December 3, 2013: Gucci Mane was charged with two counts of possessing an illegal firearm--a continuation in his longstanding legal issues. Facing a 20-year maximum sentence, Wop agreed to a plea deal on May 13, 2014, severely reducing his time behind bars.
Thanks to longtime collaborator and engineer, Sean Paine, Gucci fans weren’t confined to his release date to hear new music--the duo consistently issued an amalgamation of pre-prison verses and phone-recorded bars laid over modern production during his forced hiatus. Wop might have been gone, but fans were never deprived of his voice. Thanks to clever production and marketing, his reputation and brand defeated stagnation to remain relevant. Gucci was never forgotten.
May 26, 2016: The key was inserted in his jail cell; the cuffs were removed; his belongings were returned. Gucci Mane confidently walked out of the Indiana penitentiary, revealing a refurbished physique and mindset; he was ready for his comeback--a comeback for the ages.
Waiting upon his release stood dedicated girlfriend (now fiancé), Keyshia Ka’Oir, a new Maybach, docile friends, and a little room that structured his worldly foundation: the recording booth. After serving a multi-year sentence, most ex-convicts would take their freedom as an opportunity to acclimate themselves with the world they’d been deprived from. They might take time to reflect, ponder about a path forward, or simply absorb everything that they’d missed. Radric Davis, aka Gucci Mane, doesn’t straddle the mean, he fearlessly voyages forward. Sauntering around the recording booth, noticing the little accents that helped facilitate his triumphant rise, looking at the microphone that elevated his voice from Zone 6 pockets to the global stage--this is Gucci’s safehaven, his refuge. This is the only acclimation he needs.
Just one-day after his release, Gucci dropped his first post-prison track, aptly titled, “First Day Out Tha Feds”. When Michael Jordan returned from his first retirement on March 19, 1995, he looked almost pedestrian--a shell of himself. Notching 19 points, six assists, and six boards is respectable, but well-below Air Jordan’s customary domination. He needed time to readjust. When Gucci returned from prison, he recorded an honest, pensive track that almost immediately re-inserted him in the preeminent rapper tier discussion. His return was marked by intrepidation, garnished by rehabilitation, and sealed with authority. Gucci didn’t rebound in typical fashion--he bounced back enlightened, composed, and motivated. He returned improved.
“First Day Out Tha Feds” was the lead single off Wop’s first post-prison album, Everybody Looking, released on July 22nd. The 14-track effort symbolized a joyous Hip Hop reunion, featuring some of the industry’s brightest, most impactful talent, including: Drake, Kanye West, and Young Thug. These guest appearances represent Wop’s transcendent allure and wide-spread influence, as each of these artists corner a different section of Hip Hop’s diverse market. Everyone was happy to see Gucci free. However, the most impressive aspect of Everybody Looking was hearing Gucci’s varied flows and contemplative lyrical prowess. His thoughts were dictated with a lucidity foreign to his previous work.
Upon his release, Gucci released a series of snapchat videos advertising his chiseled body and revamped diet, anchored by a kale infatuation. His new-found healthy lifestyle translated into a complete rehabilitation, finding the trap god enjoying sobriety’s artistic benefits. Gucci might have shed his debilitating former shell by exchanging lean for barbells, but his true form was never diluted. This repaired mentality proved salvational by magnifying his positive core characteristics: his writing and unparalleled work ethic.
After Everybody Looking peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, Gucci used this momentum to escape his comfort zone by breaching new territories. His type-A personality doesn't allow him to be pigeonholed; he knows that complacency is the enemy of greatness. When all’s said and done, Gucci wants to be revered as great. On September 26, 2016, publishing powerhouse, Simon & Schuster, announced a deal to release Gucci’s autobiography entitled, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. Due out September 19th, this revelatory literature will divulge secrets behind the trap leader unexplored in his music. Gucci Mane: the ex-trapper, current rapper, fitness enthusiast, and author. Yes, his legacy is embarking towards greatness.
Naturally, mastering a new creative discipline requires increased attention, potentially cannibalizing time spent on recording. "Potentially" is the operative word--Gucci is well aware of his priorities.
Three-months after his successful post-prison album debut, Wizop dropped the commercial mixtape, Woptober. The 13-track tape continued Gucci’s assimilation into Hip Hop’s marquee caliber, and furthered his narrative: you cannot outwork Gucci, you will not outwork Gucci.
Exactly one-month after Woptober, he teamed up with frequent collaborator, Future, for the EP, Free Bricks 2K16 (Zone 6 Edition)--a follow-up to their 2011 collaboration, Free Bricks. Not even 10-days later, the ice cream cone tattoo pioneer forged a partnership with divisive genre-blending internet sensation, Lil Uzi Vert, to create their tape, 1017 vs. The World. Three-weeks later, Gucci released his second official 2016 studio album, The Return of East Atlanta Santa, further refining his rehabilitated identity by balancing a cheerfulness with his deeply explored merciless side. The emotional dichotomy co-exists harmoniously to create yet another great addition to Wop’s impressive catalogue.
Gucci’s voluminous output has bolstered his public image, leading to diverse opportunities outside of music. Last summer, Wop starred in the Harmony Korine-directed (director of Kids and Springbreakers--the latter featured Gucci) Supreme ad, which featured the iconic Atlanta rapper under house arrest, but still enjoying his Supreme threads. His colorful personality shines in this ad spot, highlighting his consumer habits while illuminating how to circumvent Supreme's notoriously long lines: “You mother fuckers think I go to the store? I just hit that button.”
Other artists have noticed his snowballing influence, place Gucci at the epicenter of feature requests. From Kanye to Kodak Black to participating in his first Billboard number-one hit on Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles”, Gucci’s supplemental value is undeniable, and his presence has transformed from beneficial to necessary. Partnering with Wizop almost guarantees victory. Long-time girlfriend, Keyshia Ka’Oir, is familiar with that sentiment.
On November 22, 2016--the day before 1017 vs. The World’s release--Gucci and Keyshia were spotted sitting courtside at the Atlanta Hawks game on “Gucci Mane” night. Nothing unexpected, considering that Gucci has just as much pull in ATL as the city’s mayor. But when the kiss cam panned in their direction, something unexpected did happen: Wop stood up, took out a sizeable jewelry box, and revealed its contents--a 25-karat diamond ring. Congrats to the future Mr. and Mrs. Mane. Perhaps the greatest moment of his proposal was the fact that he didn’t get down on one knee. He simply took out the ring, waved it in front of her face, and grinned, almost to say, “Come on girl, we both know you ain’t saying no”. Gucci is one-of-a-kind--both as a person, and a musician.
Most artists take multi-year sabbaticals between projects. Whether they need to retreat to find their creative center, or enjoy more life experiences that will translate into layered work, crafting a project takes time. But as we’ve consistently learned, Gucci is the antithesis of a conventional artist. Five-months after The Return of East Atlanta Santa--an eternity for Gucci, and a light recess for most--Wop teamed up with super producer, Metro Boomin’, for his latest musical installment, Droptopwop. Released this past Friday, May 26th, Droptopwop commemorates Gucci’s one-year prison release anniversary. Migos’ Offset, 2 Chainz, and Rick Ross helped celebrate by adding feature verses, in addition to guest production from Southside, London on da Track, amongst others. It marks the expansion of Gucci’s storied music library, but the 10-tracks symbolizes much more.
In only one year since his liberation, Gucci has released eight-projects, been featured on numerous hits, toured America, gotten engaged, starred in a Supreme ad, earned a number-one hit, appeared on multiple magazine covers, and is penning an autobiography. Most ex-cons are happy if they can secure a job, and uphold their probation. Gucci is an anomaly--the physical manifestation of the potential realized with an unwavering work-ethic, and an intense passion. They say give someone an inch, and they’ll take a mile. Gucci is cruising Georgia’s I-75 in his drop top, watching the odometer roll upwards, with no intention of slowing down anytime soon.