GREATEST / GUNNA
From the importance of fresh socks to the unsolicited karma of philanthropy, the platinum-selling rapper catches up with gallerist Easy Otabor.
Success can be quantified in different units of measurement. There’s self-fulfillment, a feeling of accomplishment untethered from monetary value. There’s social success, a sense of achievement tied to emotions of belonging and love. There’s financial success, wealth as a signifier of spending power. And then there’s Gunna.
Born Sergio Giavanni Kitchens, Gunna has consistently and methodically pushed the boundaries of success since he released his debut mixtape, Drip Season, in 2016 on Young Thug’s YSL Records. In the years since, the Atlanta rapper has dropped three studio albums, five mixtapes and countless singles, all while bending culture to his will through chart-topping hits and infectious hooks-turned-memes. His personal style has developed a gravitational pull of its own, becoming something of a muse to the prestigious houses of Europe.
But where others experience loneliness at the top, Gunna’s success is shared with the community that recognized his talents early on—Young Thug, Lil Baby and the wider YSL family—making his success all the sweeter. It’s a story Easy Otabor knows well.
Easy helped create the template for the curated mix of streetwear and luxury that has defined fashion for more than a decade. As his peers’ stars grew brighter, so did his own. Today, Easy’s influence extends beyond retail, manifesting itself in the form of Anthony Gallery, a Chicago gallery focused on contemporary artists.
The two first connected in the studio years before the “Pushin P” artist became a household name. Easy knew it was only a matter of time. In conversation with the Chicago gallerist, Gunna opens up about creative cross-pollination, NFTs and the importance of fresh socks.
This feature originally appeared in GREATEST ISSUE 06. Discover the full magazine at select stockists.
I'm here in Geneva right now.
You out there pushing P?
Always. I know you are too. I also know we both came up collaborating. Tell me about your collaboration journey. How did working with people like Young Thug and Future shape your career?
They’re from Atlanta where I'm from. You could hear about the things Thug and [Rex] Kudo and them was doing in the city. Like the Super Slimey album that they did, I was around then [but] I still felt like I was on the outside looking in. Being around that though, I was learning and seeing how a collab works between two major artists.
With those two, there was no ego involved. It was just two great artists working well together. It was good for the culture to see those two just do their thing. You being right in the middle, that's amazing.
I learned by watching. I was there for it.
Being around you and Thug throughout the years, I’ve seen how you got genuine love for each other. Thug really wants you to be the best, and you really want what's best for Thug. It's not a transactional thing. When I see interviews, it's always bigging each other up like, “Hey man, how can I help?” Can you expand on that relationship?
As far as my deal and how it's structured, I wouldn't have it no other way because I do what I want. I got full control of my creative. I got 100% backage with Thug and 300 [Entertainment]. If it was something that I was just doing myself and he didn't make a dollar off of it, he still supported.
With YSL, me and Thug, we trying to push each other. At first, we did it just to show it. But now we do it to show others like, “Yeah bro, this is the right way to do it.” Lock in with your family, lock in with your brothers and support one another. Every artist Thug signed, I posted their music as if they was my artist, before we even got more locked in on the business level.
Let’s get into style. What is it about fashion that excites you? How would you describe your style?
My style is one of a kind. Everything just look good. [What I put on], that’s how my day going to be. That's how I live through clothes. I always loved fashion. Fashion is a part of me. I'm dressing right now as we speak. It matters, all the way down to my cologne.
Socks? All that?
Socks for sure. I even got flip-flops. The Bottega slippers, man; the ones with the fur all over them.
I'm with that. Ready to get cozy just in case.
You got to be ready for that. When I get to the studio, I'm [putting on] flip-flops as soon as I get in. I might have a nice young lady with me, so I want to make sure my socks and everything are matching.
I'm glad you said that, man. A lot of people out here don't know how important it is to have fresh socks. [Laughs]
You got to have fresh boxers. But socks? I change my socks twice, three times a day. [Laughs]
You feel me? It's a necessity and it's great hygiene. Women [are] going to love you. Every time she comes around, you smell excellent.
How would you say your style has evolved over the years? Do you have any outfit regrets?
Nah. I've had outfits where I’m like, “Damn, I could have did these pants instead or these shoes.” But I wasn't down about it. I was just like, “Next time I'm going to kill ‘em.”
How did growing up in Atlanta influence your style?
Atlanta most definitely [helped shape] my style because we talk about the clothes and new fashion we going to be about. That's what Atlanta brings.
I remember Virgil’s [posthumous] Louis Vuitton show in Miami with Metro [Boomin] and 21 [Savage]; it was a great moment, just seeing how fresh all y'all was.
And how Virgil brought these people together. We was there for one person only.
[Your single] “Pushin P” transcended music and went viral. Why do you think it became such a big cultural moment?
I actually been pushing P before the song came out, really keeping it playa, doing everything playa. That's what P was when it started. Then as I did it more and more, it became a “push” thing, because others started doing it. Me and my homies started like, “Oh no, we ain't just keeping it P, we pushing it.” We stand on it. We pushing others to do it. That's why I think it got big, because we made it an everybody thing. It wasn't like you had to be a certain type of person or you weren't P.
You actually got to go out your way not to be P. That's why I enjoy the phrase a lot. Everybody should keep it player, keep it right. Do right by your people. It embodies a lot of different meanings, and they're all positive. They all empower people.
We want everybody to push P. We don't want to be the only Ps, we want the world to be Ps and we want to feel like we're part of something. That's what P is. I spoke up for people that didn't think they could speak.
You picked up a Bored Ape Yacht Club [NFT] at the end of 2021. What fascinated you about that juncture of technology and culture? Any plan to bring NFT technology to what you're doing with your work?
Because the NFT world is new, a lot of people know nothing [about it]. It's still fresh to me because there's so much to do in the metaverse. I got the Bored Ape because I didn't want to be left out even though—I'm going to be honest—I didn't know exactly what it was at first. I understand it better now and, in so many words, it's digital art and a digital platform for technology. So now I own a few, but some of them was gifted. I got a Doodle too.
Doodle's fire. I got a Doodle too.
It was worth like five grand, now it's worth about 20 to 30 grand. That's why I say it's digital art, because it's like the art you was showing me.
You mean when we went to the Broad Museum [in LA].
That's what it made me feel like when I started going on OpenSea. Some art you're going to know, and a lot of it you're not going to know, but they’re all worth something.
It's more accessible too. It's easier to see what you like. You can hop on your laptop or phone, and it’s right there in front of you. What about sharing your vision with the world? What does your vision look like on the global stage? I saw you did the Daniel Arsham cover [for Drip Season 4]. That was the perfect collaboration.
It looks like me collaborating with artists I like and bringing my world into their world. That's going to show how creative I am and how artistic I am on other levels. They don't have to just be a painter. This could be an artist who does yard work or architecture. I bring my work to them, and we build a stage together. Anything like that.
Do you think you’ll ever feel like you’ve achieved everything you set out to?
I'm going to reach goals that I wanted, and then I'm going to set new goals and reach those. After that, I'm going to set new goals and reach those. I'm thankful for everything, but I always leave space to grow. I don't want to shoot all the way to the top tomorrow. Let me glide. Let me just have longevity in it.
Take those steps slowly and learn all those lessons, so when you do get to the top, you know how to handle yourself.
I used to think I wanted a million dollars and that when I got a million, I would be straight. But no, it wasn't the case. It's just setting new goals. Even after you reach your goals, set new ones.
I feel like a lot of people don't understand that, where it's like, you could be happy, you could be grateful for everything you have, but you can always keep working and bettering yourself and other people's situations.
People confuse the two and think you're not satisfied, when it's like, “No, I'm satisfied. I just want more.” I want more for the generation after me. I want generational wealth. I want my kids to have money. I want their kids to have money and an opportunity—the opportunity to make whatever they want to make out of life.
100%. Just giving our people those tools where they have choices. A lot of times coming up from where we come from, we don't have a choice.
I'm happy I didn't have a choice because I made one.
You opened up a free grocery store with your former middle school, Ronald E. McNair, in early 2022. Why'd you feel the need to give back? Do you have other plans to use your platform to promote more social progress?
I feel like it's a necessity to give back when you're in a situation to. When you're blessed enough to give back, do something for others. That's how my mom raised me. Look out for people when you can. I didn't know how big it would be and how big of a blessing it was when I did it, but it felt so good. I encourage everybody to give back. It's a good feeling. It could be the smallest thing from you, but it’ll be the biggest to them. God done blessed me back 30 times after that, and I wasn't looking for nothing back.
That's when it's most sincere, when you do it just to do it. Be the person that you wanted to be when you were growing up, which I feel you're doing right now with your school. That would have been amazing if you had that growing up, right?
It would have just shown me like, “Okay, that's what I'm going to do when I get on.” When you do things like this, God blesses you in a way that money doesn’t. There's no amount of money for the blessings that I done got from God for doing good things.
Thank you for everything and your time today, man. We're going to close it out with one more, G. Very simple: When do you feel your greatest?
When I'm in that studio, bro. When I'm in my bag, I can't be stopped.