Image via Lefty Gunplay/Instagram

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The moon shines bright as a string of clouds drift over a quiet street in Orange County. It’s just before 3 a.m. when Lefty Gunplay bursts out of the Holiday Gentlemen’s Club with a bottle of Hennessy in hand. His energy is palpable as makes his way into the early hours of the morning, his neck adorned with gold chains. The lights outside the club shine brightly, illuminating the “Roll Bounce” tattoo above his right eye— an ode to the late Drakeo. Twenty four hours prior, he was in a marathon studio session that lasted until 5 a.m., where he recorded and finished three new songs.

“If it is to be, it’s up to me,” Lefty says, manifesting a triumphant future. Fans of the L.A. underground cannot overlook the relentless work ethic of San Gabriel Valley’s most famous gangbanger. After serving a nine-year stint for discharging a firearm at a party at the age of 18, Lefty Gunplay is determined to not waste any more time.

Before going to jail, Lefty was in high school at the height of the blog era. At the time, L.A.’s rap scene was dominated by TDE, Nipsey Hussle, and Dom Kennedy. By the time he was freed in late 2023 at the age of 27, much had changed. The Stinc Team had the city in a chokehold with their slippery cadences and unique lingo that revolutionized the sound of L.A. street rap.

During that same time, Shoreline Mafia embarked on a legendary run, producing anthems that laid the blueprint for a new era of West Coast party music. 03 Greedo took the game by storm, showcasing his unique talent on modern classics like “Trap House” and “Run For Yo Life,” putting Watts back on the map. But the rise of this prominent new West Coast renaissance soon experienced tragedy.

Drakeo was murdered, Shoreline broke up, 03 spent five years in prison, and the streets were quiet. Despite the spotlight shifting away from Southern California, the underground continued to strive. Stinc Team affiliates continue to keep Drakeo’s legacy alive, G-Perico became the first L.A. street rapper with a Gangsta Grillz tape since Nipsey, Greedo was released after serving only a quarter of his 20-year sentence, and a new wave of young rappers began to blow up out of Orange County and the San Gabriel Valley. With the SGV drawing attention to itself in 2023 off the success of Drummer Boy and Rowdy Racks, Lefty’s release couldn’t have been more timely.

In less than a year, the Baldwin Park rapper, born Franklin Holladay, has dropped two full length projects. He’s selling out shows across LA County, and just signed his first independent deal. Behind the stardom is a man dedicated to transforming his life by seizing every opportunity that comes his way. For Lefty, it’s about more than just rap; it’s about putting himself and his people in positions to succeed. He boasts, “I’m really like that, and people like me usually don’t make it, but I’m still doing it.”

In December 2023, his singles “Certified Stepper” and “Spin The Block” gained the attention of OTR Records, an L.A.-based label that’s home to Chito Rana$, TopRankGang, BeatboyTaughtMe, and Tye Beats. In February, he dropped his debut project Rookie Of The Year, featuring the standout track “Blvd Babies.” For two minutes, Lefty goes in over the “Why We Thugs” instrumental, cutting aggressively through each downstroke of the violin with a hyper focused, drunken flow, reminding everyone he is everything he claims to be. He raps, “When I was 27 I was locked up in the cage/ Politicking, it benefited myself and my gang/ I’m way too deep in this lifestyle to change.” Since its release, the song has surpassed a million streams on Spotify making it his most streamed song to date.

I sat down with Lefty at his downtown apartment to discuss his love for the city of Angels, his rapid ascent, and the psychological toll of growing up as a young man in the system. – Diego Tapia

​​(This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

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