With his debut album album with Def Jam allegedly around the corner and his new mixtape Acquitted “which will serve as the pre-album!” (to quote his DatPiff page), Gunplay is an unusual candidate for an upcoming mainstream promotional campaign.

In the past few years, a combination of impassioned, honest rapping, outrageous imagery, and a few surprising verses (most notably on Kendrick Lamar’s “Cartoon and Cereal”) have positioned Gunplay as a sort of cult figure, a gangsta rapper in the mold of artists like Scarface, cold killers in one bar, remorseful and reflective street philosophers in the next. He’s building a solid mixtape legacy centered on riot-starters like “Rollin” and “Jump Out” coupled with world-weary cuts like “Bible on the Dash.”

Mixtape success and online plaudits based on vicious, thoughtful gangsta rap don’t, however, make for the easiest major label marketing campaigns. Perhaps they once did, but in an era when the prevailing impulse is to swing for the largest audience possible, an artist like Gunplay could very easily be squeezed into French Montana-feature-heavy-hell, making the sort of album where his intriguing character gets buried.

Luckily, if Acquitted is any indicator, Gunplay is still pumping out the sort of music that’s built his fanbase to date, combining his off-kilter humor, violent outbursts, and street tales over a perfectly dark, bass-heavy collection of beats.