“Beans I ain’t trying to change you, just give you some game/ To make the transition, from the streets to the fame.”
— Jay Z “Mama Loves Me”, The Blueprint, 2001
While Hov tried to school his own protégés on these life lessons years ago, there may not be a better walking embodiment of this sentiment than East Atlanta’s own Gucci Mane. Radric Davis, widely regarded as the boogeyman of rap, built up quite a résumé for himself over the years by terrorizing well…anyone he damn near pleased. His heavy drug use, volatile demeanor and penchant for firearms is the stuff of legend. His rap sheet is well documented online and involves a lot of scrolling, but this is not an article about his transgressions. This is an article about the evolution of a man who appeared to be on the brink of self-destruction.
In 2013, Gucci Mane looked like a guy with nothing to lose. Consumed with drug addiction, he went on a Katt Williams –like tour de force that involved fights with fans, club goers, and even a rapper selling CD’s in Lennox Mall. He even went on the Twitter rant to end all Twitter rants. Though his tirade ruffled a few feathers, it felt as if the general consensus was that he was a man in need of help. As the sobering reality of another extended prison stay loomed over the millionaire rapper’s head, a light seemingly flipped on. Gucci knew he was wrong and even publicly tried to atone for leading his fans down the wrong paths.
Though it all sounded good at the time, most people dismissed his remorse as lip service for the courts or merely him excusing his conduct to smooth over industry connections.
Though as we all know, actions speak louder than words. As the rap game rolled on without Gucci, he managed to stay relevant by dropping more music behind bars (from his massive back catalog) than most established acts do that are free. However, behind the scenes, Wop and his long-time girlfriend (now fiancé) Keyshia Kaoir were working together to quietly turn his life around. In a Feb. 2017 interview with Fader Keyshia said:
“Whatever businesses I was doing, I involved him. I told him my plans, what was going on. We spoke at least five to six times a day. We emailed every day. We had a schedule together, actually. He would get up, we’d both get up. We’re not seeing each other, but we’d know what’s going on. I felt like I did the time with him. We’d work out, let’s say from 8 to 10 a.m., and then by the time we shower and have lunch, he’d call. I’d ask, “What did you eat today? There were days that he would cheat, and then I’m like, You can’t cheat: you’re not like that! That way you wasted our whole workout and our eating together for three years.
We want to lose the weight, we want to focus, we want to be sober, we want to be more business-minded. Your brand means a lot, your fans mean everything to you. You have to do great music, you’re a parent. He no longer wanted to have the gold in his mouth, and I didn’t either. That was a decision we made together. He came home and we took them out.”
With a plan in place, Gucci Mane was released one year ago today: September 20, 2016. Since that time, we have seen him lose weight, up his fashion game and start to build opportunities for himself outside of the rap game, like his burgeoning clothing line “Delantic”. He even received $1 million from BET for a new reality show (“The Mane Event”) chronicling the wedding of “The Wopsters” as they affectionately refer to each other.
As for the music, Gucci has come home to bigger mainstream success than he had ever received before. Now three years sober, his voice is more clear, and even his content is more lyrical (comparatively speaking) than ever before. In his own separate interview with Fader in July, Mr. LaFlare acknowledged the noticeable difference in his pre-prison recordings. “I was on drugs so bad, I talked different,” Gucci says. “When I was smoking damn near a pound of weed every other day, I was congested. When I was drinking lean like crazy every day, I was out of my mind.”
After blessing the biggest hit of 2016 with a feature verse (“Black Beatles”), Gucci has continued his assault on the charts by flexing on records like “Party” with Chris Brown and Usher and the remix to Goldlink’s breakout hit “Crew”. He even scored his first major industry award, receiving an MTV VMA for Best Pop Video for “Down”, with girl supergroup Fifth Harmony.
In a culture that sensationalizes figures for doing the wrong things, it’s time we recognize our own when they are doing things right.
Gucci Mane looks happier than ever before, healthier than ever before and he’s still hustling music like a dope boy. Gucci is scheduled to release his eleventh studio album, Mr. Davis on October 13. Four days later on 10/17 (of course), Mr. Davis will tie the knot with the woman who helped him clean up his life. Time will tell if Gucci Mane can stay on the straight and narrow. Yet, seeing him simply not being destructive to himself or others is a step in the right direction for which he should be lauded. Seeing this mature Mr. Davis evolve, evolve as an artist, a business man and a man is something that hopefully more people from the streets can glean from the Gucci Mane story.
Salute to Guwop.