Known on the mixtape circuit as Gravy, up-and-coming Brooklyn MC Jamal Woolard has had a rough start in the game.
At the end of April, he was shot outside of New York radio station Hot 97 while waiting to go upstairs and freestyle on the air. Several days later, Gravy heard that his music had been banned from the station.
Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex made an announcement that the station has a new policy of not playing music by any artist who is involved in an altercation at the station.
"I feel like, damn. ... Y'all stopping [airplay] on my end? After Lil' Kim, Game, 50," Gravy said last week (see "50 Drops Game From G-Unit; Shots Fired At Radio Station"). "Why me? Because I'm new? I'm just getting ready to do my thing. Y'all should have stopped [the violence] and had [surveillance] cameras [in front of the station]."
Hot 97 refused to comment on the incident.
"I think [eventually] they gonna turn around and say, 'Man, we take that back. Gravy is a good guy. He's productive,' " the MC said. "I take [the ban] as they don't know me. They're just protecting their jobs."
Gravy said he respects Hot 97 so much that immediately after the shooting, he hid the fact that he was hit and appeared on Flex's show as scheduled for a freestyle and interview.
"What am I supposed to say? 'Flex, I can't do your show, even though it's my life. I just took a shot to the ass, I can't do it.' What does that sound like?" he said. "I had to do what I had to do. People are not seeing it that way. They're like, 'He's glorifying the shot.' N---a, I'm not glorifying the shot. I love my life more than rap. I'm not trying to take a shot for rap. I don't want to take no shot, brotha. Not in my thumb, my pinkie, nothing, brotha.
"Just imagine if I died. ... Would they play me then? They would play me because they would not want the world to assassinate their character. 'Here's a young man that was trying to do right and he got killed up there, and y'all not playing him?' "
It's not like Gravy was one of the most played artists on Hot 97 before the ban. He barely received any spins up to that point. However, the portly rapper said now was supposed to be his time. After years of building his buzz through mixtapes (he's released several with DJ Cutmaster C and has featured such guest stars as Diddy, Lil Wayne and the LOX) and street DVDs, his label, Warner Music, was finally ready to start focusing on him and his album, due in late August/ early September.
"God Willing — that's the name of the album," Gravy said. "I got a Jeezy record, a couple of treats. I don't want to put all the guests out there like that. But I got Mase, Diddy, I got some joints. What's so crazy, as I listen to the album, I predicted I was gonna get shot from all the hate I get on the streets."
Regardless of what happens in Gravy's rap career, he's already thinking of a second hustle: acting. If he gets his way, he'll be starring as the Notorious B.I.G. in an upcoming biopic.
"Look at me, let's be honest here," said Gravy, whose dark skin complexion and body build resembles the tall but husky Christopher Wallace. "I don't sound nothing like him, but people stop and look and be like, 'Look at his stomach! Look at this n---a. Damn!"
Gravy — who auditioned for the lead in "Fat Albert" a few years ago ("I thought it was going to be a real Fat Albert," he said. "Not comical. Real kids in the 'hood, in the junkyard in Brownsville") — said he's talked to the Wallace family and is a virtual lock for the role. A rep for Biggie's mom, Voletta Wallace, said although Gravy is cool with Big's camp, they have no idea who will play the part; they haven't even auditioned for the movie yet.
While Gravy's profile has risen in the past month due to his shooting, he insists the incident was not an elaborate publicity stunt. He said he's not going to rap about it or travel with security guards.
"I heard shots, I fell on the floor," he said. "I thought I tripped. I was like, 'How the hell [did] I trip?' I got hit, that's how I fell. [The bullet] spun me around. My adrenaline was pumping. After all that, I went to the doctors, and they said the bullet hit [me] so hard, it went straight through the back of my ass, out my thigh. ... Somebody was really trying to put a dent in me."
Gravy's shooting remains under investigation, and no suspects have been named.