It's an unprecedented time in American history. Yes, readers, we are charging headlong into a new frontier. I'm not talking about the presidential election or what lies ahead with all that mess. I'm talking about rap. And no, I'm not talking about Drake claiming his throne with Views or Kanye West asserting his insanity with The Life of Pablo. I'm talking about how Gucci Mane went from an incarcerated Internet meme to one of the most engaging and interesting rappers in the game today.
Let's talk about the old Gucci for a moment; Gucci has never quite been what people made him out to be. He was always a decent rapper and much of his music, from his production to his flow, has bled into the mainstream. These days old Gucci sounds just as fresh as ever.
But at the time Gucci wasn't the norm. His slurred speech, stupid punch lines and seeming inability to form a coherent sentence, which was the result of the excessive drug use that punctuated his every move, made him seem like the embodiment of everything old-school heads hate about modern mainstream hip-hop. For people who hated Lil Wayne, Gucci was an example of how it could get worse.
His behavior outside the studio didn't help any either. He engaged in constant feuds with former friends, got arrested numerous times, and tattooed a fucking ice cream cone on his face. Sure, he earned some street cred with the trapping, but he ultimately made himself look like a running joke. It got to the point that one Gucci meme claimed a judge asked if he was guilty, Gucci replied “bitch, I might be,” and people believed it! Gucci's behavior was so ludicrous that it was actually believable that he would reply in court with his own song lyrics. That was just Gucci being Gucci.
Flash forward to 2016 and Gucci, fresh out of jail, has immediately started making a mark. “First Day Out Tha Feds” literally dropped the day after Gucci was released, and it caught fire. More important, Gucci's new, refined style of speaking and his slimmed-down, healthy appearance defied everyone's expectations. This was not the Gucci we knew.
People were so shocked by the new Gucci that he started getting accused of being a clone by conspiracy theorists. There was just no way the Gucci Mane we knew could ever be more than the illiterate, blitzed-out-of-his-skull, trapping, lovable oaf we all imagined him to be.
Of course, Gucci was never the meme. The world at large has a way of projecting our perceptions onto people and deciding their personas for them. I'm sure Kanye West doesn't sit down to dinner with his family and start spouting off the kinds of things memes ascribe to him. It's a public persona for a reason.
Gucci has since done a number of interviews in which he's expounded on the dramatic changes in his life. Prison will change anyone, and Gucci Mane is no exception. Have you ever really sat down to think about prison? It sucks. But completely separated from the drugs that fueled him, and instead thrust into an environment where the only things to do are work out and read books, Gucci changed. Clear-headed for the first time in years, Gucci Mane is on fire.
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Everybody Looking dropped last month, and it is undoubtedly Gucci's greatest work. From the very jump, the intro track “No Sleep,” Gucci discusses his new sober attitude in stark detail and then proceeds to rap stronger than he ever has. It goes on throughout the album. The Drake-featuring “Back on Road” is maybe the best flow Gucci has ever laid to record. He raps on this track with a sense of urgency that has never been present in his music.
In “Champions,” the latest GOOD Music single from Kanye West and friends, Gucci is prominently featured. His main verse is a silly throwback to the classic Gucci, with drawn-out lines like “my bitch drive a Lamb'/ You should call her ma'am.” But the defining line on the song from Gucci, referring to the rumors about his post-prison self, is “now that Gucci's home it's over for you Gucci clones.”
That's the underlying theme of Everybody Looking. Every bit of the record screams that Gucci is back with a newfound fire and is about to shut down every single rapper out there who has picked up on his style. They may say the new Gucci is a clone, but there can only be one Gucci. He proves it on Everybody Looking, and at the same time solidifies his own relevance in today's rap world. With this record, he's proven that he's more than a meme. He's one of the best in the game right now.