Gunplay Talks ‘Living Legend’ Album, ‘Weirdo’ Rappers & How ‘Cheating’ Helps Him Get in His Zone [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Rappers that wear nail polish, stay far away from Gunplay. The Maybach Music Group rhymer isn't too fond of that form of self-expression. According to him, it's "weird." But to each his own. That's the beauty of hip-hop -- there's something for everyone. The very same guys spitting rhymes while rocking Essie could very well look in his direction and say the same thing about his outward appearance. However, what they can't knock is his lyrical skills.
On a hot July evening in Midtown Atlanta, the Maybach Music Group rapper stopped in at Patchwerk Studios to give a selected few a taste of his debut studio album, Living Legend, which features his brand of in-your-face rhymes. The 11-track effort features the DJ Mustard-produced "Wuzhanindoe" with YG, the Rick Ross-assisted "Be Like Me" and "Chain Smokin'" produced by fellow MMG signee Stalley, who also appears on the track alongside Curren$y.
While listening to his current opus, it's hard not to recall his career missteps. The Miami native had found himself overrun with legal trouble over the years since first becoming part of Triple C's, the first group on Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group imprint. After going on the lam and eventually beating a life sentence for assault and robbery charges in 2013, Gunplay has overcome his past to create a body of work that’s incorporated his story as well as the intensity that he embodied as he was living through it all.
The fact that the rapper is widely acknowledged as the imprint’s top MC based on his past work (2012’s 601 & Snort, 2013’s Acquitted and who can forget his verse on 2012's "Power Circle"?) lends to the anticipation of this forthcoming album, due July 31. So on that night at Patchwerk, he walked into the A Room and wasted no time climbing onto the center table, rapping every word with even more fire than the recorded track suggested.
Later in the evening, The Boombox had the chance to speak with Gunplay about the difference between himself and the rest of MMG as well as what makes him a living legend.
The Boombox: Why do you think people say you're the most underrated artist signed to Maybach Music Group?
Gunplay: I was there from the inception. Before there were any artists on there, it was just me and Ross with a dream. Then it blossomed into what it is today but I’ve been there from the jump.
But why do you think people say you're quietly the best on the label?
'Cause I’m the most street rapper on there where I'm not looking for any commercial rap acceptance. I never have, I never will. I’m not a commercial dude and the artists that do... They might be having their street repertoire and their street style, but they’re still not as street as me.
Just like I say on the third verse of “Leave Da Game”: "I signed my first solo deal on the run / My advance was spent on a lawyer, bail and a gun / Never given a glance / Always overlooked / Never given a chance / So I took it like a crook / Like I should / Like I ‘posed to." So that embodies the whole answer to that question of me being underrated. That embodies me being a living legend. I’m not looking for commercial acceptance. I don’t give a f--- ‘bout that. ‘Cause at the end of the day, I gotta go touch the turf. This is what n----s know me for.
Being from Miami -- where rap has roots in Miami bass -- talking about the things you talk about and the way you spit, I'm curious as to who were you listening to as a youngster.
I was listening to Nas, Jay Z, Pac, UGK... Cormega too! Shout out to him. I actually got two records with him. I listen to a lot of street... Real street s---. Not the f---ing weirdos wearing f---ing nail polish, dresses, lipsticks and that bulls---. I listen to the real s--- and that’s what raised me. Snoop, D.O.C., Cube and Eazy-E. Shout out to the whole West Coast. E-40. The Jacka, God bless the dead, I got a record with him too.
To be fair, there have always been so-called "weirdos" in hip-hop.
No, it hasn’t! It just started. F--- no. Those guys before wasn’t as gangsta as the other motherf---ers but n----s wasn’t wearing dresses or f---ing painting their lips and nails. It didn’t happen then. I don’t know when the f--- it happened. I guess when the [Twin] Towers fell, everybody got f---ing weird.
What was the most outlandish thing that's happened as you recorded Living Legend?
Mixing the album in a couple days with Eddie Nicks and having to sleep in the studio. And everyday... Well, you know, I sit in on my mixes. I don’t just have anyone mix my s---. I sit there and I say, "Okay. Drop this. Up this. Drop that down." And I had to do that for the whole album.
You were fully involved, then?
Every little aspect, every sound, every snare on the album. I sat there and did that. Every artist doesn’t do that but I gotta be hands on with my s---.
You've had to change after all the legal issues, become a little more level-headed while knocking this album out.
You ever worry about not being able to stick to the intensity that made people fall in love with you in the first place?
Well, you know, I cheated a little bit [laughs]. I cheated a little bit. I had some turn-up nights, just to go where I needed to go to bring it out. Not every record but sometimes I needed a little pick-me-up. A little whoop-de-whoop just to go there.
Outside of alcohol?
To go all the way there because sometimes the liquor won’t do it. Sometimes you gotta turn to something else, but there are very few times, far between that I did... But I did.
What is a living legend, Gunplay?
Living legend is me. Living legend is a life sentence B, the black Benz two-seater. Living legend is overcoming adversity and odds. When you step into the fog, where it’s desolate and dark, all the odds are against you like you wrestling with God and you come back, you a living legend.
What does it mean though?
When you up, when you down, you don’t think you gon’ survive and arrive alive and you still here. You here to accomplish a lifetime goal, you a living legend. It don’t matter if you a rapper or not. Whoever you are, if you overcame adversity, you rose out the fire like a phoenix out the ashes, s--- like that, you are a living legend yourself. When you been through something similar to what I’ve been through or worse, you are a living legend. It’s not just for me.