggle, so all that old music is like blues to us, and that’s why you hear a gang of samples, especially in New York. They all sampling oldies. 

HNHH: So tell me about your new mixtape.

HG: Designa Scalez. I think it’s gonna be twelve to fourteen tracks, with a couple narrations from the hood, from one of the real plugs in East Palo Alto. 

HNHH: And did TM do most of the production on there?

HG:  Yeah, TM got a nice handful on that thing. Plawz is definitely all over there. We got Cheese from Atlanta, we got [Honorable] C-Note on there. But yeah, TM is executive producing the project. 

Every Wednesday we’re dropping something, West Block Wednesdays, keeping it going. If you know me, you know I used to drop music every Wednesday. I did it for six months straight, dropped a project every month, dropped a song every Wednesday, but now we doing content. So you might see a behind the scenes on Wednesday, you might see a song.. You know, we just gonna keep the Hefna Gwap content coming. 

Stream and download “Designa Scalez” below

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Meet Hefna Gwap