It’s a well-known fact in Detroit and beyond that Gmac Cash is the King of Comedy Rap. The 27-year-old father and musician has been earning his stripes and growing his reputation by rapping about hilariously mundane things like potholes, Popeyes Chicken and — you guessed it — the Family and Medical Leave Act, but on a frigid morning in early March, he earned himself a new, somewhat timelier title: Coronavirus King.
When it became clear that the virus was being imported stateside from China, Italy and other affected countries around the globe, Gmac received an overwhelming flood of requests from his fans to take on the pandemic with a song. At first, he resisted — after all, what was there to say about a devastating respiratory virus? — but the moment it hit his home state of Michigan, he knew what he had to do. Like a detective pulled out of retirement to crack one last cold case, he sprung into action in his home studio, hammering out the lyrics in a furious 30-minute whirlwind. And when the dust settled, the internet’s greatest pandemic banger was born.
He called it — drumroll please — “Coronavirus.”
With its dramatic, cough-based beat and iconically sanitary visuals, “Coronavirus” is an instant and undeniable hit. But as many frenzied fans have pointed out, it’s also a low-key public health PSA. While its hook gently enforces the contemporary dictum of social distancing (“Move, bitch, you got coronavirus”), its verses tout the benefits of hand washing, proper mask usage and self-quarantine, all encased in the sort of democratizing, Clorox-flavored paranoia that’s overtaken us all:
Ima chill at the crib cuz I’m safe here.
I ain’t even bouta drink me ah Corona beer.
I’ma bouta stay at the crib for about a year.
And I ain’t coming back out
til this shit clear.
I done bought me a mask,
and a lot gloves,
and I still feel like that’s not enough.
I ain’t shaking no hands,
I don’t wanna hug.
Make sure you wash yo hands with a lot of love.
So if u got the CV they gone find you.
If u coughing I ain’t tryna be around you.
I ain’t even tryna stand beside or behind u.
Ima try to help them mfs find you.
Almost immediately, the “self-isolation and social-distancing anthem” made the rounds on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, where it fast became not only a much-shared meme, but one of the few gallows-humored takes on the pandemic people could chortle at without feeling like a complete dick. Snoop Dogg shared it, Joe Rogan “stole” it (more on that later) and Cardi B’s coronavirus attempt can’t even touch its catchy beat and bizarrely CDC-compliant lyrics.
But as inglorious of a public-health rap as “Coronavirus” is, it’s also got a lot of competition. Insufferable white-boy rapper Tom MacDonald posted his own COVID-19 track, Dominican rapper Yofrangel has released his own fast-paced viral take and this little ukulele-playing girl is coming for Gmac’s neck with her own irresistibly innocent coronavirus tune. Which contender will come out on top as 2020’s official “Coronavirus” theme song remains to be seen, but right now, Gmac wears the crown, and he wears it well.
I caught up with him via FaceTime during his self-quarantine in Detroit to find out who he is, how he created the most viral virus rap of the pandemic and how he’s defending his title as the internet’s biggest coronavirus sensation.
You’re from Detroit. What’s the coronavirus mood like there right now?
It’s still the same. I’ve just been in the house self-quarantining with my girlfriend and daughter for the past few weeks. She’s one, so she has no idea what’s happening.
There’s a couple people freaking out, but not the whole city just yet. It be concerning me a little, but I can’t speak for how anyone else is feeling. They just started closing all the stores now. When I have to go there, I just get what I need and get out.
Do you go in the same outfit you wear in the video when you go out?
Nah, but I wear my mask. If I wore the whole suit people would probably still know who I am.
Right, because you’ve been rapping for a while. How long, and how did you get into it?
I’ve been rapping since elementary school. In high school, I used to rap in the hallways. But it really took off in 2016 when I did a Popeyes-themed parody to one of Tee Grizzley’s songs, and it made World Star, so that’s what kind of launched it. I’m basically doing a different take on rap — I make relatable rap.
What’s relatable rap?
So, I basically focus on making music for regular people, the everyday people, the people that can’t relate to the rap songs about drug dealing and killing people. I rap about stuff like needing gas money or the snow. I have a lot of songs about regular life — potholes in the street, that kind of thing.
There’s a lot of rappers in Detroit, like a lot of rappers. So I always ask myself how I can stand out. How can I be different? They all essentially sound the same and there’s a real Detroit sound, but what can I do that’s not that? And so my way of standing out was being different, just rapping about everyday things. That’s it, and being funny about it. I’m a funny guy so it just comes naturally when I’m writing music and I crack a joke or two in a song and people love it.
How did “Coronavirus” come about?
As soon as the news started coming out of China, I got like 100 DMs telling me to do that song. And I wasn’t going to do it — I was ignoring it at first, because I’m like, “What can I talk about with coronavirus?” But everyone was like, “You thought of something to talk about with the potholes, so you can do this.” I was still like, “Nah.”
Then the first case came to the U.S., and people really started telling me to do it. Nope still. And then we got some cases in Michigan, and I was like, “Alright, I’ll do it now.” I did the song in early March and posted the video a few days later. It just took off from there.
I’ve read it took you 30 minutes to write the lyrics. What was going through your mind at the time?
I try to do stuff so quick. For people that know me and know what type of artist I am, they know that if anything happens in the world that’s going viral, I got to write a song about it ASAP. There’s people out there trying to see how fast I can write a song to it. I try to do the song in less than 30 minutes and have the video up the next day, so I wasn’t really thinking about it too hard. I was just writing what I was gonna do now that the virus was here.
And you also shot and edited the video in a day?
Yeah. So, we don’t plan [our videos] out; we just go in there and do it. We just went into that store and improvised, and the people in the video were just customers or people walking down the street. If they noticed or were looking at us or something, I’d just say, “Do you want to get in the video?” And they’d get in the video. It came together really quick.
The song is quite literally going viral right now, both as a video and as a meme. It even gave you your first million views on YouTube. How does it feel to have written the anthem of 2020?
I just want everybody to be safe and stay clean, stay healthy. As long as everybody’s spreading a good message, that’s it.
The lyrics in your song are right in line with CDC guidelines. People are saying it’s kind of a PSA. Was that intentional, or did you just save all our lives with this rap by accident?
I was just writing what I was going to do when coronavirus hit, and that’s how it turned out. But it’s actually having an educational impact. People are tagging me in videos saying they’re staying inside and washing their hands. It went viral on TikTok, and everyone in the house, even the kids, are making videos out of it, washing their hands and stuff. I even got a clean version for the kids.
I really like that it levels everyone out. You’re not posturing or trying to pretend you’re so badass or something; you’re just as scared and paranoid as everyone else.
Yep! Move, bitch, you’ve got coronavirus! I’m not actually that scared, though. People are trying to make me be, and I’m like, “Alright, educate me,” but so far, I’m just staying clean, staying far away from everybody, washing my hands, putting my mask on, you know. But I don’t think I can really get it, though.
I’m just one of those people that doesn’t get sick.
What if you do, though? Will you make a Coronavirus Part II?
No. I won’t even tell nobody. I’ll just go to the hospital and get my treatment. But I do have a new song called “At Home” about quarantine.
What has life been like for you since you became the king of coronavirus rap? Do people recognize you in the streets beneath the cloud of Lysol you spray? Are you rich yet?
I’m not rich yet, but we’re working on it. I’ve been doing music a long time, so a lot of people know me already. A lot of my songs have already gone viral, so I’ve been all over the news, especially this year and last year, in Michigan and around the world really. I’ve been in the Free Press. I’ve been on The Shade Room. I’ve been in the Wall Street Journal. I’ve been all over, so a lot of people knew me way before this coronavirus song.
How do you feel about being known for something that’s a global tragedy, though?
That’s what I do — I turn an event like that, like a sad event, or a tragic event, and I make light out of it. I make people laugh out of it. So it’s a good thing, being known for that.
You’re cool with being the Coronavirus Guy?
Yeah, yeah, I’m cool with it. Hey, as long as people love listening to my music, I appreciate it. I got a lot of names out here, so I think the Coronavirus Guy is just going to be another name. I did like three songs about Popeyes, so I’m the Popeye’s Guy, too.
You’ve got a lot of competition in the coronavirus song arena now. I’ve seen some of it. It’s really bad. Do you think you’ve got the best viral virus track?
Yeah, I think mine’s the best. I ain’t going to change my mind either. I’m actually telling people to wash their hands and stay in the house.
Cardi B’s coronavirus song came out after yours did. Is this the beginning of the next great rap beef?
No, no. Not with Cardi. Her video went up before mine.
Have you heard from her at all?
What’s been the craziest part of all this for you?
Who’s that one guy, Joe Rogan? Yeah, he posted my song and didn’t credit me. He tagged the guys who were dancing to it in that one meme. I guess he thought they did the song, and he shouted it out on his podcast and said he loved it. But even though everyone was tagging me on it, I guess nobody corrected him. Now the guys dancing have credit for the song, and people think it was them that made it. They didn’t correct nobody, either. They just took credit.
Are you pissed? Did you reach out to Joe Rogan or the meme guys?
I didn’t reach out to them, but I did try to get to Joe Rogan. There’s a lot of people on his page so I don’t think he’ll see it.
I don’t get pissed off. I don’t care. Like, there’s people tagging me in it, so I just keep telling people, “It is what it is.” Because at the end of the day, you still got to search for the song like, “Where the song at? We want the song.” And they’re going to find the song on my pages once they search for it. People take credit for my songs all the time. So I’m sort of used to it.
So you’re not exactly trying to defend your throne, as it were?
No, I’m a pretty peaceful guy. I don’t like negative vibes.
I hear you don’t like Corona beer, either. Is it true you won’t even drink one now?
I used to love Corona beer, but I haven’t drunk once since this all started.