Holy Fuck, Gunplay Sounds Legit Insane
Gunplay was consuming so many narcotics while making his aptly titled debut mixtape, Sniffahill, in 2008 that he dubbed himself “five-drug minimum” on one of its freestyles. Actually, for meter’s sake, he said it in an abbreviated form (“five-drug mini/I popped ’bout… I forgot about how many”), but the nickname stuck.
“At any given time, I was on lean — prometh[azine] and codeine — coke, X, weed, and maybe Percs or some prescription drug to mellow everything out,” the Maybach Music Group loose cannon says, recalling his preferred drug cocktail circa ’08. “And I would just be in a zone. Those were the days. I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground.”
As Gunplay developed his voice on mixtapes like Off Safety and Don Logan as well as releases by the Carol City Cartel, references to drug use became staples of his music. Though just one element of a volatile lyrical mixture equally rife with callous and even occasionally grotesque descriptions of sex and violence (“Dirty bitch got doodoo on her thong/Make a nigga go soft, limp noodle can’t bone,” he grunts on a track called “Always in Some Trouble”), it was Gunplay’s talk about sniffing hooray that made the “human L.A. riot” notorious.
But as common as it is for rappers to boast about $1,000-plus-a-week weed habits, copping to a weakness for hard drugs has, until very recently, been a faux pas in hip-hop — an admission of weakness with potentially career-ending ramifications.
“I knew some people would be like, ‘He snorts cocaine! Awwawawaa!’” an excited Gunplay howls during his sit-down with New Times at Doral’s Huge Music Recording Studios. “But I. Don’t. Give. A fuck,” he says pointedly. “I knew there’s a million motherfuckers that’s snorting that’s going to vibe with this. So I’m gonna make music for them. And after a while, them motherfuckers gonna tell the sober motherfuckers: ‘Man, you trippin’, dawg! You might need to snort a line and listen to dawg’s shit. Or at least drink a wine cooler. Dayum!’”
But the effects of his drug habit took a toll on his breathing and appearance, not to mention personal and professional relationships. Things came to a head on Memorial Day 2008. “That whole weekend, I went hard,” Gunplay remembers of his last coke bender. “I had a corner left of the eightball in the bag, and I put it on the back of my hand, blasted off, and said, ‘That’s it — I’m done.’”
A coke-free Gunplay approached his rap career with renewed focus. “I wasn’t expecting to live this long. So I’m like, ‘Shit, I’m still here? Hold up, let me buckle down.’” And his electric 2010 collaboration, “Rollin’,” with the similarly rambunctious (and then-ascendant) Waka Flocka Flame, was the turning point he needed to propel his career forward following the disappointment of the Triple C’s album Custom Cars and Cycles.
“He on that same crunk shit I’m on,” Gunplay says, referring to the “Hard in the Paint” rapper. “That motherfucker jumps in the crowd, moshing with the people. I’m on that! When he did it, and was mainstream with it, now the public has an ear for that. So when I bring it to the table, they are going to [be more open to it]. It meshed real good, and the public accepted it.”
Released for free online this past February, “Cartoon and Cereal” with Kendrick Lamar was even more revelatory. The pain that’s always bubbled beneath the surface of Gunplay’s rhymes was brought to the fore by some of his most personal lines: “Salt all of my wounds/Hear my tears all in my tunes/Let my life loose in this booth/Just for you, motherfucker, hope y’all amused.”
“That crunk shit is cool, but the easiest music I can make is that heartfelt music, that truth shit that I really want to say without rapping,” Gunplay insists. “But I have to put it in rhyme form. When you hear a Gunplay album, you’re gonna hear that. At the end of that album, you will totally understand Gunplay. I want you to know why I’m so energetic and why I feel so much pain in my heart. The world is [totally ass-backward] to me. And that’s why I act the way I act.”
When Gunplay drops his Def Jam debut, Medellín, there’s a strong possibility he might do so under a different name. Turns out Gunplay isn’t exactly a corporate-friendly moniker. When Maybach Music Group was invited to participate in a freestyle cypher segment at the 2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards, producers not only balked at letting Gunplay appear but also barred the other MCs from even saying his name.
Enter Don Logan, an alter ego the rapper adopted from the 2000 British crime drama Sexy Beast, costarring Ben Kingsley as a determined enforcer capable of flipping from unnervingly calm to raging psychopath in a split second. After becoming a rabid fan of the film, Gunplay introduced the persona on a 2010 mixtape of the same name.
“When I saw his attitude in the movie, I was like, That’s me,” the rapper barks. “We’re gonna make the transition so we don’t have to go on BET and they call me G-Play. No! The name is Don Logan. If you don’t like that, it’s Jupiter Jack. Welcome to my universe! Yeah!”
But Gunplay’s name isn’t the only baggage likely to give him trouble as his profile grows. There’s also the matter of his fascination with Nazi iconography, specifically the large swastika tattoo on his neck. Though there’s nothing to suggest that the MC of mixed Jamaican and Puerto Rican parentage harbors anti-Semitic views, there’s also no justifiable reason in the average person’s mind to get such a tainted symbol tattooed on one’s body.
Still, Gunplay has a fairly complex explanation for the tattoo. And hoping to elaborate, he reached out to New Times after his comments in a recent interview with music blog Pigeons and Planes became a hot topic on Twitter and music websites.
“The swastika was a Chinese symbol back in the day, meaning love, peace, and prosperity,” Gunplay says. “When Hitler picked it as a symbol for his Third Reich, it was right side up. And after he got in power, he turned it to the left, and that’s when it got corrupt.
“That’s basically the same thing that happened with me. We’re born innocent, and the way you grow up — the people you’re surrounded by, the environment — it turns you crooked. It turns you into that bad person, that thug, that undesirable element.”
It’s a forgone conclusion that the flak Gunplay receives for the tattoo will only increase as he becomes better known. Yet he has no plans to cover it up. “If anyone don’t like it, fuck them,” he says before letting out a hearty laugh. “[Unless] I go to prison or they kill my ass, I don’t care.”
Gunplay’s uncompromising brashness leaves little room for indifference. Music websites and online video commenters tend to peg him either as an iconoclastic evil genius, an imbecile, or worse. But with nonthreatening, Drake-style emo rap becoming hip-hop’s new norm, it seems the door is wide open for an incorrigible antihero to make the genre dangerous again, in much the same way that DMX, high and freshly sprung from prison, did at the height of the Bad Boy era some 14 years ago.
“What my mama used to say?” Gunplay asks rhetorically. “Sometimes you gotta play the fool to catch the wise. You might think I’m retarded and dumb. Cool, I like to keep an air of unpredictability around me. I might dap you up, smile, and slap you in the face. I don’t even know what I’m gonna do next.”
Actually, if this rap thing doesn’t work out, Gunplay already has a back-up plan. He’s already preparing to launch his Apples and Onions Executive Escort Agency this fall. The business concept: Export his Miami-style, street-level pimp skills across the United States, starting with Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, to which he’ll temporarily relocate in September to begin operations.
“This has been my dream since I was a kid,” Gunplay says. “Since I broke my first bitch, I always knew, yeah, I’m gonna own an escort service. I’m gonna take this po’ pimpin’ to some mo’ pimpin’.”
Asked if Def Jam might have any reservations about its latest signee treading into such dubious legal waters, Gunplay doesn’t appear the least bit concerned. “If they don’t like it, they’ll be fucked up, ’cause I’m doing it.”