THE GROWTH OF GUCCI MANE
Written by Clarissa Brooks
Growing up hip-hop was the radio. Hip Hop was whatever my older cousins deemed cool. Cool, in my upbringing, meant all Dirty South hip hop from Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane, to T-Pain, Yo Gotti and Jeezy. I remember being 13 or 14 years old and hearing Lemonade by Gucci Mane for the first time; it was one of the first music videos that was not a B2K medley that I wanted to watch on a loop nonstop.
Since 2009, Gucci Mane and myself have undergone very drastic transformations. Most recently Gucci was released from his three-year sentence at an Indiana federal prison on May 26th, 2016. Since the one year mark of his freedom, Gucci has put out nonstop music, dropped two albums and his latest release, DropTopWop, a mixtape is a collaboration with one of the most well-known producers of the moment, MetroBoomin. I call 2017 Gucci’s year of redemption. 2016 to 2017 has brought not only cultural capital back to Gucci, but also an 80lb weight loss, a fiancee, and an outlook on life that is heavily reflected in his DropTopWop mixtape. The new Gucci Mane we all know and love is 4 years sober and putting out music that is proving he can keep up with, and even outrun the new kids.
MetroBoomin and Gucci Mane met when Metro was a freshman at Morehouse College and had already made a name for himself as a producer, most notably from his work on Karate Chop by Future. Their work on World War 3: Molly was met with praise, but was one of the last times the duo would work together before Gucci was imprisoned. When Gucci went to jail in 2013, it delayed their ability to work together but got right back to it in 2016 when Gucci was released. The release of DropTopWop is a collaboration of Metro & Gucci that has been heavily anticipated and apparently took only two days to record. This album/mixtape/project/whatever you want to call it is a reintroduction into the duo's ingenuity and an introduction to a Gucci that is comfortable mixing up his flow and playing with beats I would never expect him to be on.
DropTopWop is different than past projects from the East Atlanta Santa, because it’s more controlled. The beauty of Gucci Mane is that he comes from a time when you had to keep putting out music in order to stay relevant; a time when if you didn’t have a mixtape dropping every month folks could forget about you. Many could say that that mindset has been a hindrance to Gucci since his release, because he has put out so much music it’s hard to find a project to sit with and enjoy. DropTopWop is a full circle moment, and although it was made in two days, the lyrics and quality of the music are much more strategic than past projects. Songs such as ‘Hurt a Nigga Feelings” Gucci seems to be celebrating his growth as an artist and his newfound pace in the industry:
They just tryin' to keep up with the kid and ain't been out a year/ Oh, you thought you were on to somethin' man you boys ain't even real/ Metro why you wanna do this tape man you know that they gon' hate/ Don't compare them lil' boys to me, twenty million out the gate/
While songs such as Hurt a Nigga Feelings, Helpless, Met Gala and Finesse The Plug are standout records, they speak to new beats that the old Gucci would never hop on, and speak to how Gucci still has the juice to put on records without heavy features and while still remaining relevant to the culture.
On Both Eyes Closed we get a drowsier, trap-heavy Gucci that sticks to boasting of his past conquests, reminding listeners how he has in fact put on every rapper you listen to today. Gucci is a rapper but should be best known as one of the best A&R's of the south. Gucci has given cosigns to folks we all know, from Young Thug, Migos, and Rich Homie Quan, to Future and Nicki Minaj.
His relationship with most of those artists is still strong, leading him to feature most of these folks on his latest projects. His reunion with Nicki Minaj on his recent single Make Love was the most surprising as they previously had standing beef. Nicki Minaj moved to Atlanta early in her career to be managed by Ms.Deb, mother of Waka Flocka Flame, and Nicki frequently worked with Guwop in the studio leading to 7 songs together and plenty of public interaction, most well known was the hit track “Slumber Party.”. Gucci even discussed the betrayal of not being given the proper homage from Nicki Minaj when she officially signed to Young Money in 2009, and Nicki later discussed how she wasn't officially signed to Young Money while she was in Atlanta. Nicki makes it clear she saw Gucci and Lil Wayne as mentors.
So what does all of this mean for 2017 Guwop? It means the mean-spirited and at times homicidal Gucci of the past is gone and we have to make way for a Gucci that has perfect teeth, is ready to drop bars over any record, and will most likely be controlling the culture of Atlanta hip hop even if we don't realize it.
DropTopWop is the concise, well versed, cocky and in love Gucci we didn’t know we were ready for. Redemption doesn't happen often in the hip-hop industry and the rap game isn’t a gracious sport; it often leaves many forgotten and left in the dust. Gucci came out of jail May 26th, 2016 ready to grow and in his own words “out hustle everybody in the game.” I think he’s doing that perfectly.