Gunplay is one of the major breakout rappers of the past year. After a negligible existence in Rick Ross' Maybach Music crew for years, he became a star in his own right thanks to monster verses on Kendrick Lamar’s “Cartoon & Cereal” and MMG’s Self Made Vol. 2 opener, “Power Circle.” Now there's the anticipation for his debut album Medellin, slated for a 2013 release.
But Gunplay has his troubles, too. The Miami-raised MC made headlines last October when he got into a scuffle with G-Unit members at the BET Awards. In addition to that, he's currently serving house arrest after pulling a gun on his accountant. To him: That's just another speed bump in the long and controversial life of Gunplay.
Complex got on the horn with the 33-year-old rapper himself to see how he’s making the most out of house arrest, find out how much money he used to spend on drugs, discover his unknown talents, and get some insight on who he's working with on Medellin.
House arrest must be crazy.
Yeah, it's got its ups and downs. It’s not about how hard you get hit, it’s about getting back up and dusting yourself off. That is what makes you who you are.
You’ve been through a lot of crazy shit before, but has this recent string of controversies been the hardest?
This is probably the hardest one that I’ve been through, but it’s cool.
Do the guys from MMG still keep in touch with you during your house arrest?
Nah, [Rick Ross, Meek Mill, and Wale] got their own thing going, but my immediate family does for sure.
What’s your daily routine during house arrest?
Nothing much. I just make music and play video games.
And girls, too. [Laughs.] You know, they come and they go. I don’t pick names. I like the ones with the big booties and pretty faces.
Since you were already on house arrest at the time, did you watch the election?
No, I didn’t watch the election. I’m not really into that stuff.
You've given a couple of different meanings for your Swastika tattoo. Can you clarify?
Swastika was originally a sign of peace, happiness, and love. The Nazis turned it into the symbol of death. That’s the same way I feel society does to people. We start off as innocent babies and it turns us into monsters. If the shoe fits, wear it.
Did your artist think you were crazy?
Nah, they do whatever tattoo I want to get. He’s like, “You’re crazy,” but whatever. [My family] thought I was crazy. I don’t think I’m crazy.
You also have a portrait on your left arm. Who is it and what does he represent?
That’s my son. His name is Richard. He’s eight years old. I got that tattoo when he was two.
How would you describe Gunplay, the father?
I’m a big kid when it comes to my son. I’ll play video games with him and do whatever he wants to do.
A couple months ago, you released a music video for “Take This" that you also directed. Are you into directing?
Most definitely. I like to be hands-on with my projects. I direct all my solo videos. I lost count [of how many], but there’s been a few. I just map things out in my head and try to bring my vision to life. I try to get whatever I need and bring that into the video to make sure it looks the way I want it to look. Then I just give it to the editor and let him do what he does when I’m finished. I wasn’t taught how to direct. I just know what I want to see on that TV when I hear the song.
If you could direct any music video, who would the artist be and how would the video play out?
Honestly, I don’t know. I would probably want to direct a 2Pac video. [Laughs.] Actually, nah. I like directing my own stuff. Not other people’s stuff. If I directed my own video, it would probably be Colombian-themed, something exotic but not too over the top. It would be for my song off my new album, Medellin. It’s called, “Hell of a Drug.”
What about outside of directing? Do you have any other talents that nobody knows about?
I got a kick-ass Black Ops game. The new one just came out but I like the old one. I’ve lost before but I still do my thing. I stick with the Xbox.
You dropped 601 & Snort in September, you have a new mixtape coming out called Cops N Robbers, and then Medellin. How often are you in the studio recording?
l’m in there as much as I can. I’m damn-near in the studio 24/7, and even when I’m on the road. With producers, I go with whatever beat I hear and think is dope. [I don’t have] a go-to producer. If I hear something good, I’ll just roll with it. I’m really open to anything that sounds good when it comes to beats.
Any beat that was sent to you recently that impressed you?
Yeah, probably the “Hell of a Drug” song. I like that beat. It was produced by one of my homies, Animal. He’s one of my in-house guys on the label. He’s a new producer people should watch out for.
Has Rick Ross and the work ethic of MMG influenced you to work harder?
Yeah, most definitely. I always go hard. I always have a good work ethic. It’s easy to me. I had that ambition and drive my whole life. Whatever I was doing, I made sure I go hard at it and finish it.
Take us through your songwriting process.
I just like to clear my mind, get some good weed, smoke one up, and let it come to me. I don’t like to force it. I just want to take it slow. I’ll get the lyrics down on my iPhone or a piece of paper, and once I start slowing, I just let it do what it do.
We listed you as one of the most underrated rappers. Do you agree?
Yeah, most definitely. I’m not on TV, and I’m not on the radio. I’m not like that. I would love to be on TV and radio as the end result. I’m going to work hard towards it. If it’s in God’s will, it’ll happen.
It's weird because you have an impressive fan base. Why do you think you’re not on TV or radio?
I don’t know. I’m too off for mainstream America, I guess. There’s too much hip-pop, and pop music out there.
How did “Cartoon & Cereal” with Kendrick Lamar come together? Who reached out to who?
Little to my knowledge, Kendrick Lamar listens to my music so he really wanted to do a record. He reached out to me and sent the record over. I got the record and just knocked it out. It was right up my alley. It was my vain and my vibe. I just knocked that one out and it came out dope.
Are those emotional records—the ones similar to “Cartoon & Cereal”—the type of records you prefer to be on over the hard-hitting, high-energy tracks?
Most definitely. It’s easier for me because it’s coming from the heart. Everyone knows when you’re doing that type of music. I can always speak from the heart. I’m not always feeling crunk. I don’t always want to jump up and down on a record. It’s definitely easier for me to do emotional records. Look for that on my album, Medellin.
So you’re implying that on Medellin, there’s going to be a lot more of those deep, personal records over the high energy ones?
Yeah. I’ll be talking about cults, drugs, my rap sheet, religion—that type of stuff.
Oh, religion? That’s interesting.
I believe in God. I talk about God in my music and the differences between good and evil, the haters, the nigga trying to do good out there, the people trying to bring you down and shit like that. It’s like, “Why, God?” and asking God questions. I’m not getting too religious though.
Do you often go to church?
Yeah. I’ve been to church a few times.
You have a song called “The Hard Way.” What are some lessons in life that you had to learn the hard way?
Just don’t deal with slimy motherfuckers. Also, trust. I had to learn the hard way about trusting people.
Did you go through a lot of disloyal, backstabbing-type people growing up?
Yeah. Too many. It wasn’t just early in my life. [Disloyalty] happened early in my career, before my career, and it’s going to happen after my career. There’s so many different instances and people that do some slimy shit and I can’t trust nobody. I just had to learn the hard way.
Who can you trust?
There aren’t not too many.
Not even family?
Not too many.
How do you feel about your single “Drop”?
This song was produced by Beat Billionaire. He sent it over and I just started fucking around with it. The energy reminded me of “Rollin.’” I just kept it going and did that dope boy style.
You talked about the drug dealing lifestyle on “Drop.” Do drugs give you that extra edge when making music?
Yeah, most definitely. Drugs enhances what I’m doing. It definitely enhances everything.
You’re not on drugs anymore, are you?
Yeah, I’m sober now.
Has that affected the way you make music in a good or bad way?
Nah, I found out how to work around it. Especially being on house arrest, you can’t smoke so I’m good.
But before, you were a heavy coke user. When was your first experience snorting cocaine?
I was 16 years old. I used to sell coke, and one day I just tried it and I liked it. I ain’t put it down since. I used to spend around $600-700 a week on drugs. [After my label deal], I spent thousands of dollars a week.
You also talked about dealing out of your mom’s house when she was out working. When did she find out and how did that conversation go down?
She found [the drugs] a few times. When you give her the money, everything gets smoothed over when money’s involved. It calmed down the situation with my mom.
On “Take This” you rap about going to a photo shoot and “tooting chowder.” Is that true? What photo shoot was it?
You know, I would still be high at my past photo shoots. I ain’t slept in days. You can see it in my face and shit like that. I was still looking at myself. I could see the difference in myself.
You actually went to Medellin, Colombia before. What was it like?
It was cool. I got a chance to see another country and see what’s happening. I enjoyed the good weather. It was real cool.
Moving to Medellin, the album, you said it’s going to be a real street album. You used the term, “crack music” when describing it.
It’s that raw, uncut shit. I’ll give it to you raw. It’s going to be some shit that will stick to your ribs. I got that good subject matter in there. It’s going to be a lot of deep stuff, but still going to be a lot of street. We haven’t got a release date for it yet but it will be next year. Sometime early next year. The album is around 75 to 80 percent done.
Is there anyone outside yourself that you consider a “real” street rapper?
Meek Mill. Meek’s doing his thing, Lil Boosie, and Webbie.
What about producers and collaborations. Who's on the album that’s not named Gunplay?
So far, I just got Pharrell on there. Him and Yo Gotti. Pharrell’s on there and he’s producing. He’s also dropping a couple bars. It’s a track called “Steel Drums.”
How did the Pharrell collaboration happen?
We met a while back. Pharrell got in contact with me and he shot me the record and I laid it at his studio in Atlanta. [We haven't] done an in-person session yet.
How do you think the album will fare in today’s sales climate? Or are you not worried about album sales?
I’m not worried about no album sales. The world wants to hear some street music right now. We’re going to give it to them. MMG is based on the streets. I’m not scared of no album sales. The fans who rock with me are going to buy it.