Peter Gunz -- a '90s rapper best known for a hit song Lord Tariq, called "Déjà vu (Uptown Baby)" -- is now starring in an MTV reality show centered on his son, Cory Gunz, an up-and-coming spitting signed to Lil Wayne's Young Money imprint. In the show, and in real life, Peter Gunz serves as his son's manager, grooming him so that he can avoid certain obstacles in the treacherous music business.
As for Peter, himself, his concentration remains within the music industry to this day. He has a passion for music, and has no intention of leaving it behind anytime soon. He's proud of his son and is extremely optimistic about the future for both of them; and strives for realistic goals while maintaining a humble sense of character, knowing that nothing's ever truly promised, but that everything is possible.
After fading to the background since his 1998 album, Make It Reign, Peter has plans for a new album with his old friend. But like a good father, he's putting his son's debut as a paternal priority.
Catch up with Peter Gunz in this exclusive Q&A.
BallerStatus.com: What have you and Lord Tariq been up to since your debut, Make It Reign, in '98?
Peter Gunz: Um, you know, Tariq been in and out a lot of groups. He did the Bang Bang Boogie thing; he was doing his own little solo project, working on some of his own music. Me, I've mostly been grooming Cory, you know? I've been in a band called Ned, N-E-D, Not Easily Describable. It's a band I've been working with for years and just behind the scenes of a lot of music and that's it. But still, you know, I'm always doing stuff in the music industry. I've been writing for a lot of different artists, you know, doing a lot of different things behind the scenes. But, for the most part, it's always been music. Neither one of us ever had a regular job since the album, so... (laughs)
BallerStatus.com: Are you currently working on any projects?
Peter Gunz: Yeah. I'm working on a project with a live music band and I'm getting ready to get back in the studio with Tariq again and do another project. But for the most part, it's really about working on getting Cory's album done, and then me and Cory have a company called Militia Music, which is our team militia, so we got a compilation done on that.
BallerStatus.com: I read in an article about the show, "Son Of A Gun," on the New York Daily News website. It said you didn't want Cory going into the music business because "one minute you're hot, the next you're not". Do you think he has what it takes to stay hot in the music business?
Peter Gunz: Yeah, I think Cory has all the tools that it takes to stay hot, but you can never tell. You can never say that this person is going to be hot ten years from now. You just can't call it, you know? It seems for the most part 95% of the artists have their time, and then it's somebody else's time, so the odds are against somebody being in the industry and staying hot for a large amount of time. But does Cory have what it takes to do that? Absolutely. But it's just something you can't really think on.
BallerStatus.com: What kinds of advice have you given Cory about the music business, and how have you helped ensure him for success?
Peter Gunz: It's a cutthroat business. The music part of it is the fun part, it's always love in the studio and stuff. But anything other than that, you gotta watch your record company and you gotta watch your managers, and you gotta watch everybody around you. You gotta watch them because it's such a cutthroat business that sometimes you'll find yourself sleeping while watching your accountants. What I advise him to do is just make good music, watch his money, invest it wisely, don't spend it because like I said when that day comes when the curtain closes, you'll still have some money in the bank to take care of you and your family and still live a reasonable life without sitting there like I did. I spent wreckless money thinking it was forever and you turn around and you owe the IRS money and you're broke. I don't want him to leave this game broke. I want him to make some good investments, I want him to go back to school, I want him to just be much wiser than I was, and do much better than me.
BallerStatus.com: What do you think of your son Cory and his developing career from a paternal and fellow rap artist standpoint?
Peter Gunz: I'm a Cory Gunz fan. I'm a lyricist myself, so it's biased of me to say that I think Cory is one of the best lyricists I've ever heard. I guess I have to put him in that category because I watched him, like a chameleon, change into any style that he wants. He could rhyme like anybody he wants and then he has his own thing, so Cory, I put him up there with the lyricists of our day when it comes to lyrics, you know? I hate to put his name next to Jay-Z or Eminem or Rakim or LL, I hate to put him next to those names, because they earned what they got, but if you want to speak about just being a lyricist, his name should be squeezed up there with some of the greats. Biggie... I'm not comparing him to those guys, Cory hasn't earned that yet, but if it's just going off of straight lyricists, then you gotta mention Cory amongst the lyricists.
BallerStatus.com: How do you think Cory has been received by the public so far?
Peter Gunz: As a lyricist, I don't think Cory has proven himself as a record-maker yet. Like okay, can he make a record? Can he make a record on his own, like a hit record? There's nobody that's consistently going to say "Well, he's not as good as they say he is", or "He can't rap". That's not gonna be said. They're gonna say "He can rap his ass off, but can he make a record?" So, I think his obstacle to quiet the doubters is to make a couple hit records, and he has it.
BallerStatus.com: Do you believe that this might change after his first album debut (the public's view of Cory)?
Peter Gunz: Absolutely.
BallerStatus.com: In a positive or negative light?
Peter Gunz: In a positive light. Anything you get that's negative from Cory -- to me, if there's something you got negative about Cory to say -- other than that, your honest opinion about his records or his music, that's fine. Everybody don't have to like his songs or whatever, but he's a good person, he's a good kid. I think, you know, if you don't have something positive to say about Cory as a whole, then I gotta question the person that's making the comment, because I think ultimately he's a good artist and he's a good kid and you'll learn that from the show. You'll learn that from his music, but ultimately he's positive. You should get nothing more than positive vibes from Cory.
BallerStatus.com: What do you think of Cory's Smack DVD freestyles and mixtapes? Do you think that was a good way to get noticed skill-wise?
Peter Gunz: That is the reason. Those DVDs at that time are the reason why we even on the phone right now, and why there's a TV show, and why people are paying attention to Cory now. Those are the reason. Whenever we meet somebody, we talk about those DVDs to this day. So, that was the blueprint to getting Cory where he is now.
BallerStatus.com: In what ways has Cory been able to establish credibility of his own aside from being your son?
Peter Gunz: Being better than me ten times over. I've never heard nobody say, "Oh his father's better than him", or "It's because of his father". Really, I had moderate success, I didn't have no big long-term career. I had one hit that came -- it was a big hit, but it came and went, so it wasn't like Cory grew up in a mansion or nothing like that. Nah, actually, he stayed in the same apartment I was born and raised in, and he was born and raised in throughout the success of that because it wasn't the money that people thought I made. It was a sample; we owed 100% to the publishing and we had to pay $105,000 to clear it, so the only money I made during that era was money off shows. I didn't make a dime off the sale of "Uptown Baby", so Cory's credibility stands on its own. He grew up where I grew up, he struggled with me, we grew up close in age, so we grew up more like brothers, you know? Then my mom raised Cory mostly.
BallerStatus.com: The show, "Son Of A Gun," with you and Cory has premiered. What is the extent of your involvement with the show on and off the set?
Peter Gunz: On the set, I'm managing Cory's career along with Nick Cannon and Ed Woods, but you know, I'm more involved in Cory's personal life as his father and advising him to do things that I think is right. But behind the scenes, I really didn't play that much of a role because you would have to be a scripted actor acting, saying "Okay let me see how much footage we got. Alright, cut that and let's put this..." Nah I just did what I did and I let them handle whatever they handle because the only time you really go and sit back and look at what somebody did is if it's an act.
In TV, they put in a contract that we couldn't see what they were doing so I will be seeing a lot of this along with the public. Like, you know, I haven't seen the show either. I saw the first episode at a premiere, but other than that, I haven't seen anything so when you see it, I'll be seeing it.
BallerStatus.com: How did it all come together? Did Nick Cannon come to you or did he seek out Cory?
Peter Gunz: He called Cory first, believe it or not. But, he respectfully tried to get at me first and then he got my number from Cory, and got a hold of me and told me about what he was trying to do. Out the gate, I thought it was a good idea. I mean, who's gonna turn down an MTV reality show with Nick Cannon? So if we can't get Cory hot through the music right out the gate, we got a platform to put people right in Cory's life on TV every Thursday, you know what I mean? So I was like "Hell yeah, let's go!" You know what? You got a lot of people out there that question this move, which is surprising to me, because I don't know no artist that would turn down an MTV reality series, you know what I mean? But yet, we still get a lot of people who say, "Why would you do that?" My question to them is "Why the f*** not?"
BallerStatus.com: What are your plans/goals for the future as far as your music career, and Cory's music career are concerned?
Peter Gunz: Well just to get Cory's first album out the way on Young Money and get him launched. Me, I think my priority is probably going to be getting this record done with Tariq. I got a couple little treatments I wrote out, I got a treatment called "The Militia"; it's a treatment I wrote about Cory and his friends coming up. I had it for years and I think now with this light shining on us, I can finally shop my treatment for this movie. I'm writing a book about Cory, you know, raising him from 1 to 23, and it'll be interesting. There are a couple other things that I'm doing, you know, but for the most part, really like working with my own music and getting Cory and this Militia thing moving forward. The other thing that I'm doing is -- my book is a pet project and my treatment and the script I wrote is a pet project, but hopefully one day I can get them off the ground.
BallerStatus.com: What would you like to say to all the aspiring rap artists out there?
Peter Gunz: Don't beat down the doors of these record labels anymore. That's about to become obsolete. You have all the tools in the world to get it poppin', tools that we didn't have back in the day. You can just get online and tweet and Youtube, and all of that different stuff. Be heard, just try to be heard, and don't give up! Never give up, but at the same time, don't bet your life on a rap career, a music career... Do something else, so that in the event that it's not poppin' or it doesn't pop, you can still take care of yourself, you know?
Like a lot of kids just say "Nah, I'ma play ball and that's it; I'ma be a basketball star", or "I know I'ma be a rap artist", and then the next thing you know you looked around, you know, you 25, 26, 27, 28 years old with no college education, with nothing to show, because you been trying to get your career poppin' all of the time, so do both! But at the same time, use all the outlets out there that's right there at your computer to get yourself heard and be seen.
For more on Peter and Cory Gunz new MTV reality show, "Son of a Gun," visit MTV.com.