That’s how life is going for the 27-year-old Atlanta rapper right now. Even his problems feel like world-class flexes. On the phone with Complex, he tells a story about how he got in a beef with someone he calls “a rapper boy,” and the conflict escalated to the point where the other rapper put a price on Gunna’s head. Hearing the news, he laughed it off in the studio with Young Thug and recorded “Dollaz On My Head.” That song now has hundreds of millions of streams.
Gunna had a lot of things planned for 2020, but just like everyone else in the world, he was forced to put most of them on hold. He says he had finished four or five songs for a collaborative album with Young Thug, Future, and Lil Baby called Super Slimey Surfer Edition, but the pandemic put a temporary pause on their release plans. He was also plotting an extensive tour, until the live events industry screeched to a halt.
Still, he figured out how to have his most accomplished year yet, releasing his first No. 1 album, Wunna, which was received with critical acclaim. A few months later, Gunna followed it up with perhaps the only worthwhile deluxe release of 2020, which featured eight new songs. He still hasn’t had a chance to tour the album, but he did pull off one of the best livestream shows of the pandemic, playing with a full band on a lavish L.A. rooftop.
In Gunna’s free time, he’s found ways to stay in the public consciousness, making a cameo in the music video for Travis Scott’s new single, “Franchise,” filmed at Michael Jordan’s Chicago mansion. Recalling his decision to hang in the sky on top of a car while shooting his scene, Gunna proudly points out, “They wanted somebody else to do it, but I do all my own stunts.”
And why wouldn’t he? Everything Gunna touches right now is turning to gold (or platinum). Even his one-off collaboration with Internet Money, “Lemonade,” recently caught fire. It’s currently the third-most streamed song in the world on Spotify. This week, Complex caught up with Gunna to talk about his wildly successful year so far and to hear what’s next. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
I saw you swallowed one of your diamonds yesterday. How the hell did that happen?
I woke up and just noticed it was gone. I had eaten some candy, the little chewies, and that’s probably how the diamond came out.
So now you have a diamond in you? What happens next?
I’m about to find out. I just swallowed it, so I don’t know yet. [Laughs]. I’m feeling good right now, but I’ll let you know in a couple days.
How would you describe this chapter of your career? What’s the energy like right now?
It’s good. Everything’s going up. I feel like I’m about to apply more pressure, only because I feel like the world’s going to open back up to where we can move again and perform again. I’m going to time it right and make a bigger impact when I can touch the people. I feel like I’m an artist that touches the people. I’ve got to perform. My shows and everything, it all goes together.
Are you already planning your performances?
Yeah, most definitely. My stage is crazy. It’s going to be big. We’re just waiting. I think overseas is going to open up first.
“With Drip or Drown, I went under water with about $15,000 to $20,000 worth of clothes on, fully dripped.”
Are there any achievements and awards that you think Wunna deserves?
For sure, and it ain’t just me. I feel like it could get a few awards, or at least a few nominees. I don’t know, like I said, I’m an artist who has to be out where people can feel and understand the music, but everything’s closed. My music is a lifestyle, so it lives.
What album do you think would be your biggest competition for Rap Album of the Year at the Grammys?
None, because I don’t think nobody did no album that went with a whole theme like what I did. I did a whole aura. And that’s not even my first project like that. I do projects with themes, and I follow up and go to the extreme so you understand the theme. You understood Wunna was like another person. You understood with Drip or Drown, I went under water with about $15,000 to $20,000 worth of clothes on, fully dripped. Everybody don’t understand it, but they will. Everybody didn’t understand “drip,” but now they understand it, you feel me?
Your last two album covers went viral. When you’re coming up with album covers, do you consciously think about going viral online?
No. I just try to make it a whole thing, especially with titles and the music itself. I want it all to go together. I don’t really think about if it’s going to stand out, because I stand out anyway.
How many songs do you think you’ve made since the beginning of quarantine?
I’ve made maybe 200 to 300 songs. By June, I had done a hundred songs. I know that because I went through it with my engineer and looked. But by now, there ain’t no telling.
You and Lil Baby both have great albums this year. And whenever you guys drop new music, your fans argue about who topped who. Do you and Lil Baby have a friendly rivalry? Do you try to one-up each other?
Nah, because we ain’t in competition with each other. We hate it when people try to compare us. It doesn’t make us mad or anything, but it just don’t make sense, because we’re damn-near like the same. It don’t make sense. I think that’s why people do it, though, because we’re both young and we’re both fire. So they’re like, “Let’s just compare them.”
“I’ve made maybe 200 to 300 songs [during quarantine].”
Are you guys still making music together and working on Drip Harder 2?
Yeah. We’ve been sending songs back and forth to each other and linking up when we can, just like how we usually do. I know once we’ve got a good amount of songs, we’re going to drop it. That’s how we did the first one, and that’s just how it go. Eventually. It’s just going to take time.
“Dollaz On My Head” is one of my personal favorite songs of the year. What’s the story behind that song?
That song is one of my favorite songs, too. I made that song in L.A. with Thug. Somebody told me they had put some money on my head, and that’s how I came up with the song. In the studio, I was telling Thug about the situation. I had gotten into it with a rapper boy and then he told me that he had put some money on my head. It wasn’t the first time I heard something like this. But the price was real funny. We started laughing, and Mike pulled the beat and we came up with the song.
I’ve heard wild stories about Young Thug’s recording habits. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever seen him do in the studio?
Man. Shit. A lot of shit, bro. He do a lot of stuff. I can think of one, but it ain’t even going to be the craziest one, because he’s done a lot of crazy things. One time he got this chair built. It’s like a chair booth. I’d never seen it before. It comes on and off of his chair. He just pulled this shit out one day. Nobody had ever seen it. He didn’t tell nobody it was getting made. He just pulled it out, set it on the chair, and started recording. Even Travis came and was like, “Bro, what the…? This is crazy!” Nobody knew where it came from. Then I asked the engineer, because the engineer brought it to him. And he’s like, “Yeah, bro. He told us that he wanted to get it made. It’s never been made before, but we got somebody to make it.” [Laughs].
You recently said Young Thug is the best rapper alive. Who else is in your top five rappers right now?
Me, Thug, Lil Baby, Future, and… Shit. I can’t say the last one, because there’s more than just one. [Laughs]. I can’t even say.
It’s funny you say that, because I heard all four of you guys—Young Thug, Lil Baby, Future, and you—are working on a project called Super Slimey Surfer Edition. What can you say about that?
Thug came up with the idea with Future, and me and Baby was with it. We’ve already made four or five songs for it. But just the way the timing was set up, shit man, it kind of put a pause on everything with this pandemic. It just slowed down the momentum. I think we will release it, but we’ve got to get back to where everything’s open again and we can really pop it how we want to pop it.
Your song “Lemonade” with Internet Money is one of the most-streamed songs in the world right now. What do you remember about that? Taz Taylor told me it was like 110 degrees outside when you shot the video.
Yeah, that shoot was in the middle of a desert. I drove my Rolls-Royce out there. I didn’t know it was that far. I was mad because my shit was dirty as fuck, but the video was fire. I had fun. It was cool. I did that feature, and I knew that shit was going to be big, but I didn’t know it was going to go as big as it is. You never know. You can’t predict these songs sometimes, especially if it ain’t yours. But I just liked the song.
“We’ve already made four or five songs [for a collab album with Young Thug, Future, and Lil Baby].”
You’re also on Pop Smoke’s album. What do you remember about the making of “Paranoia”?
I remember I was the first one on that song. I had met Pop Smoke before and we already did the “Dior” remix, so we were locked in just off that alone. It was like, I was going to be on his album if he died or was still alive. When I got the record, it was just the hook, and I did my verse. They also sent the song to Thug, and I didn’t even know. At the studio one day, I played the song, and when he heard it, he was like, “Damn, man, I didn’t know you was on it. They sent me this shit, too.” I’m like, “Did you do it?” He’s like, “Yeah, I started on it.” I’m like, “N***a, just get on it.” We ain’t even know Push was on it, so we were just finishing the song like any other song. Then he ended up doing it and turning it in and everything.
I saw you were in Travis Scott’s new “Franchise” video. What was it like being at Michael Jordan’s house?
That n***a’s house fire.
What’s the craziest thing about it?
All the shoes. [Laughs]. I was trying to get every one he had.
Do you remember anything else about that day?
They pulled a car in the sky for that scene. They just had me hanging in the sky on top of the car. They wanted somebody else to do it, but I do all my own stunts.
You recently tweeted that you were about to start a “mind, body, and soul cleansing,” with no drugs, sex, or media. How did that go?
It went good for a minute, but it’s kind of hard to do no media, because I’ve got to promote shit. That was the only thing that was kind of hard. Everything else is easy. That was the thing that I really didn’t want to do at that time. I don’t want to just be away from media, though.
Do you believe in things like manifestation?
Hell yes. I manifested all this shit. Everything I got, I manifested. I didn’t even know I was manifesting, though, until I started learning what the word was and started understanding what I was doing.
What’s something you want to manifest in your life right now?
I want to manifest becoming like an operation and a machine. I want to manifest building more to the music than just me. Like, bringing my artists in and bringing my producers in, and letting them go lock in with another artist who’s going to be big, but it’s still coming from the branch. I want to manifest that, and just become a product of my environment and everybody around me, too.
Can you talk about some of the new artists you’re working with?
I’ve got a group called Shady Babies, and I’ve got a label called Shady Baby Entertainment. It’s three artists in a group, and I’ve got a solo artist. There’s one named [Jake] Rarri, one named [Terry] Tesla, one named [Apollo] Bentley, and the other one named [Lamont] Aston.
Have you started thinking about your legacy yet? How do you want to go down in history?
One of the greats. A legend. The King of Drip himself. The stylish, iconic, young Wunna. All of the above.