For the most part, hip-hop has traditionally been a young man’s game. Both the “young” and the “man” part of that statement is halfway out the window. As the veterans get older, they’ve provided proof that rapping isn’t just for the kids.

At 30 years old, MMG veteran Gunplay is emerging as an unlikely up-and-comer, thanks in part to his gut-wrenching guest verse on Kendrick Lamar’s “Cartoon & Cereal.” It may have seemed like a fluke to some, but then “Power Circle” happened and he killed it again, this time with a very different approach including but not limited to one amazing sea bass reference.

So here we are, inching our way through the second half of 2012, and the wild MMG guy with the swastika tattoo just landed a deal with Def Jam and is rising with a quickness. Not many would have predicted this two years ago, but Gunplay doesn’t seem surprised. It’s been a long time coming.

Interview by Mustafa Abubaker

What’s going on man? What have the past several days been like since you signed the deal with Def Jam?
Work, work. Now I feel like the clock’s ticking, know what I’m saying? Got to hurry up and get these records done and make sure I present the best product possible. Once I feel comfortable with it then I’ll let it go. So I’m trying to knock out three records a day and out of those three, I’ll only pick one that I want to put on the album. The rest iss gonna be for the next tapes and shit.

A lot of people don’t know you’ve been rocking with Ross from the start. What are some specific memories you can re-call from those days that might have given some insight to where MMG is today?
It’s just the way we was working. The way we was hustling every single day, trying to make it happen. You work this hard for a long time, you’re going to get somewhere. And people don’t realize, they think everything comes overnight. So we’ve been grinding it out for a long time and once we were really, really, really grinding and once I was getting tired and really like, “Goddamn, I wanna chill for a minute” and you still got to keep going? That’s when I knew this shit was going to pay off one day. It got to.

Your drug use is talked about maybe more than you would like. But you’re off cocaine now – what difference has it made in your personal life?
It just brought me back to reality. It helped me focus more – on my craft, my business, my relationships with my family, my relationships with my friends. Drugs tend to give you a chemical imbalance in your shit, fuck you up and then you just be snapping on everybody, you don’t really notice it. You think the world’s against you but it’s really the excessive drug use fucking your brain up. It affects a lot of things… so once you quit that, you can see clear. It just feels better. Don’t get it twisted though—when I go back to Medellin, I am going to get tore down again.

Since the Def Jam deal was confirmed, you’ve announced two projects: Bogota the mixtape & Medellin the album. What can we expect from both records? Features, producers? Who would you want to work with now that you have the label behind you?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if the God MC Hov would be on it but I would love for him to be on it. It would really be a classic album. A lot of rappers that I really wanna work with, they’re dead. They’re already dead so I don’t really know. Oh, Big KRIT. I like Big KRIT, I want to work with him. We’ll see. I don’t know, I might wake up in the morning and have somebody I want to make a record with and try to make it happen. I just go with the flow, man.

When you’re in the studio making music, where do you find your inspiration? Any particular influences?
Tupac. Just watching his interviews…his passion for the game, for camaraderie, for loyalty and his passion for success. I’ll just watch a few of those, listen to a little bit of Makaveli, a little bit of All Eyes On Me, a little bit of Thug Life. Once I feel like I had enough, I turn my beat on and I go ahead and do my thing.

I don’t do it to sound like him or nothing like that, I do it because he got a message. His shit was always a message. He was always flossing in his shit but he always had a message in there. He’ll always drop a jewel on you. He’ll be flashy and all that but then he’ll drop a jewel on you, four bars down. I’m just studying all that, watching the blueprint of success with Rozay and building the empire and following the blueprint of some greats.

Ever since you started rolling MMG, what are some things you’ve learned both musically & personally?
It’s a dirty game. It’s a real, filthy, dirty game. It ain’t real. It’s all fake, it’s all for the cameras. The real ones shine, you know what I’m saying, that’s really serious. I just know if you keep it 100, it might take little bit longer for you to get on because everybody around you is minus 100… it’s going to take a little bit of time but when you get there, you don’t be mad, you don’t be sour, you just know you’re in power. None of that fake shit can do nothing to you. Ain’t got to worry about nothing, you can sleep good at night.

Complex Magazine ranked your verse on Cartoon & Cereal the third best guest verse of the year; right behind Nas on Triple Beam Dreams & Drake on Stay Scheming. Why do you think so many people gravitate towards that verse? Do you see yourself working further with Kendrick in the future?
I saw that, that was huge! I’m definitely going to get Kendrick on one of the joints on my album. That was just surprising. Number three? I’m like, oh shit! That’s dope. There were some big names on the list too. So that’s definitely a blessing and you know I count them all the time. Just got to keep working, try to get number one next time. [Check the Complex feature here.]

Hit “next” or click here for page 2…

The swastika tattoo is a big controversial topic amongst your fans as well as critics. Can you clear the air on that?
Yeah, it’s just my symbol of genocide to the bullshit. Mass murdering the bullshit. Too much bullshit out here. I came to Nazi that shit. I came to Hitler that motherfucker. Put all the fake motherfuckers in the gas chamber and gas your fuck ass. That’s what I’m here to do. So niggas better walk light around a nigga. I’ma show niggas. I can talk but I’ma show niggas. All that fake shit, I’ma call that shit out and I’ma stomp that shit out. I got a mission. Just playing the game for the meantime.

What’s your favorite album & why?
Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. That’s like, to this day, you listen to that and you can still hear how talented that nigga was way back when. I was young listening to it…but I listen to it now and it’s shit I’m going through now that he was dropping jewels on back then. It just gives me way more respect for him. I really respect that man. You know, music is built off emotions and shit is like that.

When you can relate to a motherfucker, that’s when you really build that bond with that artist as a fan. I’ve been coming up through life listening to it… it’ll be a situation maybe where I was 22 or 23 that pertained to that album. Today, I’m 30 and I’m still going through shit he was talking about. It’s like damn near a Bible. I just keep coming back to that motherfucker and flipping through that shit. That one and that Nas’ Illmatic and that Riding Dirty and that Thug Life.

What’s one thing about you people wouldn’t guess?
I love video games, man. I’m a video game nerd. Call of Duty, that’s the only thing I really play though. I’m a freak with it. I don’t leave the house. It’ll fuck up my life, that’s what I’m trying to say.  I gotta put it away. I gave it to my son. Just smoke me some weed, pop a pill. Especially when I pop a pill around that surround sound and I’m just all into that shit. I’ll be there for 2 or 3 days, won’t shave, bathe, nothing. I’ll notice it suddenly like hold up man, I got to turn this shit off.

You know how they say you know you got an addiction when it starts affecting your business and shit. You start putting shit off and shit. I said oh man this is worse than dope. I ain’t ever fuck up my business because of dope. I’m never late because I’m high or drunk or no stupid shit like that. But I will be late by some Call of Duty. One of my favorite maps comes on and I’m like alright just this last one. Next thing you know, I’m late as hell, fucking up. Like oh, this is a serious problem.

Having been in the game for so long and just now getting recognition and a deal, what advice do you have for other artists who might be in the same situation?
Just have positive people around you. Have people that genuinely want to see you succeed. Not people that want to use you for their success. Watch out for that. People will use you to get to where they got to go. And when they get there, they won’t know who you are. You got to get a team that you know in your heart want to see you win. And once you see them make sacrifices for you, you will make sacrifices for them. Just watch for that, build your brand. And if times get rough…shit, handle your business nigga, get back in them streets, do what you got to do. Just don’t get fucked up. Keep your shit right.

Have you heard Ross’ new album? What can you tell us about it?
Yeah, that shit’s crazy. Super dope. I don’t know if it’s going to top Teflon Don… let me see. I don’t know ’cause Teflon Don was a gem. I’m not going to lie, that shitted on everything around the time it dropped. Everything going on, they just embodied that shit, man. It was a great body of work. But this new one might be the best one yet.

If you could explain your current situation to your eighteen-year old self, how would you approach that? What would you say?
I’ll just tell him… I don’t know. I’ll just tell him man, it’s going to be rough. It’s going to be long and rough. A long, rough, lonely road. The people around you… man. Watch out for the people around you, man. They don’t mean you no good. Just make sure you get your shit right. It’s going to be a long, lonely road. You’re going to think you got a whole bunch of motherfuckers with you but when the shit hit the fan, don’t nobody be around. Prepare for that, little one. I’d pat him on the back and send him on his way.