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Rapper Kevin Gates rises at 2 a.m. for weight coaching, core work, calisthenics—push ups, pull ups, dips—and meditation. His new-found self-discipline consists of all the pieces from yoga—which he loves and considers “a journey,” and which his cellmate helped provoke, regardless of Gates’ protests that yoga was for ladies—to a fruit-filled diet.

Some fruit, like limes, Gates eats for well being causes; limes with water assist Gates sleep at night time and curb his urge for food within the morning. Then there are mangoes, which Gates makes use of for, nicely, different causes. Rummaging by his fridge, Gates pulls out the fruit, after which, fully unprompted, all of a sudden will get professorial. “I don’t need to get all sexually express,” he begins, “however with the mangoes … I follow consuming pussy. What you need to do is see in case you can pull the microfibers out with simply your enamel. You wanna tease. And in case you can ‘tease a peach,’ you may give a lady pleasure.”

As unusual because the Name-Me-By-Your-Identify second would possibly seem, Gates’ fruit fixation displays an virtually absurd degree of openness, and Gates stays fairly snug speaking about not solely his physique, but additionally his private anxieties.

It is why Gates wakes up so dang early. It is why, after exercises, Gates leaves his gated house in Calabasas, tucked throughout the Santa Monica Mountains, and heads for “magic mountain” to finish a 10-minute hike that helps clear his head and train his soul. On the prime, he likes to flex, pound his chest, and shout self-talk: “I’m the king of the world!”

It’s extra in regards to the constructing of confidence, although, than the consequence of vanity. Gates’ important success has come solely lately. After a sequence of mixtapes, Gates launched his first studio album, Islah (“to make higher,” in Arabic, additionally the title of his daughter), in 2016. Even with out a slew of big-name featured vocalists, Islah reached Quantity Two on the Billboard Scorching 100, and Gates was off to the races. However Gates was removed from full.

“For the longest time, I’ve at all times stood in my very own method, whether or not due to my insecurities or my being egocentric and at all times wanting issues to go my method,” Gates says, reflecting on a considerably tumultuous decade. Final 12 months, Gates completed a 9 month jail sentence on a gun possession cost. In a YouTube interview, Gates mentioned the cost was false, however {that a} responsible plea would assist him keep away from potential years of authorized battles. So he plead. Nonetheless, Gates holds himself accountable for the life that had lead him there. “Loads of occasions in life, we’re our personal challenges,” he says. “We stand in our personal method.”

His current single “Push It” is an articulation of this battle, a journey by the damage to a greater model of himself. “My greatest downside in life was overcoming myself,” he says, throughout the monitor’s opening. “As soon as I defeated myself, the one factor left was peace.” The music is thematically acquainted but additionally takes inspiration from a creed much less widespread to the style—a form of gangster rap propped up with robust pillars of Islamic religion: the disciplined battle towards self-betterment.

That battle and alter has additionally come about bodily. Since 2015, Gates has turn out to be extra disciplined along with his diet, slimming all the way down to a extra muscled body—a choice that may appear, not less than religiously, much less modest, however nonetheless displays one type of Gates’ self-betterment: physique. “I needed extra for myself,” he says. “I received uninterested in being a fats man. I received uninterested in each time any person took they’re shirt off, I used to be making excuses for why I didn’t assume it was cool to take your shirt off. I feel it’s fly.”

Gates says he now solely eats one meal a day, although not for intermittent fasting causes; he says the only meal stems from his follow of Islam. That one meal could also be a steak and a veggie bowl. (For added protein and satiety, Gates takes BeLean protein earlier than exercises.) Gates says his quick helps in artistic methods. “As a result of I’m an artist, I can’t go into the studio on a full abdomen,” he says. “I wish to be hungry. I just like the music to mirror my starvation.”

Some might fear that the starvation originates with Gates’ very actual physique dysmorphia, which he admits has affected him.

On our journey up the mountain that day, Gates pauses for a extra severe reflection on the situation. “The gorgeous factor about having physique dysmorphia is you could by no means see your self as excellent. I don’t permit myself to get depressed about that. I simply work onerous.”

Then, looking over the San Fernando Valley, Gates shouts: “I’m Muhammad Ali!”