Hip-Hop and professional wrestling have many parallels.
They are both filled with characters with larger-than-life personas that feed off the energy of their audiences and have critics who constantly question their authenticity. They also contain participants who tend to dabble in both.
From John Cena releasing a rap album to Wale hosting his yearly Wrestlemania weekend bash, Walemania, rap and wrestling seem to be kindred spirits. And Austin Gunn hopes to be the embodiment of said spirits.
Austin Gunn wrestles for All Elite Wrestling (AEW), one of the biggest wrestling promotions in the world and a direct competitor to the sports entertainment juggernaut World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). He was trained by his father, WWE Hall of Famer and AEW talent coach Billy Gunn, with whom he frequently tags. Austin has been blessed with his father's athletic talents and charisma, but his most surprising gift is his ability to rap.
Back on December 16, Austin released a video to his freestyle "Son of a Gunn" on his Twitter account. Fans and colleagues were taken aback by his ability to flow. Austin's delivery was one of a pro, not a novice. His "hidden talent" became one of the most talked-about topics in professional wrestling.
We sat down with Austin to chat about his love for armbars and rap bars.
[Son of a Gunn Freestyle] OUT NOW ‼️ “Thank you everyone 🤍” - AG https://t.co/tS2b9NxmVv— Austin Gunn (@Austin Gunn) 1608160263.0
PopDust's Deascent: When did you get into Hip-Hop music?
Austin Gunn: I didn't fall in love with Hip-Hop until I started freestyling. I loved Drake growing up, and I would listen to almost everything. But in terms of actually appreciating Hip-Hop, it didn't start until I wanted to hear my own voice over beats, and the vast artists there were to choose from [were] like J Cole, Eminem, PartyNextDoor, The Weeknd, Nas, Biggie, and Kanye West. It all depended on your mood and how you were feeling that day. Once I heard the different approaches they all had, but could sometimes tell the same message, that's when I was hooked.
When did you actually start to write and record music?
I was at my friend's house in high school hanging out. 50 Cent came on the radio, and [my friend] wanted to see if we could both have a rap battle. He ended up not being very good at staying in rhythm, but immediately I was off to the races.
I went home that night and listened to 95.3 the whole ride home to see if I could freestyle on every single beat and challenge myself. It became a sense of therapy for me. I'm not good at talking about my feelings, so freestyling gave me an alternative to do in the car wherever I would go. I still do it to this day.
Your dad doesn't come across as a "rap guy." How does he feel about you rapping?
Funny enough, I've changed my dad's perspective on a lot of music. His favorite artist is Post Malone. He knows every single word to every album he's put out. I've also introduced him to Starboy by The Weeknd and he loves that album.
Tory Lanez, Always Never, and some other melodic types of Hip-Hop are his go-to. When it came to my music, he's always supported it. He knows what it means to me and has always been my hype man, whether it's in the ring or behind a microphone.
Most of the feedback online from your freestyle has been positive. What was your reaction when you saw that people thought it was good?
I never really did it for people's approval. It's always been this secret talent I've had and something I hold close to my heart. Up until the point I actually released an official video, my friends always knew I loved to freestyle (at parties, by myself, etc.)
Bless their souls, because I know I can get annoyed sometimes when all I wanna do is stay in the house and go through beats for hours on end. Thankfully my roommate (Saiflove) is an artist as well, so he's the one I spend most of my time recording and creating with (we have a collab EP coming in February).
The feedback was beyond overwhelming though. Most wrestling fans want to stir up a conversation; sometimes that can be very negative. I was surprised at how well [the video] was received across all platforms (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) when I released it. It's great to see all the positive feedback and only makes me wanna keep going. I was prepared going into it, whether the feedback was negative or positive, that I would continue to push myself and put my "art" out there into the world. All that matters to me, is if it makes one person happy, then I'm happy.
You seem just as committed to music as you are to wrestling. How do you find the balance between the two?
As I said, it's a sense of therapy for me. I make time for my music on the weekends, in my long car rides to Jacksonville, and whenever I have free time at home. My mind races 24 hours a day on what my next approach will be when it comes to music.
Thankfully, I have my "notes" in my phone close to me at all times. So, no matter where I am, what I'm doing, or who I'm around, I can always put an idea in my notes and move on with my day and come back to it later. My notes are filled to the brim with lyrics, song ideas, intro ideas, etc.
Would you ever incorporate rapping into your gimmick, or do you plan on keeping them separate?
I've always wanted to keep them separate. I never pictured myself being the "rapping wrestler" because I take music very seriously and want to tell stories within my music and my projects. For example, my wrestling character is very different from what you see when it comes to my music. In the ring, I like to have fun and be goofy with my dad. Whereas in music, I like to set the tone and dial it down. I am a huge fan of OVO and the whole vision that they portray (dark/moody/bad a** feeling to it). I just...think it would clash if I was very goofy in my raps because they come from a very different part of my life, and I approach [them] very differently.
Who are some of your musical influences when it comes to Hip-Hop?
My music influences are Drake. Everyone told me growing up I sound like "old mixtape Drake." I've always appreciated his style and the way he approaches everything in music. I'm a huge fan of other artists as well — Always Never, The Weeknd, Tory Lanez, PartyNextDoor, DVSN, Roy Woods. I'm a big fan of the way OVO and XO share their vision for music. Their style is right up my alley and something I wanna portray, but in my own way.
What would be your dream collaboration?
"Drake (feat. Austin Gunn) / The Weeknd (feat. Austin Gunn)." I think those have a nice ring to it and would be a dream to actually happen. I'm trying to speak (or type) it into existence right now.
We've seen people like John Cena, R Truth, Lio Rush, and others who rap and wrestle. Who do you think is the best, and would you ever want to work with them?
I've seen people in wrestling try to convert over to the music scene my entire life. The thing about music is that it's subjective. There are a lot of people that enjoy certain types of music all over the world that I don't particularly like, or I'm [not] a fan of... I just want to create my own vision, release my music, and if people like it, then that's a win for me.
Music is a way for people to express themselves. I would hate for an artist not to release music because they don't think they're the best. At the end of the day, there's probably a fan you don't know about that lives and breathes your music. So, if you're reading this: KEEP GOING and do it FOR YOU.
What wrestler do you think would be a great rapper and what rapper do you think would be a great wrestler?
That's a hard one. I think Travis Scott has so much energy that it would be extremely entertaining to see him in a ring. People would feed off his energy alone and get behind him. A wrestler that I think would be a great rapper is Austin Gunn (...I had to do it!).
You can catch Austin on AEW Dark.
AEW Dynamite airs every Wednesday at 8 PM on TNT.
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