Rap music, even when it is behaving badly, can teach its fans a great deal. Last week, Maybach Music Group’s Gunplay turned himself into a Miami jail for an armed robbery that allegedly took place earlier this year. On Saturday, not long after Gunplay’s lawyer said the rapper would be exonerated, TMZ posted footage of a man who looks a lot like Gunplay, roughing up a guy behind a desk, flashing a gun, stealing a necklace, then quickly exiting the room.
The minute-and-half footage is instructive. Mostly because it presents a crime being committed without any of the idyllic melodrama that movies and hip-hop often lay on pretty thick. It’s awkward and sloppy. It’s real. The sequence of events also begs the question: Why is the right-hand-man to Rick Ross, one of the game’s biggest names right now, roughing up and robbing someone? Why is a performer, who could get almost any rap superstar on the phone, even dealing with a lower-level accountant like this? Not to cast any aspersions, perhaps the guy in the video is great at his job, but a barely-furnished, broom closet-sized office does not seem like the place where a top-flight accountant holds meetings. Maybe he’s so great with finances he doesn’t need to put on airs, and can just rock an Affliction or Ed Hardy or whatever shirt he’s wearing. Who knows?
All we do know is that Gunplay, if that is him in the video, had an issue with this accountant and dealt with it in the style of the streets, and that’s unfortunate, though hardly unexpected. He surely isn’t a victim here, though I’m less inclined to call him a lunkhead than most. Particularly because he has become balled up in a gossip-blog loop from sites like TMZ that didn’t know who Gunplay was before a brawl with 50 Cent, and will now reduce him to a low-rent foot-soldier about go to be convicted and locked up. Not one of the best rappers doing it right now. Sure, Gunplay’s a maniac. He once snorted cocaine on camera, and told me about how he took his firearms to a gun range for a music video, and was subsequently arrested. Still, I hesitate to characterize Gunplay because he is responsible for not only some of the most visceral rap music being made right now, but some of the most shockingly self-aware.
He’s got two perfect songs: Waka Flocka-on-steroids-and-bath salts-and-8 cups-of-espresso banger “Jump Out” from Bogota Rich, and the introspective “Bible on the Dash” from 106 & Snort. In my imaginary world where 12-inches still exist, this would be an almost platonically ideal hip-hop single. A rage-out on the A-side, an existential gasp on the B-side. The soundtrack to losing your cool and then having to pick up the pieces. “Bible on the Dash” snatches some of that warm, pit-of-the-stomach worry that Drake’s beats invoke, and forces it onto something a bit more high-stakes. Admire Gunplay’s lucidity, but also the internal rhymes and assonant sounds smacking around: “I asked the pastor, what’s the fastest way to heaven for a bastard with a tarnished past? Give me your honest answer / With all this Hannah Montana without the Arm & Hammer / Am I gonna get the slammer or the casket?” The song could’ve soundtracked Gunplay, in his car, moments before he (allegedly) wandered into that sketchy-ass office.
I also hesitate to simply dismiss Gunplay as a thug because I got to meet the guy. Just for an hour or so, when he came up to the SPIN offices for an interview, in which he was as bugged-out as he is on record, but also witty and warm, and willing to indulge some nerds asking him lots of questions. He was self-deprecating and funny, conjuring up the image of being at home with his girl dancing around in his boxers to potential beats for his upcoming album. He also went into detail about an escort service he was developing and made an impassioned case for pimping that had me convinced for a few moments before I slapped my brain back into reality. Twice, he took pictures of himself with the iPhone sitting on the table, grinning like a little kid.
He also looked me in the eyes, stuck out his big hand and unraveled a finger, counting each word as he declared, “I. Don’t. Give. A. Fuck.” His point wasn’t to intimidate, but to elucidate a simple point that needed emphasis. And well, what do you do with that? Part of me shakes my head at Gunplay’s actions and limited worldview. Another part of me admires his hard-headed dedication to not letting anybody get one over on him. Gunplay refuses to play the game. He don’t give a fuck. Where’s he supposed to go?