Hip-hop in 2013 just isn’t as menacing as it used to be. Almost single-handedly compensating for this danger deficiency, however, is Miami rapper Gunplay. With his penchant for public brawls, fondness for Nazi imagery (a swastika is tattooed on his back), well-publicized (mostly by himself) taste for cocaine and general air of unpredictability, the longtime Rick Ross sidekick has a bit of predecline DMX about him.
Beneath the thuggish bravado and foaming-at-the-mouth aggression is a skilled rapper who has shown occasional flashes of brilliance, most notably on “Cartoon and Cereal,” an arresting 2012 collaboration with Kendrick Lamar that revealed Gunplay’s deeper, sensitive side, while still finding room for his visceral, machine-gun-volley ad-libs. A full-length release that delivers on the promise of his eye-opening cameos (see also MMG’s “Power Circle” and Waka Flocka’s “Rollin” for Gunplay at his best) remains elusive thus far, but may be on the horizon. Though he spent much of the past year under house arrest on a since-dismissed armed-robbery charge, the profoundly unmarketable MC remains signed to a seemingly supportive Def Jam—perhaps the most unlikely active record contract in the business.
This week’s S.O.B.’s appearance is Gunplay’s second in New York as a solo artist. At Santos Party House last April, he performed in a ski mask, a favorite prop from his many self-directed, low-budget music videos (and perhaps from an earlier vocation). He’s hardly the first rapper to don the accessory onstage, but few, if any, have worn it as convincingly.—Jesse Serwer