In June of 2022, the rapper Bezz Believe told me he had a bad feeling about Joe Biden. “In the back of his head, I don’t even know if he has a brain,” he said. “Whoever controls him does not have good intentions for society. I don’t know if it’s aliens or reptilians.”
Donald Trump, on the other hand, “was real,” he said. “I’d rather someone make a couple mean Tweets or say something that rubbed me the wrong way than [live in] a completely fake society that lies to my face and steals from me with a smile.”
If you’ve never heard of Bezz Believe before, that’s probably fine with him. The Orlando-area rapper, whose real name is Brad Markovitz, is wary of the mainstream media, thinks that big cities are corrupt dens of iniquity, and told me he distrusts major record labels because “a lot of [their employees] are pedophiles, for real.” Instead, he prefers to perform in mid-sized cities — “I’m a B-market god,” he jokes — and release his music independently, directly to streaming services. Outside of music, he’s entered into numerous ventures with his brother — “trapping, opening businesses,” he said — including a nightclub that the pair parlayed into an independent liquor store and a line of relaxation beverages called “Legal Lean.” Bezz also makes Sacha Baron Cohen-esque comedy videos portraying characters with names like OG Ginger Snap and Lefty Believe, and has dabbled in OnlyFans (mostly solo male content, according to one interview he did).
“My brand is ‘The Hustle God,’” he told me. He’s also released four albums since last December. “It’s all about consistency. I’m finally at a pro level where I can make quality shit so fast now.”
Despite flying somewhat under the mainstream radar himself, Bezz has worked with some very famous people. He’s been tight with Kevin Gates and his Bread Winners Association clique ever since the mid-2010s, his 2017 mixtape Hustle God 2 boasted a guest appearance from Gucci Mane, and astonishingly, he once convinced Shaquille O’Neal (yes, that one) to rap on a song with him. Even with such estimable co-signs peppering his solid body of work, he still struggled for wide-scale recognition. Then, he started rapping about Donald Trump.
Bezz and I spoke while he was driving his truck across Florida to film a music video with Forgiato Blow, a St. Petersburg rapper and longtime friend who, starting in 2016, began building a brand for himself as the undisputed king of MAGA rap. Bezz discovered that there was a whole world of right-wing rap fans — or at least right-wingers willing to listen to rap as long as it talked about right-wing stuff — after he and Forgiato cut a song called “Proud American.” While Forgiato spent his portions of the 2018 track rapping about how Trump’s impeachment was bullshit, Bezz’s verse is mainly about trafficking massive amounts of marijuana. After the pair dropped its star-spangled music video, Forgiato’s fans “were all up on me.” This year, they released an album together titled Trap N Trump.
Many of his songs offer a spin on the right-wing memes of the moment — he’s put out six songs this year with “Let’s Go Brandon” in the title, for example.
Ever since “Proud American,” Bezz has taken steps to appeal to his new fans, both obliquely and explicitly. Country Trapper 2, his first album of 2022, offers a case study in his methods. Its title track, characterized by bluesy guitars, forceful rapping, and a music video featuring shots of him on a fan boat and in front of a gigantic truck, is just something that might coincidentally appeal to the greater sensibility of Trump fans. Others offer the Q crowd some true red meat: “Save the Children,” for example, tells the story of a pair of grandparents murdering a pedophile; “Cancel Cancel Culture,” meanwhile, is about exactly what you assume it would be. He also includes a song called “Love Trumps Hate,” which offers his personal take on the former president: “What would the world be like if Donald Trump won? There’d be a whole less COVID, a lot more fun.”
I suspect that for an artist like Bezz, who’s tried his hand at a million different rap styles and happens to be into conspiracy theories, making Trump-focused rap music might be a matter of adapting some of his pre-existing views for this particular audience, strategically sharing some sides of himself while keeping mum about others. “I support who supports me, man,” he said. “I guess you could say that the ‘Republican’ or ‘pro-America’ fanbase is easy to tap. You know where to market, you’re not shooting a bunch of blanks.” Offering an example, he said, “As soon as somebody in the military gets ahold of it, they show it to everybody else and it’s all what they want to hear, so they keep spreading it.”
Before Trump came along, Bezz didn’t consider himself a particularly political person. Instead, he was focused on his music as well as the various business ventures that he and his brother were involved with. “But when [Trump] was president, I had moments when I would go to concerts and go, ‘Wow, I can’t believe America’s this beautiful.’” After the 2020 election, however, something changed for him. “The world was going in a great direction and as soon as the powers [that be] changed, it started going in a negative direction.”
Bezz Believe believes that everything that’s happening right now is all part of a “New World Order agenda.” We’re supposed to fear COVID so that we stay inside on the internet, where the media can then tell us that Joe Biden’s doing a great job. “The aliens are going so hard to fool us,” he told me.
I got the sense that he wasn’t kidding: Bezz had been talking about this stuff a lot during our conversation, and had also been talking about it on Instagram Live just before our call. I asked him how he’d gotten into it all, and he asked me if I’d ever heard of David Icke, the British conspiracy theorist who popularized the notion that the world is controlled by a group of lizard people from another planet. “Over time, everything this guy says comes true,” he said. Icke has been accused over the years of using his reptilian overlord theory as a way of pushing thinly veiled antisemitism. Bezz Believe, however, is Jewish, which causes me to think he takes Icke’s words literally.
His new album with Forgiato Blow represents his most decisive foray into what Forgiato calls MAGA Music. The record’s lyrics often scan as right-wing trap-rap Madlibs — Bezz declares himself the “rap game Ron DeSantis,” while Forgiato is “still goin’ hard for my Patriots” — while the music video for its track “Capitol” is “dedicated to all the wrongfully imprisoned political prisoners from 2020.” When Bezz arrived at the location for their video shoot — a trailer park that Forgiato owns — he put him on the phone.
While Bezz Believe might like Trump in part because he views him as the only politician standing between us and the yoke of our would-be Reptilian rulers, Forgiato Blow’s relationship with Trump is much, much, much less complicated. “I felt like I was the Donald Trump of rap,” he told me. “Me, I’m a businessperson. What I do is all about business. Trump’s not a politician. Trump’s a businessman.” Through the transitive property of Business, he and Trump are basically the same guy.
Many of his songs offer a spin on the right-wing memes of the moment — he’s put out six songs this year with “Let’s Go Brandon” in the title, for example. And while this feels like a matter of simple web-savviness, he says he feels like his political turn has made it easier to be authentic in his music. “If I rap about doing a drive-by, I’m not [actually] doing a drive-by,” he said. “But if I rap about not doing a vaccine, I’m not doing a vaccine. It’s better to have actual subject matter that people give a shit about.”
After switching almost fully to pro-Trump subject matter, he found that his audience largely consisted of people who hadn’t listened to rap music before they found him. “It’s usually played by people way older than me,” he said. In time, he began viewing himself as a news commentator who happens to communicate through rap.“One thing about MAGA music, there’s not much replay value,” he explained in a later conversation. “Something about Monkeypox or Hunter Biden’s laptop, [my fans] aren’t going to continue to play that every week,” he told me. The trick, it turned out, was to turn preaching to the converted into a volume game. Drop a track called “Build That Wall!” one day, a diss song to Disney the next, then follow up with odes to Kyle Rittenhouse and Matt Gaetz. On June 1, he released a song titled “Monkeypox.” On June 2, he released one called “Moneypox.”
My initial interview with Bezz and Forgiato happened in June. I had meant to write this piece while the experience of speaking to them was still fresh in my head. But the more I looked into the pro-Trump rap scene, the less I understood. The rappers are both white, and judging simply off the demographics of who voted for Trump in 2020, I’d guess that the average MAGA Music listener would be as well. Yet their circle is diverse. Forgiato is closely affiliated with Bryson Gray, a self-described “Christian conservative rapper” originally from High Point, NC whose grandmother, the New Yorker once noted, was a Black Panther. And you could write an entire doctoral thesis on the existence of MAGA Jackson, a dude I discovered through Bezz’s YouTube channel who’s sort of a Michael Jackson impersonator but mainly just wears one glove while singing R&B songs about Trump and Trump-adjacent internet figures.
Then there was this whole world of conservative white rappers that I discovered, too. There’s a guy named Adam Calhoun who’s a pro-Trump vlogger and rapper whose use of the phrase “All Lives Matter” on Instagram in the summer of 2020 earned condemnation from his onetime ally Yelawolf. Calhoun’s made songs with the rapper Mesus, whose baffling album Eracism attempts to dismantle systemic racism from a right-wing perspective by arguing that (A) poor white folks share many economic facets of the Black experience, and that (B) Mesus, who is white, should personally be allowed to use the n-word. Mesus and Calhoun have both collaborated with an Ohio rapper named Burden, who I never bothered looking into very heavily, but whose song “F Biden 2” is honestly kind of a banger.
I mapped the web of connections, tried to parse out each individual rapper’s level of fluency and/or investment in the political issues they talked about, and watched videos in which other white rappers tried to distance themselves from “MAGA rap” as an overall concept. “They find this niche that’s going, and they sell out their whole brand for this niche,” said Caskey, a white rapper who’s also from Florida but who recently made a record with Yelawolf, on an episode of the Bootleg Kev Show. “I watched all of them turn from street rappers to Trump/MAGA political rappers. That shit is mad corny.”
Sometimes, the conservative rap scene felt to me like the product of a right-wing culture desperate for pop-cultural heroes. Then I remembered that Kanye West had a MAGA hat glued to his head for like three years straight. Our tastes, cultural affinities, and political preferences have a tendency to put blinders on us, almost as an unconscious defense mechanism against the vast ocean of content that’s out there, waiting to be skimmed through, and the further into the unknown we venture, the less sure we are of what it is, exactly, that we’re seeing. Was MAGA rap a real thing, or was I being algorithmically duped by dozens of rappers who’d realized that making pro-Trump music videos was a great way to build up a fan base for themselves? Could large swaths of this scene actually be a bunch of dudes trying to specifically piss off Yelawolf and Caskey? And if so, were they in on it too??? For weeks, I mulled over one question after another in a consistent state of overwhelm.
But then, something happened. Forgiato Blow’s entire YouTube channel, consisting of twelve years’ worth of videos — including the original clip for his and Bezz’s song “Capital” — disappeared from the Internet. The takedown happened in August, a few days into the right-wing hullabaloo about the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-A-Lago property in an attempt to recover classified documents that Trump had taken with him after leaving office. In keeping with the news cycle, Forgiato had recently put out a track called “FBI (Let’s Go Brandon),” criticizing what he perceived to be a double standard regarding Federal investigators’ prosecution of Republicans and alleged leniency towards Democrats. I figured that though the song itself was fairly asinine, the stories about Trump supporters making threats against FBI buildings and officers could have put YouTube in a state of hyper-vigilance against potentially provocative content.
When I reached out to Forgiato asking what had happened, I discovered that this wasn’t the case. According to screenshots he shared with me, YouTube took his channel down due to him posting “content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.” His appeal against the removal had been denied. “Once you’re deleted once,” he said, “You’re deleted forever.”
It’s unclear precisely when YouTube added language to its community guidelines on election misinformation specifically warning creators about questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Regardless, it seems that when YouTube enforced the policy against Forgiato, it did so retroactively, flagging older videos that had been sitting on his page for months, causing his account to rack up multiple “strikes” simultaneously. “You get three community guidelines strikes, you’re outta there,” Forgiato said. (Google’s press team did not respond to my email attempting to corroborate the rapper’s version of events.)
One of the clips that YouTube dinged him for was his music video for “2000 Mules,” a song he made to help promote TrueTheVote and Dinesh D’Souza’s 2022 film of the same name, which attempts to prove that Democrats stole the 2020 election. Forgiato’s music video traffics in innuendo and inference rather than explicit allegations. He pointed to one of the lyrics he believes could have gotten him in trouble: “Like a thief in the night, they stole the votes.” “How do you know what votes I’m talking about?” he said.
“Honestly, it’s left me lost for words,” Forgiato said of his removal from the platform. Though he’d been full of bravado the first time we talked, this time around, he sounded genuinely subdued, vulnerable. His YouTube account had contained over 200 videos, he told me, with a total view count that went into the tens of millions. “That’s my whole entire rap career,” he said.
It wasn’t a huge economic blow, per se. “The monthly money [from YouTube streams], I don’t really depend on that,” he said. Instead, his woes appeared to be more existential. To be the Donald Trump of rap is to traffic in a feedback loop of big numbers. The more of them you have, the less people can ignore you, no matter how much they dislike you. But their dislike — their public displays of it — only makes those big numbers get even bigger, and the more one side vilifies you, the more you seem like a martyr to your own side’s cause. And when you’re suddenly robbed of that cycle, it can feel like you no longer exist. “It makes me sick to my stomach to make a new page and have only 200 subscribers,” he told me. “But that’s how things are.”
It’s not just his YouTube channel that he’s struggled to keep online. “This is my twelfth Instagram,” he told me. “I’ve probably spent a hundred thousand dollars on Instagram on shout-outs trying to build new pages up, paying people to say they’re gonna get my old pages back. I never get nothing back. I just lose the money.”
His hope, he told me, was to make a splash by getting Kid Rock to remix his song “FBI (Let’s Go Brandon).” “I need a big-time power move to come back,” he said. I asked if Rock had agreed to hop on the track. “We don’t know,” he said. “I mean, I sent it to his manager, so it’s like, up in the air.”
He told me that he’d also reached out to members of Trump’s team in an attempt to get the former president to post about his plight on Truth Social, but wondered if Trump had gotten the message, or if asking at all had even been a good idea. “What do I look like asking [him] to talk about my YouTube when he’s got the FBI trying to lock him up?” he asked. “It’s not all about me, me me.”
As he finished this line of thought, he paused. “When Trump was in there, why didn’t he cancel all this stuff?”
I asked him what he meant. “He should have just… the thing is… there’s enough people… I don’t have enough money to do it, but there’s somebody out there. Like, we’re supposed to have Truth Social and Rumble, [but] these apps can’t compete!” he said. Given that his core fanbase of MAGA die-hards is older than that of your average rapper’s, he explained, they’re intrinsically loathe to switch away from platforms they know and understand, such as YouTube and Facebook, over to their right-wing alternatives — for many of them, the technological barriers to entering a new ecosystem are too high. “That, or I don’t have enough juice.”
Another pause. That, he apparently decided, couldn’t possibly be the case. “There’s very few MAGA supporters who don’t know who I am,” he said. “I can’t go to the mall without taking photos — with everybody.”
“But yeah, man, I’m about to pull into the mall,” he said. “I’ve got a meeting with somebody here at two o’clock.”
With that, the rapping right-wing dynamo, an unstoppable force of cultural grievances and face tattoos, wished me well and got off the phone. There were more photos to take, more songs to make, more paths to follow, and an online presence to make great again.
Drew Millard has written for The New York Times, Vice, The New Republic, and The Outline and is currently working on a book about golf.