Twice during our interview with Gunplay, the Maybach Music Group maniac grabbed an iPhone sitting on the table and took photos of himself, demonically grinning (see above). He also frequently sipped from a water bottle filled with vodka (“This is Ciroc by the way; shout out to Ciroc!”). Gunplay in the flesh is the same as Gunplay on record. But he also proves to be a savvy, modest rapper who hopes to turn the screw-loose energy heard on mixtapes like Inglorious Bastard and Bogota Rich: The Prequel into a long-term business plan that even the mighty Def Jam can’t contain. The day of his show at Santos Party House in New York, we talked about New York rap influences, why snorting cocaine on video in Colombia was an excellent P.R. move, his business venture Apples & Onions Executive Escort Service, and why he just does not give a fuck. LUKE MCCORMICK & BRANDON SODERBERG
Is this your first time in New York for a show?
It’s not the first time, with Ross I been here, but it’s the first time actually coming out on my own, doing interviews. Def Jam ain’t send me. This is me. I know a thousand people, and I could have this whole room filled. But when I handle my business, I handle my shit by myself. You feel me?
Despite the Rick Ross connection, you’re doing it yourself?
Listen, I don’t want to start by being the biggest drug dealer in the world. Where do you go from there? Into space? I’m ground level. You gonna see everything I been through. I could sit there and do all the flashy “I got this much money and it’s this high off the table.” I can do all that, but where you go from there? I’m still acting like I ain’t got a dollar in my pocket. Success is a journey, not a destination. That’s my mentality.
What’s the deal with Bogota Rich: The Prequel? Why a prequel to a mixtape?
I was gonna drop Bogota on Thanksgiving. Ross told me, like, “Just hold off, get a couple more records together. It’s hot, but it’s not ready yet.” So, I just waited until it was ready and I said to fans, “Here you go, as an appetizer, take Bogota Rich. You got the main course coming.” And it got a great response on DatPiff: more than 200,000 downloads.
You pay close attention to the number of downloads and stuff like that?
Yeah, I’m real meticulous. I treat myself like a label, for real. I like to really be hands on with my stuff because I seen Ross do it from day one. That’s the blueprint to success, so I’ve just been on top of everything I do.
What’s your official label situation? Are you actually signed to Def Jam?
Right now, I’m signed to Def Jam/Maybach Music, for the  Triple C’s group album, Custom Cars & Cycles. And as a solo artist, we got a deal on the table with Def Jam and the album is untitled so far, but it’s solidified. So, get ready for the Gunplay solo album. And I’m gonna come up with the craziest name for it. That’s why it’s still untitled because the name’s gonna come to me in my sleep or something.
You think a lot about your titles, right?
My newest mixtape that I’m dropping is called 106 & Snort. Because, first you need to get the attention of people. There’s a million rappers, and what makes you different from the other guys standing next to you? So, I like to come up with off-the-wall names and just shit that’s, like, “Why?” and “What the fuck?” Once you click, I got you. You’re handcuffed, you’re with me. You ain’t going nowhere.
Also, the other names you call yourself. Like Don Logan. Why did you choose that?
I was watching a movie that Ross had at his crib called Sexy Beast. It’s a European mob movie and the dude in it, Don Logan, was the underboss to the boss and he took no shit. And he had temper tantrums and he won’t take no for an answer and he’s kicking shit and beating up people, slapping people, and I was, like, “I think he asked me to watch this movie for a reason.” When I came up with the name Don Logan, Ross just smiled. He already knew. When we were on 106 & Park, for the Triple C’s album, I noticed they said my name was “G-Play” because they can’t say “gun” on TV. I was, like, “Oh nice, glad I thought about Don Logan two years before that!” Now, if I switch the name, it’s not gonna be a surprise. Gunplay is Don Logan and Jupiter Jack, you feel me? And then I break those three down as Gunplay: He’s the music, the rap nigga everybody know. Don Logan’s my business side.
And Jupiter Jack?
Jupiter Jack is my high side. When I get on the stage, I’m Jupiter Jack and welcome to my fucking universe. Feel me? When you’re at my show, I want it to be like, “I’m in Gunplay’s crib and I’m seeing what the fuck he do.” Because live, I do that same shit at my house by myself. I’m in my boxers, with music playing, and my girl cooking, weed blowing, and a drink right there. I’m doing the robot in my boxers, and my girl’s laughing. That’s what I do.
What’s your background? You’re from New York, right?
I was born in Texas. My parents were in the military. We moved to New York after they got divorced. I was about three years old, so I grew up in New York listening to New York hip-hop until I was about nine. Then I moved to Miami and I started listening to the Miami rap: JT Money, Trick Daddy, Uncle Luke, Poison Clan. I just took bits and pieces of all the styles of everybody I looked up to ODB, Jay-Z, Nas, Mobb Deep, Method Man, Redman. Gunplay is north lyrics and a little bit of the south swag. Gunplay’s a big gumbo. A gangsta gumbo.
“Gangsta Gumbo” is a pretty good album title.
No bullshit, that’s nice. Gonna put that title up as a maybe. Gangsta Gumbo!
I noticed you direct all of your music videos.
From day one, when I heard my songs, I would see a video playing out in my mind. I just never had access to a cameraman or an editor and all that. So when I did, I started bringing my visions to life. Shout out to Dre Films. Shout out to Shooter Films. They listen to my ideas, even when I’m drunk as hell. Once I started making my videos come to life, it became a passion for me. My goal is to have my hands in everything. Music, videos, beats, DJs. I got a DJ coalition. I got bitches — Apples & Onions Escort Services. You know what I’m sayin’? I’m not just coming as a rapper, but all my hustles behind me.
So, what’s the deal with Apples & Onions?
Like, I noticed I had power over bitches at an early age. I didn’t know that was pimping then. I just thought a bitch liked me and wanted to give me her car and wanted me to ride around in her car, when she goes to work! And give me the key to her house, and cook for me and buy me shoes! I just thought she liked me! I didn’t really know she needed a daddy and really needed a nigga there to put down for her. When I put two and two together, I had to be around 19, you know? I was a late bloomer. But at about 19, I started in the strip clubs a lot. I knew a lot of young strippers that just needed guidance. They might make $500 that night, but they’re an alcoholic and snort coke and love to smoke weed. And by the end of the night, they’re leaving with a hundred bucks because they just snorted and smoked all their profit for the night! I started saying, “Sweetheart, you just made $500 for the night, add six more days at $500 a night and look at what you got for the week!” Know what I’m sayin’? Once you just sit there and just make sense to a bitch? Half these hoes have no guidance. I took a couple bitches under my wing. When you break it down to them, you look like a fuckin’ genius. When you look like a fuckin’ genius, you’re now their daddy. You don’t even have to ask how much they made. They say, “I made $750,” and they give it you, bro! So, I just took that and I took it to the next level. I never really came up and bought a house and Hugh Hef-ed the damn thing. I never did that. But I learned that I can do that if I take it to the next level, which is Apples & Onions Executive Escort Service. We gonna be servicing all major cities in the U.S.
Do you ever worry about what Def Jam’s going to say about stuff like this?
At first, I got nervous for about 20 minutes, because I was new to the game and I was like, “Oh shit, signed to Def Jam, they’re gonna drop me.” But I was me before I was here. While I’m here, I’m not gonna be who you want me to be. I’m getting used to y’all. Y’all get used to me. And I left it at that and next thing you know, I was booked up. Fans just wanted to see the guy that snorted coke in Colombia! I gave them a show. Gave them what they wanted to see. Go home and tell that.
Labels are notoriously strict these days. They’re cool with that?
When Boss is in the building, everybody cross their “t”s and dot their “i”s. Boss? That’s my dog, you know what I’m sayin’? He couldn’t back me right when it happened. He wanted to let me go do my shit, and let them beat me up. But I just kept getting up.
It seems like, at some point, you’ll get some pushback.
Listen, I don’t give a fuck. I really don’t give a fuck. This is vacation to me. What I’ve been going through all my life — McDonald’s and motels — this is, like, “Come on, stop.” I done had bigger problems. I been way over that hill and thought I was never gonna get over. So this is nothing. I can sleep at night. They love me for it, though! There’s a lot of people who gotta wake up every day and nine-to-five it, but they still have that thing inside them that wanna go to their boss and spit, “Fuck you!” They wanna do that, but they listen to some Gunplay instead. That’s what I’m here for.