A pervasive question in the hip-hop world this year has been about how and when Gunna, the multi-platinum Atlanta rapper who was arrested in 2022 as part of a massive RICO case against him, Young Thug, and others, would break his silence. After filing an Alford plea in exchange for a more lenient sentence last December, Gunna has been a lightning rod for criticism, with some fans and his artist peers alike rushing to label him a “snitch.” On “Bread & Butter,” his first solo single in more than a year, Gunna speaks about his legal situation and the ensuing public image fallout.
“Never gave no statement or agreed to take no stand on ’em / On whatever you n-ggas on, then trust me, I’mma stand on it / Lawyers and the DA did some sneaky shit, I fell for it / On my Ps and Qs because, this time, I be prepared for it,” he raps on the song’s second verse.
Some people on the internet are making hay out of the fact that “Bread & Butter” was released through Thug’s Young Stoner Life Records, but the reality of the music business means there was no chance Gunna would be gone from the label by now. The RICO charges claim that YSL operates as not just a record label, but a criminal enterprise based out of Atlanta.
Gunna has been understandably quiet since being released from jail in December 2022. The rapper’s decision to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence, cutting what would have been five years of incarceration to one year already covered by time served and a community service commitment, has been a topic of furious debate in the hip-hop community. Friend and frequent collaborator Lil Durk said Gunna “told” in a May podcast interview, adding, “If you a rat, I fucking hate you, ‘cause I love Thug.”
Gunna has also been criticized by Freddie Gibbs, with whom he had a preexisting feud, and controversial Louisiana rapper Boosie Badazz. (As is often the case with celebrity tension, a certain subset of fans have also been paying close attention to who has unfollowed Gunna on social media.)
But Gunna’s situation is far more complex than some blogs and social media posters are making it out to be. The rapper took what’s known as an “Alford plea,” which means that a defendant maintains their innocence, but acknowledges that they are likely to be found guilty regardless, and that a plea is in their best interest. Gunna, born Sergio Kitchens, is mentioned only sporadically in the actual indictment, which cites as one of its “Acts in Furtherance of the Conspiracy” Gunna’s lyrics on the Lil Keed song “Fox 5,” and his wearing a YSL necklace in the music video.
In a Rolling Stone essay, Andre Gee wrote, “What’s happening to Gunna is a disheartening glimpse of an artist being squeezed between the sides of the criminal-justice system and the rap world, neither of which is as humane as it feigns to be. […] What’s most aggravating is that Gunna’s facing the heaviest scorn from fans with no such lived experience. For them, his plight is another episode in the dehumanizing reality show of rap that they live through.”
One stanza of the song that has already spread across social media sees Gunna taking aim at an unnamed former friend who he views as being hypocritical for distancing themselves from Gunna in the wake of the RICO case and plea deal. The lyrics are cryptic, but internet sleuths have interpreted them to be a dig at either Durk or perhaps Lil Baby, his fellow Atlanta MC whose career has been intertwined with Gunna since they vaulted into the mainstream with collaborative tracks like “Sold Out Dates” and “Drip Too Hard.”
“Peepin’ shit, I’m seein’ n-ggas fall back / You bitch-ass n-ggas got me as the topic of the chat / You switched on me when you know you in business with a rat / And the boy that’s like your brother, and nobody speak on that,” Gunna raps.
Gunna’s musical future is unclear, though he’s presumably working on his next studio album. The broader YSL RICO case remains ongoing.