What Happens To Gunna Now?

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PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 23: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY - For Non-Editorial use please seek approval from Fashion House) Rapper Gunna attends the Kenzo Fall/Winter 2022/2023 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 23, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

As Gunna returns to the public eye, we examine why he's being ostracized by the hip-hop community and where he ultimately goes from here.

Just a year or so ago, the notion of discussing the potential ill health of Gunna’s career would be futile, bordering on ludicrous.

At the outset of 2022, Gunna, real name Sergio Kitchens, had the world in the palm of his iced out hands. Upon releasing his third studio album, DS4Ever, in January, Gunna didn’t just release a smash which ascended to the top of the charts, but proved his star power by prohibiting The Weeknd’s DAWN FM from clinching the number one spot. 

Within a matter of months, however, Gunna’s life, and that of his labelmates on Young Thug’s YSL, would be turned on their axis after they were indicted in a RICO case which alleged that Young Slime Life was a street gang that had wreaked havoc in Atlanta. Suddenly, the recording company which had been thriving just a year ago would find its empire ablaze.  At present, its leader, the iconic Young Thug, still remains in a cell, facing a maximum of twenty years behind bars. Meanwhile, Gunna is out after accepting an Alford plea that may have granted him freedom, but gained him the ire of his peers and audience alike as the man who once contributed a verse to the track “Take It To Trial” has since opted to forego legal proceedings entirely. 

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 17: Gunna performs onstage at 'Samsung Galaxy + Billboard' during the 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Waterloo Park on March 17, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW)

From the very moment that the news broke, Gunna has been adamant that he didn’t turn federal witness.

“While I have agreed to always be truthful, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have NOT made any statements, have NOT been interviewed, have NOT cooperated, have NOT agreed to testify or be a witness for or against any party in the case and have absolutely NO intention of being involved in the trial process in any way,” Gunna told WSB-TV in a statement. “My focus of YSL was entertainment — rap artists who wrote and performed music that exaggerated and ‘glorified’ urban life in the Black community.”

While this may well be the case, his declaration to the judge that “I recognize, accept and deeply regret that my talent and music indirectly furthered YSL the gang to the detriment of my community,” teamed with his proclamation that “YSL as a gang must end,” was enough of a renouncement to have fans on Gunna’s subreddit wondering if they’re now duty-bound to unfollow him on Instagram.

Despite the fact that the apparent rationale behind the plea was to “to neutralize him and keep him out of the game” in regards to being called by either the defense or prosecution, the hip-hop world that he inhabited has been rocked to the core by the news and interpreted it as something else entirely. This has, in turn, made him the biggest posterboy for supposed “snitching” in recent memory.

Unjust as that may seem, there are reasons why Gunna’s plea deal is sending shockwaves through hip-hop as a whole. Not least of all, because it’s being interpreted as the rapper selling his own mentor, one who spoke so highly of him time and time again, down the river. 

Plucked from obscurity after Thug was introduced to him by a mutual friend, Gunna was signed by YSL during the embryonic stages of his career, with his debut mixtape being released on the label in 2016. Since then, his career has been indivisible from Thug’s watchful eye. As a result, he has always rightfully credited Thug as a catalyzing force in both his career and life. 

When posed with the question of who had done the most for his career between Thug and his longtime collaborator Lil Baby, the Georgia native didn’t hesitate to give his label boss all the flowers that he’s duly earned. 

“Thug”, he told The Breakfast Club. “ feel like Thug helped me as far me being an artist and him already being in the game. We're bigger as far as putting out songs and our fanbase, me and Baby. But as far as someone helping me in music, that’s Thug.” 

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 26: Young Thug and Gunna attends Slime Language 2 #1 Album Event at Annette's Chop House on April 26, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage)

Considering that Jeffery was the man who first afforded Gunna an opportunity, the fact that he would do something to potentially disregard everything that’s happened between them is naturally not going to sit well with those who’d followed their time together. It’s only exacerbated by others maintaining that they kept their mouths shut out of fealty to Thugger. 

"Show me in my paper work I told on anybody lol," said Young Thug’s brother Unfoonk after he took his plea, which gained him twelve years on probation. “I'm not even finna entertain any of it, peace and blessings." Now, he’s experiencing such constrictive terms of the plea deal that he can’t even say “slatt” or “slime” on tracks anymore.

In addition to Unfoonk, Slimelife Shawty also received a ten year sentence, while Gunna received half of that. Whether or not there is rationale behind his suspended term being considerably less than others, it doesn’t change the fact that, optically, Gunna getting off with what’s seen as a light sentence will do little to slow down the snitching allegations. 

Unfortunately for Gunna, hip-hop is a culture in which ingrained attitudes are incredibly hard to overcome. When cooperation with the feds is thrown into the mix, the lasting smudge that it leaves on an artist's reputation is exacerbated.

Ever since getting Thug’s seal of approval, he has been nigh-on royalty within the ATL trap scene. Anointed as part of its internal fraternity, Gunna counted a who’s who of stars as not just collaborators, but friends. As a result of the bonds that snitching may have severed, Gunna trying to pick up where he left off as if nothing happened is rubbing people the wrong way. And in the view of Tony Yayo, the G-Unit veteran behind Thoughts Of A Predicate Felon, there is no way in which he can simply return to his preexisting post.

"The film in court came out. And, you know, of course, his lawyer wrote that [statement]. His lawyer probably wrote that. But, now in these days, you got the camera, it just gon’ look like you pushin’ pleas. In this business," Yayo continued, "If you turn into a rat, your career is over. To me, I would've sat a little longer than coming out to what the internet do to you. That's my opinion."

Although Tony acknowledged that it's hard to declare someone to be a snitch "without the paperwork," it appears that both the internet and Gunna's fellow artists aren't willing to wait for clarification.

In addition to Lil Durk declaring “What happened to Virgil? He probably gon’ tell'' in an unreleased snippet, Gunna has had jibes sent his way by his former YSL brethren including Lil GotIt who informed him that he couldn’t refer to him as “twin” any longer. Then, he was unfollowed by Meek Mill, and, most shockingly of all, Lil Baby. 

Normally, it’d stand to reason that if you’re going to unfollow the very man that taught you how to rap and thus paved the way for your success, he must’ve committed a heinous act of treason. 

As opposed to his return to the A being widely celebrated by his peers, all of those artists he’d previously co-mingled with on tracklists and tapes were now conspicuously silent. In many ways, this is unsurprising considering he’s operating in a field where many of his former allies have made their outlook on informants entirely explicit.

At the height of the controversy surrounding 6ix9ine's snitching scandal, Future, with whom Gunna has collaborated with on numerous occasions, took a hardline stance against anyone caught telling, proclaiming on Instagram that “At the end of the day u work for the police. I believe if u hang with a snitch u a snitch and deserve to die but that’s jus me."

Likewise, 21 Savage used Morgan Freeman as a conduit to outline his thoughts on informants. In his definition, 21 decreed that, “He betrays the trust of his team or his family/Hoping to save his own cowardly ass/The difference is, at least a snitch is human/But a rat is a fuckin' rat, period.”

Naturally, it’d be unbecoming for these artists who’ve been so scornful of those who'd cooperated suddenly ushering Gunna back into the inner circle. Contrastingly, there is an argument to be made that Gunna would fall into the category of civilian and thus, would be exempt from allegations of snitching. A man who’d previously been clowned for his apparent appearance on CNN’s Crime Stoppers, Gunna’s legal team was quick to point out that he had no significant criminal history and as such, shouldn’t be treated as though he was a gang member. 

"There is no allegation that he committed any act of violence," they remarked. "There is no allegation that he ever sold any drugs. There is no allegation that he ever committed any act relating to obstruction of justice or interfering with the administration of justice."

Although the wholly condemnable practice of utilising rappers’ lyrics as evidence meant that bars from Gunna such as “I killed his man in front of his momma / Like fuck lil bruh, sister and his cousin” were cited in the indictment, he wouldn’t exactly be the first rapper to adopt this sort of fraudulent persona. But, due to the fact his relationships with trap’s cream of the crop, he is expected to uphold the same street codes that they adhere to, lest he be labelled a snitch.

Whatever your thoughts on his role in any criminality may be, this grey area in regards to his status is not doing him any reputational favors.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: Gunna arrives at RtA x Gunna Superbowl Store Event on February 12, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for RtA)

In large part, it could be seen that the muted response to his celebratory IG post from hip-hop stars came from the fact that he’d already been seen publicly disavowing the crew. Even if he was only doing it save his skin, posting things such as "N****s acting like they switching to a side But it’s only one side . #YsltheLabel #FreeThug&Yak GUNNA BACC," can’t ever hit as hard when you’ve been caught on camera saying that "I recognize, acknowledge and deeply regret that my talent and music indirectly furthered YSL the gang to the detriment of my community."

“Gunna came out and tried testing the water," remarked Akademiks on Twitter shortly after the post emerged, “claiming YSL the label and said Free Thugga…and everybody in ysl looking at gunna like ‘N***a,  u the reason he in there’…they all unfollowed him right after even thug sister.”

Although he may not actually be a “snitch” in conventional terms, it appears that there is a culturally enforced unwillingness to acknowledge that at the moment. In many ways, this has been fuelled by Thug's business partner YSL Mondo, who quashed the notion that Gunna was advised to take the plea by Thug as, either Jeffrey nor anyone on his legal team knew that he intended to do that. 

"You wasn’t suppose to do that my brother,” Mondo said in reference to Gunna on the Ugly Money Podcast, amid sharing texts with the host that allegedly confirmed that he’d divulged information to the feds. “Even if I wasn’t talking about it, anybody with common sense, anybody that been in the streets know you don’t do no s*** like that my brother. You’re s*** was gonna get dropped brother. You know that. What the hell, you panicked."

Although his actions may not be as severe as others in hip-hop who've been lumbered with the dubious title of informant, the reason why Gunna is being treated with such contempt is that he's contending with the concept that he’s thrown an icon to the lions in order to save his own skin. An immensely talented artist who has been integral to the world of trap for recent years, it can be hard to imagine a time where he isn’t at the forefront of the genre. However, what is obvious is that where he’d previously had all the goodwill in the world to his name, his next drop, whenever it comes and in what shape it arrives, is going to be crucial in determining if he truly can bounce back. Or perhaps, as the likes of Tony Yayo have suggested, allegations of snitching is the kind of mud that doesn’t just stick, but will permanently discolour the culture's view of you.

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