Rick Ross associate Gunplay had a breakout year in 2012, signing with Def Jam Records after a string of provocative mixtapes and attention-grabbing guest appearances. However, the campaign ended with the rapper restricted to his apartment following an October arrest on armed robbery charges.
On Thursday, a judge granted him reprieve from house arrest, he told Rolling Stone in an interview at his Hialeah, Florida, residence last night. The rapper, born Richard Morales, will now face trial on February 25th for the armed robbery charges, for which he faces a potential life sentence. Despite video evidence that appears to show him forcefully taking a gold chain and cell phone during a dispute with his former accountant, Gunplay says he fully expects to beat the case and is already plotting a tour in the spring. "Not guilty," he told Rolling Stone. "The problem that we had was between me and him but that's what happens sometimes. We're just waiting for the last trial date so we can get [the case] kicked out."
Though Gunplay may have been cooped up in an apartment for the better part of three months, the provocative rapper was far from silent. Today sees the release of Cops and Robbers, a mixtape collecting recent freestyles, guest appearances and a handful of original songs including "Bet That," a track with G.O.O.D. Music rapper Pusha T which addresses his charges. He plans to follow with another mixtape of all-original material before releasing his Def Jam debut, Medellin, in late spring. The Colombian city, famous for Pablo Escobar's drug cartel, was the site of an infamous (in hip-hop circles, at least) YouTube video in which Gunplay was seen snorting cocaine.
The rapper, whose fondness for a variety of drugs is well documented in his music, insists that he has cleaned up his act. "It's either that or your freedom," he says of the conditions of his house arrest. "You put that into perspective and weed ain't that serious. A molly ain't that serious. If they catch it in your system and you go back to jail, you're looking crazy."
A longtime member of Rick Ross' Triple Cs crew, Gunplay first distinguished himself as a solo artist with the energetic club single "Rollin" featuring Waka Flocka Flame in 2010. His pained, confessional appearance on Kendrick Lamar's "Cartoon and Cereal" was one of hip-hop's most highly regarded cameos in 2012, turning up on many year-end best-of lists. A memorable turn on "Power Circle," from the Maybach Music Group compilation Self Made, Vol. 2, meanwhile spawned the oft-tweeted catchphrase "Where's your sea bass?" While on house arrest, he released freestyles recorded at his in-home studio, as well as he drew attention with a Twitter comment echoing fringe views about the Sandy Hook massacre. (It has since been deleted.)
Gunplay promises that Medellin will contain personal material which will color in the details of his life and help listeners better understand his seemingly erratic behavior. "I don't want too many features on my album," he says. "I want them to feel me, not me and 80 other rappers that you hear every day on the radio."
But with all of the rapper's recent troubles and controversies – which also include a brawl at last September's BET Hip-Hop Awards and a flap over a swastika tattoo on his back – does his label still have his back?
"I'm pretty confident," Gunplay says. "I just got off the phone with Def Jam today, letting them know the good news. Everybody's attitude is 'ready.'"