The Musical Genius Of Gucci Mane, Trap's Most Prolific Voice
Back in 2005, Gucci Mane envisioned himself as the preeminent elder statesman of East Atlanta. “Lil’ kids wanna be like Gucci when they grow up,” he boastfully rapped on his breakout hit, "So Icy," in his congested, nonchalant flow. At the age of 14, I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the fact that he had acquired so much expensive jewelry and was living the lavish lifestyle of a baller that many aspire to. Or if he was predicting his own career trajectory, strategically laying down the foundation that would foster the industry’s obsession with mining Southern soil for stylistic cues that would later on influence the mainstream. After marinating on the latter eleven years later, the answer is crystal clear.
Growing up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a suburb on the east side of DeKalb County, my first true taste of trap and its grandiose yet gritty lifestyle was painted through the rapper born Radric Davis' mumble-mouthed flow. Not necessarily the cult artist we know today, but on-the-cusp of greatness and to some a tough sell, the general consensus at the school lunch table and was that “Bricks,” an early Gucci mixtape gem, made more of an impact than The Blueprint, the heavily lauded album from New York's reigning rap king Jay Z. Although Gucci may hail from Birmingham, Alabama, his vivid, cinematic-like presence carried the torch for a term whose origins date back to the 90s, Atlanta-based production collective Dungeon Family, long before it was a genre.
In the years that followed since Trap House, his 2005 studio debut, Gucci has transcended the title of "rapper." Today, his name holds weight as the man, the myth, the legend, with a repertoire that has only elevated with a three-year prison sentence that didn't slow down his never-not-working mentality.
Now, with his hotly-anticipated tenth studio album Everybody Looking hitting shelves, the pressure for his musical return to reclaim his throne as the Trap God is mounting. But for Gucci, an unfailingly prolific, often controversial artist, who is dependably committed to serving his fans music no matter his circumstances, it's nothing.
In a look at his influence, we asked several artists—some that refer to him as a friend and longtime collaborator and some who have just witnessed his rise—to share their opinions on his musical genius.
"It was Gucci's melodies that had me hooked. I liked how he could be rapping about some street sh** but make it sound fun. When I did "Gucci Comin Home" that was the aim, to be rapping about some sh** that’s really going on but have that fun factor. Gucci does that in a lot of songs, like "Freaky Girl," "Lemonade," "Wasted," all those hit records that he has, they’re all fun.
People talk about Future, like I’m Future Hive all day, with the whole mixtape after mixtape, album after album, but that’s something I admired about Gucci from early on. His work ethic is like no other. Who can do videos, and do songs and mixtapes in jail? Not everybody can do that and have good music, too. He sets an example that no matter what you’re going through, don’t stop the hustle. Keep moving."
"The first Gucci Mane song I ever heard was "Lawnmower Man," and I truthfully didn’t like it. My boy kept telling me his sh** was fire, but then he dropped "Trap House" and everything was in flames. That's what made me a fan. "Trap House" was one of the hardest songs in Atlanta at the time, they would always play it on the Eastside. Gucci started all the lingo for that and everything. Of course Gucci and T.I., they were always talking about being trap stars at the time, but he was so specific on the things he was doing. He was giving you insight on something that was so close. Everybody might not think it’s deep if they’re not into that. They might not even get his lingo, but he's just so specific on the sh** that he went through and did that everybody gravitated to it.
The first time I worked with Gucci was actually with Waka [Flocka Flame]. I went to the studio to link up with Waka right after I made "Make It Rain" with Travis Porter. Gucci made that song pop. He was at the radio station and they started playing it. He was like, 'Oh what’s that?' He was actually in talks of signing Travis Porter, too, and ended up being the first person to put a verse on the remix. He showed love to the first song I ever produced. After I made "Make It Rain," I linked up with Waka in the studio and we made the song with Ludacris called "Rich & Flexin." Gucci was actually on that song, too, but he went to jail right after. That was the first time he got locked up. After that we made two other songs, one with Trouble and another with Lloyd called "Fly Sh**."
He’s a good dude and he cares about the young people and the new generation. He can find new talent. He knows new sh**. He knows what producers are hot. He doesn’t have to go get a beat by the biggest producer. He’ll just work with the youngins and still make hits on them. I really think his A&R skills and finding beats is what sets him and his music apart."
"I feel like Gucci started a movement, putting in so much work in the streets. He was literally dropping mixtape after mixtape, after mixtape. You could get them at the local gas station, malls, barbershops. They were everywhere. He had the streets on lock. I feel like that’s how a lot of people work in Atlanta. That’s how I work. That’s how we work. We work fast, we make good quality music, and it comes out fast. I guess we just get in the zone and we get that from Gucci.And on top of that, all the rappers my age, who were young listening to him, he was one of the people who influenced us to start rapping. Then we got bigger and bigger, and he was grabbing them and started putting them on. He didn’t just get big and just leave everybody. He was really putting on a lot of young rappers who you can say are stars today."
"The man had naked girls standing in front of the stove on his album cover and was cooking dope in the video. That was fire. That’s why I have La Flare in my name. He gave me the go ahead that I could run with it. Without Gucci Mane and Jeezy, even T.I. because he was like the first rapper to talk about the trap, without those three there wouldn’t be trap. But the sound that everybody’s familiar with, with trap, is definitely Gucci Mane. They just have to pay respect for him. Every artist that pops out of Atlanta, from Waka Flocka to French Montana to Nicki Minaj to Migos to Thug to Quan, Gucci has had his hands in there. So everybody owes him his respect. They all cut from that cloth. He’s like the best A&R in the world.
Gucci Mane don’t give no f**ks. Everything about him you see is a real n***a, a trap n***a. Gucci Mane blew up and did songs with Mariah Carey and everybody and still didn’t give no f**ks. He still the same, everything about him. That’s why people call him the trap god. That man killed somebody and got out. He’s the man.
We keep him relevant, all the artists from Atlanta that everybody likes. Everybody screaming "Free Gucci," like [Young] Thug, and he’s the hottest thing smoking out of the city. Even Future. They both came from Gucci. Honestly, I had an argument with somebody who tried to say who has more of a cultural influence: Jeezy or Gucci. I said Gucci, period. Kids don’t really care too much about Jeezy right now. They keep saying free Gucci, they rap like him, people even started rapping because of him."
"Gucci is really good at making songs. You know, the different flows, catchy hooks. He don’t rap just any one way; he raps a thousand different ways. I think everybody that’s rapping today got their flows off of at least one of his. I don’t even know what it was. He was just rapping about stuff that related to me and related to everybody in the streets. At one point in time when I was young, the only thing that we were playing was Gucci and Wayne. They kept dropping mixtapes after mixtapes. It probably just felt like him and Wayne going back and forth, back and forth. They was part of the streets. At one point in time, that was all we was listening to. I don’t what he was doing all at that time, but Gucci just did the right thing. He made the right moves.
Everybody loves how real Gucci is. I don’t want to say it, but you know how he makes all the diss records and keep going back and forth to jail? The streets like to see somebody that's still one of us. Jeezy, he was talking to us like he was the God back in the day. Jeezy was the God when he dropped that Thug Motivation 101. So I think the fact that Gucci stuck with it and he never crossed over or tried to cross over kept him grounded.
He just show love to everybody, man. I think Gucci is probably one of the best and a lot of people say he put everybody on from Atlanta that’s rapping right now, Migos, Young Thug. You can’t even name a rapper that Gucci hasn’t embraced and put on or was the first one to help out. I think his biggest contribution is putting other guys in the game."
"Trap God 2 is my favorite mixtape of Gucci's, and my favorite song off it is "Shooters." I feel like, as far as like street rappers go, he is the biggest influence, especially when it comes to putting people on, finding a new sound. You take Gucci out the equation, Atlanta loses Migos, Young Thug, [iLove]Makonnen, a lot of people. He's just as big as Jermaine Dupri if you ask me out here because he's found the all new talent. Waka [Flocka Flame], Young Scooter. And that tattoo on his face is iconic. It's a trademark. When you see that, you automatically see Gucci."