Streaming Consciously: Does Gucci Mane Finally Get It Or Do I Finally Get Gucci Mane?
The answer to this “chicken or the egg” question?
I can’t call it.
Realistically it’s probably a little of Column A and a little of Column B.
But in The Wudder’s never-ending quest to keep it 100, all the way funky and/or realer than Real Deal Holyfield let me be the first to admit:
I have never fully grasped the whole Gucci Mane thing.
Not his extensive album catalog, nor the slew of mixtapes, not the headline-grabbing arrests, very public mall or social-media meltdowns and not the countless other displays of self-sabotaging public spectacle or the annoyingly ironic hipster-love Gucci got that felt oddly patronizing if not low-key racist to this author.
Keep in mind I say this not as any kind of value or moral judgment on the Mane in question.
You are after all reading the words of a man whose been on a longtime mission preaching the gospel of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s oft-misunderstood artistic genius for years.
So I’m not sure what to say is the primary reason that have made me even now more likely to bump “Gucci Time” than Gucci Mane.
Perhaps it was indeed about that time, since Gucci’s initial meteoric rise arrived during a time (2005 to 2010) The Wudder feels was easily the worst five-year stretch in the history of the genre so far.
Not saying Gucci had something to do with that but perhaps some level of subconscious guilt-by-association came into play.
Maybe it was the impossibly slow-as-molasses-flow, like Young Jeezy on lean spun by DJ Screw.
Possibly the public fascination or fetishizing of Gucci’s very real and documented battles with drug abuse as well as mental illness, two issues very near and dear to my heart based on the struggles I’ve seen in my own life with many close family members and friends.
It could even be because my past 13 years have been spent in Los Angeles and I could never fully appreciate how the music industry, post-downloading-dissolution, has continued to focus its promotional efforts during this decade by mining a pool of ‘talent’ in Atlanta far too often been filled with a bunch of “Gucci Clones”.
But never mind all those things right now.
And much like it is for the Gucci Clones, let’s hope that means it’s over for the Gucci headlines, the untreated bipolar disorder, the self-medication via codeine or cocaine, the celebrations of a man called Mane seemingly struggling with the ability to stop the incessant voices of both his external surroundings and the internal functionality in his brain.
Because truth be told, while I never disliked the Gucci we have heard before over his first 8 albums along with countless mixtapes, I have in just the three days since the official release of his 9th album Everybody Looking grown to really love the Gucci that we arrive at here in July 2016.
This is the kind of guy I can get behind.
This is the sound of a dude who when it all falls apart can pick up the pieces.
This is Gucci Mane, sober, focused, older and wiser.
Normally the above description is a death knell for certain artists but if we’re again being real, even the most ardent Gucci Mane supporters would probably concede that a bit of maturity and perspective would suit Gucci just fine.
And having shaved countless extra pounds off the former Gucci Frame, he now looks more likely to give it a run in a full-court game then fall asleep filming a sex scene.
Sleep being the cousin of death, this recently free and also free of intoxicants Gucci now eschews it altogether, evident from the first bars that welcome us to this record:
“I can’t even sleep I got so much to say…….F*ck the Feds, F*ck the Police, F*ck the DEA”
Alright, so maturity is a relative term but this is after all rap music and Gucci Mane we’re talking about here.
And just the inflection in his voice while delivering the truly comedic and massive understatement “I got the best intentions but I make rash decisions” makes you wanna salute his hard-earned self-awareness and root for the man the State knows as Radric Davis.
It also helps that the soundscape on which we hear Gucci Mane rhyme over in his first official album of the decade are crafted by a couple talented longtime collaborators, Atlanta superproducer MikeWillMadeIt (who steers here in a fashion reminiscent of his stellar work on Rae Sremmurd’s 2015 Sremm Life) and Oakland CA DJ/Producer Zaytoven.
Evolving as an artist as well as a man are both easier to sell when the beats bang.
And these, for the most part, do indeed slap as E-40 might say.
Perhaps none harder than on the MikeWillMadeIt-produced “P---- Print” (no that does not stand for paint, pixie or putty) featuring Kanye West.
Kanye continues what has been a fairly amazing 2016 for a guy now actually 13 years into his career as a rapper (let alone 20+ as a producer) by adapting to his sonic surroundings here almost as effortlessly as he did earlier this month on Schoolboy Q’s album (perhaps just a fraction less memorably).
Yet Gucci’s motivations for tapping Ye for this feature favor might be slightly different than some of his peers.
Sayeth Gucci on said track: “I only feature Kanye ‘cause we’re both some f*cking narcissists”.
Fair enough, Gooch.
The only other two features are also the current A-List variety, Drake and Young Thug.
In those two cases, I doubt we will be hearing either of those two on the two biggest rap albums of the summer in their own fourteenth seasons on the mic.
Full disclosure, I actually hope we won't.
And keep in mind none of what you just read above makes this album anywhere near perfect.
Nor will it likely stand much chance in making The Wudder’s year-end short list for best albums (rap or otherwise).
Because even while clocking in at 52 minutes of run time (which includes the Southside-behind-the-boards bonus cut “Multi Millionaire Laflare”)?
It still feels too long and despite the thunderous beginning can’t maintain the energy Gucci now has ready to burn all the way through the album’s saggy second half.
But this record does signify that Gucci and I both still have room to grow, so we might as well try to do so together from here.
3 ½ outta 5 O’Doul’s
No Sleep (Intro)