But only recently have mainstream audiences started warming up to his raw, reckless and occasionally insightful brand of rap. For those of you just coming around to the merits of the self-professed "Human L.A. Riot," here's an introductory primer, spotlighting Gunplay's most brazen mixtape tracks, wildest freestyles, and tightest collaborations.
9. "Miss Me (Freestyle)" (Inglorious Bastard, 2011)
Drake's pop radio-certified 2010 hit "Miss Me" might not be the most obvious canvas for a rapper as raw as Gunplay, but the combination of his blunt, forceful rhymes ("Call me Gunplay, Maybach black sheep/Rifle longer than my rap sheet/Love skinny girls/Shout out to the fat freaks") and Boi-1da and Noah "40" Shebib's emotive instrumental makes for some truly impactful listening.
8. "I Wanna Rock (Freestyle)" (Don Logan, 2010)
If only all of hip-hop's cokehead perverts were comfortable enough to out themselves with lines as clever as those Gunplay offers on his freestyle over Snoop's "I Wanna Rock": "I love it when pussy look like a Dutch split/I wanna fuck, she jerkin me like the clutch slipped/Don Logan, I don't wait in line nowhere/Sniff a lot of Lohan/Now it's bout to go down..."
7. "On My Lap" (Inglorious Bastard, 2011)
Gunplay is at his most ratchet (and that's saying something) on the energetic "On My Lap," depicting Charlie Sheen-worthy levels of depravity and excess with enough chest-thumping, testosterone-fueled bravado to make DMX sound like Drake. He also offers one of the best of his many (yes, many) fish-themed double entendres: "Aw hell, yo' fishcale ain't no tilapa. Ain't even tuna. Yo hustle need a tune-up!"
6. "Cherish the Day" (Sniffahill, 2008)
The best track from 2008's brazenly-titled Sniffahill: The First Gram mixtape, Gunplay's freestyle over Sade's 1992 single "Cherish the Day" was one of his first to show his human side, going beyond the usual sex, drug and gun talk, and into autobiographical nuggets and observations about Miami rap ("E-Class, I respect an OG/I wrote this sober, so try and respect a young chief," "I miss the old Piccalo") As he explains on the intro, "There's always two sides to life, four corners on every block, four sides to every story, two sides to every blade."
5. "Straight Up Menace" (Off Safety, 2011)
A video for "Skrate Up Menace" shot in the aftermath of Triple Cs associate Raymond "P-Nut" Adderly's murder added further depth to what was already one of Gunplay's most layered tracks.
4/3. "All On You" (Inglorious Bastard, 2011)/"Rollin" feat. Waka Flicka Flame (Internet, 2010)
The best song on his best mixtape to date, Inglorious Bastard's "All On You" revealed Gunplay's depth as a lyricist with lines like: "Never met a reverend doing damn good for a low income tenant/Holding onto my last two dubs independent/Future look bright though/Despite balancing on a tightrope/I still try and maintain slight hope/Devil on his job but the devil not God."
Gunplay out Waka Flockas Waka Flocka Flame, meanwhile, on "Rollin," the hedonistic anthem that launched him as a viable solo artist following Triple C's poorly received Custom Cars and Cycles and his Colombia coke-sniffing flap. For DJs holding down large-room hip-hop clubs during peak hours, it's a must-play, right up there with Rick Ross' "B.M.F." and Meek Mill's "Ima Boss."
2. Maybach Music Group feat. Kendrick Lamar, "Power Circle" (MMG Presents: Self Made, Vol. 2, 2012)
Contractual reasons kept Gunplay from being more prominently featured on Maybach Music Group's June LP Self Made Vol. 2, even as his buzz was peaking. Too bad: The painfully mediocre LP would have benefited greatly from more Gunplay. The album pretty much peaks with the rapper's album-opening lines on "Power Circle": "It's all on me now, as you can see now/I'm gon' get this money and I will not be de-nied/Been shittin' on you fucks a long, time to pee now!" Top that, Stalley.
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1. Kendrick Lamar feat. Gunplay, "Cartoon and Cereal" (Internet, 2012)
Complex recently called "Cartoons and Cereal" one "of the most ambitious, innovative releases in recent memory," naming it the 11th best song of the year so far, but we'd put it even higher on our list of the same. It's more than five minutes into the nearly seven-minute opus before Gunplay gets to say his piece but he makes his presence felt throughout, building things up with machine-gun onomatopoeias before offering his most personal and intense verse to date. Gunplay's been through a lot of ups and downs in the last few years but ever since he got "Cartoons and Cereal" off his chest in February, it seems like things have been coming up roses for him.