"Living Legend" Gunplay Talks Debut Album, Rising Above 'Cornball' Culture, And How Vine Is Killing Hip-Hop

MMG rapper Gunplay has been visible in the industry for years with multiple mixtapes, highly recognizable hair, and constant buzz about his long-awaited debut album. After several setbacks, legal issues, and false starts, the MMG vet’s first official album finally hit shelves and digital formats on July 31.

I got a chance to catch up with Gunplay via phone while he was touring through south Florida with Lil Durk, and he opened up on the lessons he’s learned while working for the last three years to get his album out, weighed in on how “corny” the hip-hop industry is right now, and explained why he hates the nearly-inescapable “Why You Always Lyin’” meme.

Your album’s been a long time coming and finally hit shelves and iTunes back on July 31. How do you feel now, having your project available to fans and being on the road touring?

Accomplished! I had a long-term goal set out years ago, and made it through a lot of ups and downs and obstacles in my way. But, that’s what a living legend is — someone who overcomes adversity.

Speaking of overcoming, you’ve been with MMG since the beginning and worked at every level — from ghostwriting, working behind the scenes and now stepping out into the forefront with your debut album — how does that transition feel for you?

It wasn’t easy — a lot of trial and error a lot of mistakes. I’m at a level now where I’m knowledgeable enough about the industry to move forward. I’ll make another few albums, and I’m putting people in a position to make money applying what I’ve learned over the years through my experiences. It definitely feels good.

Your flow and your style is a lot more street than most artists gaining traction now. But we’re slowly seeing more of that trickle back onto radio. Do you think there’s a push toward rawer rappers coming back into popularity?

There’s no more real street rappers out there — the only successful rapper that’s street right now is Meek. Everyone else is cornball.

I really don’t like the space hip hop is in right now. Anything goes. I work hard, I perfect my craft, and I’m passionate about my music. Now you have people like — this guy with the “Why You Always Lyin’.” I HATE that shit! Stuff like that makes it hard for me. And they’re playing that shit in the club! He’s out here just playing around and I bet he’s gonna start seeing money from it if he isn’t already. I’ve been doing this shit 20 years, working hard, and here this nigga comes just playing around and gets spins. Makes no sense.

(In all fairness, this is pretty catchy as far as Vine clips go…)

Speaking of which…just to touch on Meek vs. Drake. You call him the only really successful street rapper out at the moment, but the general consensus on that battle is that Meek lost. It almost pitted the streets against the mainstream in that sense, and the mainstream basically won. What do you think that means for hip-hop?

I think [the beef] was great for hip hop. It’s a competitive industry. If at the end of the day if they think he lost — still making $80k a show, still touring the world, still got the baddest b*tch in the game — then losing isn’t so bad.

But rap beef is so different now than it once was…it’s all very internet and fan-driven. The old style of beef definitely wasn’t hip hop’s highlight — we lost two of greatest that ever did it through the beef. Nowadays we don’t want that no more, we don’t wanna lose anyone else. It’s best to keep it on wax, on records and leave it there and leave it alone.

Me, I take that sh*t too seriously. I can’t deal with that sh*t. I gotta go see you. But staying on records and not spilling the conflict into the streets is good.

So with that said, where do you feel like you fit into the current hip-hop landscape as an artist?

I just continue to stay in my lane, stick to my guns and do what I know — mainstream has to catch up to me. I can’t follow trends. The shit changes every fucking day. The way it is now, you never get used to a rapper and his style — there is a new style they conform to every other day. Real is out of style now, but I gotta stick to what I know.

At this point, Gunplay got into a little fender bender on the highway in the middle of speaking to me. I’d like to think that my questions were so thought-provoking that he got distracted. On second thought, that would make me responsible…so maybe not.


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