Earlier this fall, a SoundCloud rapper named Thouxanbanfauni tweeted a photo of a new face tattoo. The Atlanta artist, fairly popular within internet-rap circles, though not far beyond them, had inked a Star of David and a crescent moon in the middle of his forehead. He attached screenshots explaining the significance: a star for “good and truth,” a crescent for its Latin meaning “grow, thrive.” The post got 4,500 likes and one angry reply-guy. “Fauni been hangin around me too much,” he wrote in an irritated thread. “I blame this all on me.” The response, which has since been deleted, came from Markese Money Rolle, better known as SpaceGhostPurrp, the South Florida rapper behind groundbreaking mixtapes like Blackland Radio 66.6 and the album Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp.
Whether or not he was right, Rolle had a point. He has a similar forehead tattoo—a Star of David without a crescent—that’s become almost iconic. Any history of the SoundCloud scene, a movement in music with roots in South Florida which has grown to include artists from across the country, will trace it back to SpaceGhostPurrp and Raider Klan, the Miami collective he started in 2008. Though Rolle actually emerged on earlier platforms like SoundClick and Myspace, his legacy has had a lasting impact on the music world associated with SoundCloud. Last year, when the streaming site hired L.A. hip-hop program Ham On Everything to narrate a history of their artists, they started with Rolle. “When I think about SoundCloud rap,” one host noted, “Spaceghostpurrp was kind of what birthed this whole scene.”
Rolle’s anger at uncredited imitation captures the trajectory of his career. Since his heyday in the early 2010s, the sound he spawned—goth, syrupy hip-hop blurring metal and ‘90s rap—has become one of the most prolific in popular music, paving the way not only for lesser-known acts like Fauni, but for breakout stars XXXTentacion, Denzel Curry and Lil Peep. If Post Malone somehow walks away with the Album of the Year Grammy, it will be because of a trend that SpaceGhostPurrp started. But unlike so much of his progeny, Rolle never converted raw talent into mainstream success. He fell off completely. While releases like XXXTentacion’s ? and Curry’s TA1300 ranked among 2018’s most popular albums, Rolle’s latest mixtape, Vamp Money, got little attention. The rapper is now virtually unreachable, isolated in Miami without a cellphone, hawking beats for $10 and tweeting out bitter missives on a series of now-suspended accounts.
Years before he blew up and burnt out, Rolle took his name, almost by accident, from the ‘90s-era TV show Space Ghost Coast to Coast. The rapper had originally chosen the name for a mixtape, but it stuck as a handle. The selection was prescient. Like Rolle’s music, which borrowed heavily from groups like Three 6 Mafia and Wu-Tang Clan and reignited an interest in ‘90s underground hip-hop that we still hear today, Space Ghost Coast to Coast was framed as a reinterpretation of a 1960s-era cartoon of the same name. Also like Rolle, its experimental style—a parody talk show of non-sequitur jokes and awkward interviews—laid the groundwork for an entire genre of comedy television, including Adult Swim staples Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Eric Andre Show.
The series, which focused on an irreverent superhero named Space Ghost and his two evil sidekicks, Moltar and Zorak, draws more than one stylistic parallel to Purrp. Both perfected a dark, futuristic aesthetic that pulled from an anachronistic range of source material. (Space Ghost Coast to Coast’s music referenced new-wave, punk and contemporary pop culture; Rolle’s samples were equally erratic, drawing from video games like Mortal Kombat and sci-fi cinema). But the real similarity lay in their surreal humor and occasionally hostile dynamics. The show’s odd, hilarious interviews could verge on outright aggressive. Plus, Space Ghost’s minions, indentured to him as punishment, can barely mask their hatred of him.
If there is one theme that captures SpaceGhostPurrp’s decline, it’s hatred. In a world where music feuds are commonplace, Purrp is uniquely disliked. From the early days of Raider Klan, his music career was characterized by beefs. The collective had a rotating door of members—so many rappers came and left over arguments with Purrp that there’s no concrete count on just how many were involved. As he rose to prominence, his conflicts grew and got well-documented, the most famous being a dragged-out rivalry with A$AP Rocky over a lyric about writing on toes. His tension with XXXTentacion went so far that the late rapper had “Fuck Purrp” tattooed to his wrist. These days, it’s almost a rite of passage to have fought with SGP, and his list of enemies amounts to a roll call of hip-hop’s biggest names.
Rolle often executed these beefs with brutal, but pitch-perfect jokes. He is, undeniably, incredible at burns. In September, when he got into a fight with hip-hop podcaster (and accused sexual abuser) Adam Grandmaison, better known as Adam22, Purrp tweeted, “Adam22 looks like he eats soggy cheerios ,, and watch Scifi movies while calling prostitutes on his moms house phone hoping that she wont pick up the other phone while he’s calling.”
But at their core, Rolle’s fights were inseparable from his unrelenting anger, one that was always part of his music. “A Raider is a person who is lied to, cheated on, hurt, turned on, taken advantage of, misunderstood, mistreated all his life,” he said in an interview with Complex in 2012. “But as they got older, that person got a black heart. They got a dark past, that’s all they know is darkness. Everybody knows my music is dark.”
Over the past few years, as Purrp has fallen from fame, he’s often aimed that anger at targets less deserving than Adam22. His myriad Twitter accounts—vamp4200, VampireMoneyyy, MarkeseMRolle, PurrpleHazeeee, MarkeseRolle11, BSkulllDragon, lilbirdmanrg, B1akSkullDragon, to name only a few—frequently get suspended for homophobic, racist and misogynistic tweets (long before Twitter began banning alt-right activists like Milo Yiannopoulos, they had no problem shutting down young, black rappers). In September, he went on a long rant against gay men, tweeting, “IM NOT HOMOPHOBIC BUT I KNOW FOR A FACT DAT SOME HOMOSEXUAL MEN GOT MOLESTED BY OLDER MEN IN THEIR FAMILIES AND TODAY IMA EXPOSE ALL PEDOPHILE MEN.” In another thread, seemingly while in a Panera, he wrote “let college preps make my panera bread or im not eating it.. Stop letting wet backs and n*ggers make it,” later adding, “stupid ass n*ggers and spics.”
But overwhelmingly, particularly this past fall, Purrp’s ire has been aimed at women. For a spell in the autumn, Rolle would post to Facebook (his place of refuge when banned from Twitter) almost every day about the inferiority of women, who, apparently, would not have sex with him. “Use women for sex only cause if u dont then they gon use for money and time and whatever else they can take from u,” he wrote in one of the tamer posts. He attacked women like Geneva Ayala, XXXTentacion’s ex-girlfriend and a victim of brutal domestic abuse, by starting a GoFundMe that parodied one she had started to pay for her medical expenses. At the same time, he became seemingly obsessed with school shooters and incels, a term coined by a Reddit page of the same name for a strain of (usually young, white) men who blame women for their sexual frustration. He wrote often about Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who shot up a California sorority to punish the women who ignored him.
In arguably his most extreme post of this sort, Purrp penned a several-hundred-word screed, starting with “ight so let me expose dis female agenda right quick,” and escalating into a nearly incoherent essay about “alpha” and “beta” men—common terms in the incel lexicon for men of varying levels of dominance—but also “sigma” and “omega” men. He elaborated on the different strains of incels and explained how to “let women become the sexual goddesses that they crave to be.” After crescendoing into all caps, Purrp concluded that “IF ELLIOT RODGERS WOULD OF BOUGHT A GOLD GRILL AND DYED HIS HAIR ANOTHER COLOR AND DRESSED MORE PUNK OR METAL HE WOULD HAVE DEF GOT LAID.” The piece was framed as a solution to the incel mentality, but it echoed many of the assumptions of sexual entitlement that the group has become famous for. “THE STORM IS OVER NOW..YALL WON’T BE REJECTED NO MORE,” he finished. “I JUST EXPOSED DA SECRET.”
It’s hard to say just how seriously to take Rolle’s statements. When he’s not being cruel—and sometimes while he is—the rapper is filled with biting, non-sequitur jokes that feel more in step with his namesake show. He’s a troll and, often, a hilarious one. In the past, Purrp has claimed he should be taken at his word, telling Complex in 2012, “if I’m mad on Twitter, bitch I’m mad for real..Mad is mad, it ain’t cyber mad. When I’m mad, I’m mad. On Twitter, off Twitter.” But, for a man whose whole career has become conflict, who constantly finds new feuds, anger can fold back in on itself. Not long after his incel spree ended, it turned around. Purrp deleted all the posts. “Fuck incels,” he wrote. “Fuck Elliot Rodger.”