Gunplay's 25 Favorite Albums

Don Logan talks about his favorite albums from Rakim, Trick Daddy, and more.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Rapper Gunplay may have gotten himself into a pretty sticky legal situation, but he's still pushing forward with the release of his Def Jam debut Medellin, coming in early 2013. Despite his sudden emergence, Gunplay is an old soul; he's known Rick Ross since the '90s, and has been listening to rap since first hearing groups like Boogie Down Productions back in the '80s, when he lived in New York.

We talked about his 25 favorite albums, a list that covers an unexpectedly East Coast-oriented canon for a Southern hip-hop hero. At first, Gunplay was reticent to share too many of his ideas, but he opened up, discussing, among other things, how Rakim changed the game in detail. Read on for more of his stories.

As told to David Drake (@somanyshrimp

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Eric B. & Rakim, Paid In Full (1987)

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Label: 4th & B'way, Island

Gunplay: "That's when wordplay really started getting important. Gangsta wordplay though, not just wordplay, just regular club shit, but gangsta wordplay. It really got poppin' then. That's why I really started loving Nas' music, because he was using that Rakim flow that just don't stop, don't breathe between your rhymes like niggas was doing. It would just keep going. Nas did the same thing.

"That one Nas record where he's like 'He inhaled so deep, shut his eyes like he was sleep/Started coughing, one eye peeked to watch me speak/I sat back like The Mack, my army suit was black/We was chilling on these benches where he pumped his loose cracks/I took the L when he passed it, this little bastard.' You know that record? 'They caught me bustin off the roof-' That's what really reminded me of Rakim, when he was doing that record. "One Love."

"'Thinking of a masterplan,' and I was in New York back then too. I was seeing the culture first-hand. I was about seven, eight. I moved to Florida when I was ten.

"I was born in Texas. I lived in Texas until I was three, moved to New York with my family. My mom and dad was originally from New York, and I moved back there with them until I was nine. I moved to Miami, and spent my tenth birthday in Miami. Everybody was playing [hip-hop]. It was the epicenter of hip-hop. My cousins, everybody everywhere you go, it was hip-hop. It was all that, that's all you knew.

"[When I got to Florida], they were listening to a whole other shit. I was like, 'What the fuck?' They were listening to JT Money. They were listening to Luke, "Pop That Pussy" and all that. I like it because the bitches like it, and like dancing to it. But after a while, you listen to it and just the culture of Miami and what Miami is about, you really start understanding why they like that music. The more you dig into these streets, you understand. I've been here for 23 years so..."

Boogie Down Productions, Criminal Minded (1987)

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Label: B-Boy Records

Gunplay: "I was in New York back then, and that's what my cousin was listening to. At the time "South Bronx" came out, my dad came to get me on the weekends because I was living in Queens at the time with my mom. My dad would come get me and he lived in the South Bronx on Tinton Avenue in the Forest Projects. He used to come get me every weekend and we would head to the South Bronx. [My favorite is] probably that "South Bronx" record because I actually lived there."

NWA, Straight Outta Compton (1988)

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Label: Ruthless, Priority, EMI Records

Gunplay: "I was really young [when I first heard that], I was like nine. My cousins, them had it and they was listening to it. So that's how I heard it. [Favorite songs were] '8 Ball', 'Fuck Tha Police', 'Dope Man.' That was dope. Just a dope record. I was young, I didn't know nothing."

Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990)

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Label: Priority

Gunplay: "That was when he was doing his solo thing. It was super dope just to see that, hear that energy. The whole shit was dope."

Dr. Dre, The Chronic (1992)

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Label: Death Row, Interscope, Priority

Gunplay: "'Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang' and all that. Dre being the big producer that he is, you know he was gonna come with them dope beats and of course Snoop. It just made it into a dope album."

Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

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Label: Loud

Gunplay: "Seeing nine emcees come together and make an album was super dope. They all had their own style, their own character, so it was real dope. I was in Miami. I was young, I was still in middle school 'C.R.E.A.M.' was cool. The whole shit was dope though."

Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle (1993)

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Label: Death Row, Interscope, Atlantic

Gunplay: "It was gangster shit, that West Coast gangster shit. It was just showing us that West Coast flavor and I was fucking with it. We used to have [The Box] back in the day, just watching the videos and stuff like that. I don't know [my favorite track], all that shit was hard. I can't remember."

Thug Life, Thug Life: Volume 1 (1994)

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Label: Out Da Gutta, Interscope, Amaru

Gunplay: "At that time, that's what a nigga was really living man. That thug life. He was the voice of the life we was living. I liked that 'Pour Out A Little Liquor' record, most definitely. [I liked production around then] just as long as it was hard and gangster."

Outkast, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)

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Label: LaFace

Gunplay: "[I first heard it] down here in Miami. [Raps] 'Git up, git out get somethin', you can't spend your life trying to get high,' "Player's Ball" was good. All them tracks right there. It was time to shine. That really kicked the door in for the whole South."

Notorious B.I.G., Ready To Die (1994)

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Label: Bad Boy

Gunplay: "The production was dope. He was sounding real hungry with his rhymes and his storytelling. It was dope. [I first heard it] through the mixtape circuit and then ultimately the album. Friends and shit. 'Everyday Struggle' was dope. 'Warning'...all that. 'Unbelievable,' that was one of my favorites."

Nas, Illmatic (1994)

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Label: Columbia

Gunplay: "I love the wordplay. That street shit, he was lyrical with it. It was dope. Back in the day, what '90, '91? It was a long time ago, can't really remember [who put me onto it], but just being a fan of hip-hop, mixtape circuit. [Favorite song was] 'N.Y. State Of Mind.'"

Scarface, The Diary (1994)

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Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Gunplay: "Through one of my homies. One of my homies was from Houston and he always used to play it, he put me on that. I was vibin' with [Scarface]. It was that Texas gangster shit that I could relate to. It was dope. It's real laid-back, it's raw though."

Ol' Dirty Bastard, Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version (1995)

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Label: Elektra

Gunplay: "He was just a wild motherfucker. I felt his vibe, because I was wild myself. It was dope. That 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya,' I liked the skits. I remember he would do this long [imitates intro to 'Goin Down'] 'aahhhhhhhhh-you remember that shit? AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.' [At that point I was] getting high, wildin' out. Drinking booze."

Tha Dogg Pound, Dogg Food (1995)

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Label: Death Row, Interscope

Gunplay: "It was just dope. The beats were crazy, the beats were super dope. Shiiit, I don't know [if I had a favorite]. That 'Some Bomb Azz Pussy' was dope. Both [Kurupt and Daz] was dope."

Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)

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Label: Loud, RCA, BMG

Gunplay: "I felt like Raekwon was that Tony Montana nigga in the hood, the way he came across to me on that dope boy shit. Cuban Linx, that's what the dope boys wear. It just put me in the mind of dope boy shit. Ironically, I had just started snorting and selling coke. If you play it, then I'll probably [have] memorized it, but I can't spit it off the head or nothing like that."

2Pac, Me Against The World (1995)

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Label: Out Da Gutta, Interscope, Amaru

Gunplay: "Just his passion for justice, for the hurt, the have nots. That's what I'm about, thugging all day long. That album, it strikes that in me. I [still] listen to Pac all the time. Favorite Pac verse is probably the second verse on 'Hellrazor.'"

Mobb Deep, The Infamous (1995)

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Label: Loud, RCA, BMG

Gunplay: "[First heard it] again through the mixtape circuit back in the day, just hearing what they were doing with "Shook Ones" and all that. Their video, it was dope. I copped that album, I followed the Infamous movement. That 'Shook Ones' joint [was my favorite]. The beats, the production [stood apart]. It was real gritty and grimy. It was real dark."

UGK, Ridin' Dirty (1996)

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Label: Jive

Gunplay: "The production was crazy, still to this day. It just sounds like good music. That was some real, southern-style music. Yeah, [I identified more] with Pimp [than Bun]. I definitely rolled with Pimp. He told it like it is. He didn't try to sugarcoat it and rap around it. He told you just how it is.

"[I was] Just riding around, getting high, figuring it out [when this album was released]. That 'Murder' was dope. That 'Good Stuff' was dope. That 'Hi-Life' was my favorite one though. 'We living that hiii liiife [imitates music]....I'm tired living fucked up, tired of living bad/Tired of hearing grandma asking me/When you gonna go to church Chad.'"

2Pac, All Eyez On Me (1996)

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Label: Death Row, Interscope

Gunplay: "[My favorite tracks were] 'Tradin War Stories,' that was hard. 'Heartz Of Men' was hard. 'No More Pain,' that was my favorite. The musical growth, you could hear it."

Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt (1996)

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Label: Roc-A-Fella, Priority

Gunplay: "[I heard that] through the mixtape circuit, hearing Jay and all his features he was on. His wordplay was crazy. To this day, I'm still just catching on to what he said. He was ahead of his time on that one. My favorite song was 'D'Evils.'"

Makaveli, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)

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Label: Death Row, Interscope

Gunplay: "I was just trying to find my way in life. Literally trying to find what I wanted to do with myself. Do I really want to take this rap serious? When he died, I felt like somebody gotta pick up where he left off. Not saying it will be me, but nobody really ever filled that void when he passed. So I filled that for myself.

"When I talk about my music, I talk to the have-nots that's looking for a brighter future. I'm not talking like I got a million dollars already, glorifying my money all the time. I'm always thinking about, 'What would Pac say?' how he would do it. I wasn't really [rapping seriously] then, I took it serious recently, the last couple years. Just everything that was going on with him and Death Row. I just knew that he was gonna come with that energy. We knew he was coming with it."

Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death (1997)

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Label: Bad Boy

Gunplay: "You can hear the growth. The production got better. It was a solid body of work. It was two CDs. 'Niggas Bleed' was hard. 'Notorious Thugs,' 'Skys The Limit,' 'My Downfall.' A lot of [favorites], there's too many to name."

DMX, It's Dark And Hell Is Hot (1998)

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Label: Ruff Ryders, Def Jam

Gunplay: "He was coming raw with it from the gutter. We needed that at that time. We needed that raw gutterness with hip-hop, and he brought it to us. [Favorite track was] 'Stop Being Greedy.' [I first heard him] through the mixtape circuit. He had that one verse with everybody on that."

Trick Daddy, (1998)

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Label: Slip-N-Slide, Warlock

Gunplay: "It was time for Miami to shine, and he was definitely the epitome of a Miami nigga. Yeah most definitely [hung out with Trick]. I ain't no groupie nigga like that, so we just be chilling.

"'Gotta change my life/Lord knows I ain't livin right/Y'all know I ain't chillin right/Smokin out everyday and night/Gotta ease my mind/Gotta find time to rewind.' That song right there.

"[His rap style] was Miami. I could relate to it because he was from Miami. He sounded like a Miami nigga. Every time you listen to music, you're hearing somebody that's from New York, somebody that's from Cali, from Texas. You never hear nobody from Miami. So, when he finally came on the scene, it was a breath of fresh air for Miami."

Rick Ross, Port Of Miami (2006)

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Label: Slip-n-Slide, Def Jam, Poe Boy

Gunplay: "[I met Ross] through a mutual friend in the neighborhood. Doing what hustlers do. Just met up, started doing the rap thing, made history. [We met] about '95, 96. [We met from] something else in the hood. He was starting out, I was too. I just followed his lead.

"It was the first album I had the blessing to see start from the beginning to the end. From starting an album to finishing it, and selling as many records as he did. It was just dope and it was great music. [The most interesting part was] just seeing and getting a blueprint on how to do it. So, I took notes. 'Hustlin' [was my favorite]...I remember when he got the beat and he was doing the beat. I just felt it, I was like, 'That's a hit.' He felt the same thing and he laid it down."

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