Nobody will ever be able to say they’ve experienced all there is to life. However, from the outside looking in, one might look to Gucci Mane as someone who has seemingly experienced much of what life has to offer – the good, the bad, and the ugly. He’s helped pioneer trap music from the outskirts of mainstream reach to the Billboard charts, released dozens of heralded mixtapes and albums, dealt with a string of incarcerations and a dark drug addiction and met the love of his life.
But before the wedding bells and standing tall before his fans as the mature elder statesman of trap we never could have imagined, Gucci would serve a three year stint in an Indiana federal penitentiary for federal drug and gun charges. For the now 37-year-old Atlanta-based rapper, this particular isolation from family, friends, fans, and his career weighed heavy and marked a pivotal moment in his life. So much so that by the time he was a free man, we were introduced to a totally new Gucci Mane (hence the clone jokes). Cleaning up his act, mentally and physically, it was a career overhaul as he reinvented his image and refocused on his passion for music in a new way that would allow him to live and work as he truly wanted to.
The past 17 months have been a whirlwind for Gucci Mane. He’s released a telling autobiography, got a clothing line on the way, got his own signature Guwop Reebok, proposed to Keyshia Ka’oir (they’re getting married on October 17, 2017, because duh); and began writing a screenplay with the push of Spring Breakers-director Harmony Korine. And as one of the more popular rappers of the past decade, Gucci Mane’s music career is flourishing like never before as he earned his first ever No. 1 on the sales-based Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart with his post-prison, ninth studio album Everybody Looking. Not to mention, he’s been featured on a handful of charting singles on the Hot 100, from Rae Sremmurd’s smash hit “Black Beatles” (his first number-one single as a featured artist) to Selena Gomez’s “Fetish” and Fifth Harmony’s “Down.”
Since his unexpected, but deserving, commercial high point, Gucci continued to feed his ever-growing fanbase with a bevy of solo and collaborative mixtapes and two albums: Woptober, Free Bricks 2, The Return of East Atlanta Santa, and Droptopwop. With a wicked and celebrated work ethic, comes much responsibility, and of course, Gucci stepped up to the plate and delivered.
Upholding his winning streak, Gucci has released the highly-anticipated Mr. Davis, his eleventh studio album, after pushing the date back by an entire month. Unlike his stacked discography, the title alone is leaner than ever and has a sobering aura of maturity that breathes easier than his latest offerings. After living his life out in the media, being scrutinized for his mistakes and ultimately learning from them, and going on to embark on a successful career resurgence, Gucci turns to making nothing less than honest art.
On the album’s Murda Beatz-produced opener, “Work in Progress,” Gucci rattles off a list of vile things he’s endured throughout his 37 years of life: sleeping on dirt floors, facing eviction notices, sitting in a cold jail cell. “Sometimes I think about my past, it make me start tripping / I was gifted with a talent that was god-given / But I was so hard-headed I would not listen.” In the same breath, he lifts his Trap God guise and unveils a stunning vulnerability: “How you gon’ judge me? You don’t know what I been through / I think these killers need a hug, I need a hug too.”
Seemingly, Gucci’s newly adopted brand of maturation has aided his domination of rap’s mainstream, but he doesn’t leave his day one fans in the dark. Across the board, Mr. Davis achieves a careful balance of his diverse musical capabilities: The Offset-less Migos-featured “I Get the Bag” is a laidback yet flamboyant victory lap as the threesome trade stories about their expensive lifestyles featuring a plethora of women, wealth, and drugs, and “We Ride,” assisted by R&B chanteuse Monica, is a blissful take on the enduring beauty of his relationship with his fiancé Keyshia Ka’oir.
Gucci Mane used to rap about partying and excessive drug use and distribution. Mr. Davis is full of sophisticated (at times still ratchet) swagger: “Old Gucci Mane was addicted to dranking / New Gucci Mane, I’m addicted to Franklins / No, we not the same, I’m evolving.” Throughout the album, Gucci doesn’t shy away from addressing themes that are prevalent in his life. There’s his unmatched hustle (“Members Only”), his affinity for securing the bag at all costs (“Money Piling”), and reveling in his post-prison transformation (“Changed”). But that doesn’t mean he’s totally ditched the Trap God repertoire that’s led his ascent. In particular, “Make Love,” featuring Nicki Minaj, is a nostalgic moment reminiscent of 2010’s “Making Love to the Money” and Gucci’s taste for exuberance. The twinkling, piano-laced beat melts into a tough bassline as he serenades piles of cash with an unassuming loverman voice on the melodic hook.
Mr. Davis’ most powerful moments are split between “Lil Story” and “Tone it Down.” While the ScHoolboy Q-assisted “Lil Story” is a deep cut that tips its hat to the classic era of the Gucci Mane who made his claim to fame from his hankering for gloriously gutter and grimy narratives, “Tone it Down” has an immediate commercial appeal but also finds Gucci commanding the track with a barrage of bars with absolute precision alongside Chris Brown.
It’s safe to say, Gucci Mane has found his sweet spot.
For more of our reviews, take a look at our thoughts on the new solo album from Macklemore here.
- Writer: Ashley Monaé