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Though Gunplay is calmer in person than you might imagine after listening to his mixtapes, he's obviously pretty volatile. His voice frequently rises to a frothy shout while he stomps the ground to emphasize his points. And talk of the nameless rappers who passed through the Triple C's in the early years gets him really worked up.

"You ain't never seen me claim this gang or rap label... I've been Carol City Cartel from day one," he says calmly before exploding. "The older I got, I started seeing how nobody's really loyal. It's a myth. The only nigga that I really stay with from day one was Ross. Do you know how many people came and left that was supposed to be down? That type of shit disgusts me. It sickens my soul."

It would be nearly a decade between the crew's formation and Ross's breakout success with "Hustlin'" in 2006. In the meantime, Gunplay says, he made his money as a drug dealer and later as a pimp. "When the dope game dried up, my next best thing is the bitches. So my next move was po'-pimpin'."

Soon, though, the record-industry cash trickled down to Gunplay too. On both debut album Port of Miami and 2008's Trilla, Ross made a point to include tracks ("It Ain't a Problem" and "Reppin' My City," respectively) featuring Gunplay and Torch. Then, based on the triumph of those LPs, Triple C's also secured a group deal with Def Jam.

But even as Ross's stock as a solo act surged, the Triple C's 2009 major-label effort — the guest-overloaded Custom Cars & Cycles — ended up being a flop, creatively and commercially. Looking back, though, on the eve of Medellín and his own expected solo success, Gunplay isn't mad.

"I was just happy to put an album out and let the world know I'm alive and I know how to rap," he says. "Thanks! Go buy my album!"

Read Part 2 of New Times' Gunplay feature next week, when he talks about why he's starting an escort agency and explains the controversial swastika tattoo on his neck.

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