No Trivia

Two or Three Things I Know About Gucci


The problem with Gucci Mane is as much what he represents as it is his music. Either what Gucci himself represents (insert any number of comments about Southern rap and ignorance here) or what those who persistently and poignantly big him up represent (“po-mo” over-reachers, “borderline racist”). There’s not a lot of talk about Gucci Mane’s rapping because well, to those dismissing him and reducing him to a symbol, it’s not even worth the discussion. To those ingesting every mixtape, the rapping’s all there is to talk about.

When it comes to rap though, which is so much about “representation” and “authenticity” and all this other stuff, it’s hard to not reduce someone like Gucci Mane to a symbol. For rap fans of a certain type, he represents the antithesis to the current “underground” scene, or such a change from rappers of equal fame to Gucci’s fifteen years ago or whatever else that they can’t help but get upset.

This devolves into an issue of sensibility and taste–what we want, expect, celebrate, enjoy from rap starkly contrasted in say, Elzhi (or your favorite, nimble, lyrical rapper) vs. Gucci Mane. This is at first, reasonable as yeah, Elzhi and Gucci from a pretty conventional point of view don’t share a lot in common. Of course they actually do, and an ongoing enterprise in and of itself’s begun that seeks to disentangle the many ways in which Gucci’s very much “lyrical”.

1. Gucci Gives Me the Same Invigorating Feeling As All My Favorite Rap

These days, unemployed and needing to feel like I’m doing something with my life, I walk to the local university library–about a 3.5 mile walk–to write these goofy screeds (and those by me elsewhere). Of the many edifying results of walking a long-ass way on the daily is growing especially intimate with the music on my iPod.

At least half of this walk is spent everyday with Diamond District’s In the Ruff and some mix of Gucci tracks, sometimes nerdy “favorite songs” playlists, and most often one of his many mixtapes. Both Diamond District and Gucci are perfect walking music, filled with enough menace and glee, and closed-off, staccatto, word-obsessive rapping to keep me entertained.

Like In the Ruff (or Enta Da Stage or Hard to Earn or whatever), say From Zone 6 to Duval, is non-stop cluttered rapping, that’s hard to gulp down all at once–either locking in on your brain and taking up all your time, or effortlessly falling to the wayside like background music. Again with the 90s New York rap comparisons–Gucci’s approach to money, dealing drugs, or fucking girls has the abstract but material feel of slang-obsessed insanity from Cuban Linx.

Because it’s only a matter of time before the mixed metaphor of bloggers/white writers as colonialists wanders into the debate or accusations of flat-out racism get tossed around when someone like Gucci’s given a good critical look-over, part of the debate really is Black and White. Not “Black vs. White” but rather, Gucci’s cultural context switches in a way that’s simply not available to white or essentially, non-black listeners.

The same way say, us white boys cringe when Lil Wayne straps on a guitar and makes some butt rock because it reminds us of the turd metal listened to by the football players who stuffed us in lockers or the AC/DC blasted by our drunk step-dad as he drove us to high school when we missed the bus (that’s to say, it’s a bit deeper than the music just sucking to our ears), do I get the sense that guys like Gucci, a drawling, slurring, convicted of a crime a couple times rapper, represents a lot of negative shit to black listeners. When Gucci’s just floating around on the radio or blog he’s fine, but when people like me and others celebrate the dude’s work it strikes a certain chord of frustration.

The dislike of Gucci, when it extends beyond aesthetic reasons (which are I feel at this point, a waste to debate, the evidence is insurmountable that the guy’s got something interesting going on), falls into what Gucci’s a symbol of or for. Reducing anything and especially anybody to a symbol is always a problem though. It removes all the tiny details and humanity of that person, and turns them into something for every and anybody to project whatever onto the subject at-hand.

2. Gucci’s An Outsider, A Radical Individual, A Weirdo and All That Good Stuff.

That Gucci’s delivery, his way of speaking, continues to be a target seems especially depressing and sadly “high-school”, especially after that Creative Loafing article, which revealed that these were the kinds of problems Gucci’s dealt with since he was 9 years old:

“I got [picked on] because of how I spoke and my diction, which was different,” he says. “I would talk with a country slang because I was from Alabama.” Nonetheless he excelled in his classes, not so much because he studied a lot but because of his God-given abilities. “I was always naturally smart,” he boasts. “I had a high IQ.”"

On “Neva Had Shit” off a ton of mixtapes and the unofficial, official Murder Was the Case, Gucci details some of this not adversity, but extreme version of the kind of bullshit any kid that’s a little different has to fuck with…mentioning “rich kids at school” making fun of him, and tossing-in a matter-of-fact aside: “Teachers say that we can’t talk”. It’s the matter-of-fact tone that’s key here, because it’s Gucci diving into the coping mechanism/not-smart-enough-to-get-injustice that every kid has at the age of nine when they gotta deal with some heavy shit. A mix of innocent curiosity and just not knowing when to shut the fuck up: “Grandaddy why your eyes so goddamn red?/Got a real soft-ass and hard-ass head/Better mind your fuckin manners boy, that’s what he said”.

As “Neva Had Shit” continues, Gucci’s formative years–like Wayne, Gucci is obsessed with his youth and how it’s shaped him–full of peaks and valleys, a step-dad (who’ll turn out to be an alcoholic in verse three), noted and success trapping, are fully detailed. There’s a continued sense of rise and fall in the song, matching the horns of the beat, as Gucci slowly grasps the awful ups and downs (often at the same time) of life. The double-bind of love and life is perfectly captured in Gucci’s explanation of the relationship between his mom and stepdad (whom he just calls dad): “Now, my daddy hustle hard but he love some liquor/And my momma wanna leave him but she love that nigga”. The next line, “Everything kinda change when I turn 16″ both speaks to the unfortunate stuff he just described and the next line, which solidifies his success in the dope game by way of an “old-school regal”. This is a song about growing up surrounded by upheaval–a minor victory in one part of your life, a big, ugly disaster somewhere else–and how that’s how it goes, forever, or what feels like forever when you’re fourteen.

This is Gucci at his most lucid, his most direct and confessional–do you get more direct than the hook to “Neva Had Shit”?–and while this is not his usual stance as a rapper, he peppers in this sort stuff enough that I tell anybody who claims Gucci doesn’t rap about anything to fuck off.

Don’t treat Gucci like he’s OJ Da Juiceman. OJ’s fun and his “aye” adlibs are great because they’re pure goofball joy (not part joy, part faux-nihilism like Young Jeezy’s), but that’s all he is (a goofball) and that’s fine…sometimes it’s even awesome. Gucci’s more than that. He just is.

Though the two really don’t have a whole lot in common, Gucci’s the logical step after Lil Wayne in terms of delivering a non-traditional (though not post-lyrical) form of lyricism that gets people to take note of writing. Getting people who still buy CDs or have quick access to a mixtape spot, the old style of rap fan or even rap nerd and just regular rap listener–the one not Videodrome-d to their internet connection–to obsess over lines and craft and all that is no easy feat. The same way Lil Wayne transcended “hood” stuff by stretching it into meaning a lot and nothing, Gucci has.

Two white dudes with a Mastiff standing outside a convenience store bumping a Gucci tape and grinning, verbally guffawing even, when Gucci says something nutty. Regular ass eleventh-graders before my A.P English class I taught, parsing-out Wayne’s half-baked, maybe awesomely over-baked similes. A car speeds by and some Zaytoven joint is blasting out of the car speakers–this happens a few times a week.

3. Gucci’s Very Fun To Listen To, But Not In The Mindless Way You’d Expect

People don’t so much have favorite Gucci Mane songs as they do Gucci Mane mixtapes. It’s in part because there’s so many songs and so many mixtapes, but it’s also because Gucci’s rolls through every beat, every song, every tape with the something resembling the same aplomb. He crawls inside the beat and reforms it to fit his own rap skin.

When the wonky beat of “Hurry” (off the recent Writing on the Wall) begins, the focus is the super-identifiable doot-doot-doot circus song, but by the middle, Gucci’s bouncing a shit-ton of words that end in long E off one another (“thirsty/ early/ lovely/ me/ hurry/ jury/ emergency/ currency/ burglaried”), like in the song’s title “Hurry”, even ending the verse, continuing the long E obsession through the chorus, and holding on for the next verse’s first few lines, then abandoning it for another game of vowel-sound matching, all to the rhythm of the snapping, tinny drums–that circus part’s pushed to the background. He’s not so much versatile as he is elastic, stretching his voice and rap-joy across whatever beat’s placed in front of him. That he can fall back on occasion, to the stuff he addresses soberly on “Neva Had Shit”, in effect “proving” he can do regular old rap songs, adds enough levity to the songs to make them “matter”, if it’s important to you that songs “matter”.

Written by Brandon

June 15th, 2009 at 6:14 am

Posted in Gucci Mane

2 Responses to 'Two or Three Things I Know About Gucci'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Two or Three Things I Know About Gucci'.

  1. Just to let you know your blog appears a little bit different on Firefox on my netbook with Linux .


    16 Jun 12 at 7:51 am

  2. Re: Whomever created the remark that this was a good web site really needs to get their brain analyzed.


    19 Jun 12 at 2:03 pm

Leave a Reply