Coronavirus is a rapper from LA, California, and has had a more productive pandemic than most. Using the global crisis as inspiration for three albums since New Year, he now has almost 40,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. 

Hi Coronavirus. So, how long have you been making music for?

Not too long – In February, under the name Coronavirus, was the first time I put stuff out. I was making some beats before now and again, but nothing like this.

And what was it about the current pandemic that you found so inspiring?

At first I was just seeing a lot of things online, a lot of negative things towards Asian and Chinese people in particular, that was the big thing for me. A lot of videos, and a lot of comments on those videos just rubbed me up the wrong way. I was considering putting some stuff out there beforehand, but that was the thing that really made me go ‘let’s go ahead and say something about that’.

But what made you look back to, and make music about, other global health crises?

Well, at first I was thinking about the media hype around coronavirus. Other crises have been touted as very serious, and you had people saying this was going to happen and that was going to happen. A lot of panic was induced from that. The very first album is me saying ‘yes, these were serious, yes lives were lost, but they didn’t end the world. We’re still here.’

So it’s a keep calm and carry on sort of message? 

The very first album was a reflection of me being somewhat sceptical about things and also angry about the racism and how people were being treated. The second and third albums were a bit more focused on here, now and what we know. It’s all very tongue and cheek, a lot of it’s freestyle. But at the same time it’s not a situation I take lightly and I wouldn’t feel right just making light of it, and I wouldn’t feel right in myself if it was just without feeling. There has to be a level of respect for it.

Taking it all a bit more seriously now, then?

Well, I don’t want to get super preachy. I feel a lot of artists get stuck in socially aware messaging are kind of preach to the choir, and people they already agree with. Sometimes artists who talk a bit of bullshit reach people that would normally not care about these messages. 

So is that the goal? Reaching those who normally wouldn’t take this seriously?

Yes and no. I do have something to say about Coronavirus and the racism and misinformation going around, so I did think that now was a good time. But I also wanted to put something out in general, because there was a part of me that wanted to see what happen if I just released music on a platform like Spotify with no external marketing, not music videos, nothing. I was curious. I don’t want to be famous. I didn’t think anyone would care, or stream my stuff. So it’s a mixture.

Sounds like a classic cross between a public service announcement, moral crusade and a music marketing experiment. Or is that unfair? 

You’re not reducing it. It can be more than one thing at once. 

Were you surprised with the reaction?

Honestly I didn’t expect anything whatsoever. I know some people who have been doing music and putting it out for years and they haven’t received anywhere near the same amount of monthly listeners. The song ‘Wuhan’ was the one that got things jumping. Originally it was going to be a play on a segment of Wutang’s ‘Mystery of Chessboxing’ and I wanted to finish everything up beforehand, but it never happened. By early march I had 20,000 monthly listeners. 

And what would you say to people might label your music as insensitive?

I mean, what I would ask them is what do they feel is a good time to create music? At the end of the day, the genre a primarily listen to is hip hop, and there’s a lot of negative topics in hip hop. I definitely understand why people might say that, but I don’t know what else I can say other than what can’t you write music for?

What sort of music is getting you through lockdown?

Conway the machine, Westside Gun, Currency, Roc Marciano, but Nas is favourite of all time. Bits of Synth wave, Japanese pop as well. 

Are you confident in the powers that be keeping us safe?

So far the United States has kind of bumbled our way through things and we acted a lot later than we should have. Feels like they’re freestyling it at the moment too. &nbsp

What would you say to artists having a less than productive pandemic?

Well I would say to an artist that is stuck at home and feeling like their creativity is sapped – don’t force yourself to make music right that minute. Go for a walk or do something different, and your mind starts moving. Or, use this opportunity to have some next experiences and it might inspire you in a new kind of way. 

After we find a vaccine, is it over for Coronavirus? 

I have no idea. The one thing I’m pretty sure about is I probably won’t change Coronavirus. If I make some more music it’ll be very different. There’s even a possibility I might not make another album. Who knows? There are bigger things going on right now. 

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.