Gucci Mane Covers ‘The Fader’ Magazine
Gucci Mane’s newfound freedom is something that he is holding onto dearly. As a rapper (and trapper), he has been in and out of the bing more times than anyone can count at this point. But his latest three year stretch sounds like it has changed him for good
“I was on drugs so bad, I talked different,” Gucci says in an interview shortly after his relase.. “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.”
For his new The Fader cover story Guwop opened up to seasoned writer Andrew Nosnitsky about why prison was “hell,” his career plans, sobriety and more much.
Photography by Geordie Wood
Gucci Mane moves rather deliberately for a guy who has nowhere to go. At 6’2” he has the presence of a much taller man, and when he walks it’s with an urgent lurch, fluid and reserved at the same time. Perhaps it’s a manner befitting of someone who has spent the past three years in a federal penitentiary.
“Life in prison was hell,” says the 36-year-old rapper born Radric Davis. He’d been serving time on two counts of firearm possession as a felon. “It was a maximum security prison and it was a lot of violence. People were dying every week. [But] I think it helped me to get to the point I’m at now, to drive me out from the drugs. It gave me time to reflect, it made a lot of relationships that were toxic in my life just fall away.”
For the next three months, Gucci will be on house arrest, holed up in his deceptively cavernous mini-mansion in Marietta, Georgia, about 30 minutes northwest of downtown Atlanta. The place is predictably gorgeous. There are minor shades of Scarface in his winding staircase, and Gucci seems most comfortable when he’s leaning over the balcony, overlooking two-story windows that reveal an ornate pool in the backyard. Downstairs, kettlebell weights and a power tower surround an immaculate white baby grand piano. A brand new white Maybach sits in the garage, as do dozens of empty designer shoe boxes and a slightly worn letterman jacket emblazoned with the logo for his 1017 Brick Squad imprint.
“And on the seventh day I rested,” he says, “like the Lord.”
There are two truths that need to be acknowledged before we go any further, both oft-disputed but mostly by haters and nutjobs and nutjob haters. 1) Gucci Mane is one of the greatest rappers of the 21st century. 2) Gucci Mane is not a human clone who was planted by the United States government.
Gucci is an acquired taste, to be certain. Partially, that’s owing to his choice of subject matter. He’s notoriously single-minded, even by street rap standards. Hundreds of his tracks, across dozens of mixtapes throughout the second half of the ’00s, are centered on uncut, hedonistic street-talking. No passing nods to social consciousness, no cloying end-of-album tracks about how much he loves his mother. Just a perpetual barrage of wordplay about what he has and what he’s sold and what he would do to anyone who tried to separate him from those things.
“Braggadocio,” he explains. “That’s what I like — I’m doper than everybody, I’m fresher than everybody, I’m the illest. That’s really me. I never really made music to make people try to feel sad. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I want them to feel powerful, I want them to feel aggressive, I want them to feel invincible. I want to hear the fuckery. I want to hear the shit that people probably think, ‘This ain’t good to be played around kids.’”
What Gucci’s music lacks in compassion and introspection, he has more than compensated for sheer style. He was born in Bessemer, Alabama, a small city located just southwest of Birmingham, and still carries an accent. This, multiplied by an Atlanta-learned swagger acquired when his family moved there when he was a kid, has left him with a distinctive and malleable mush-mouthed flow, deceptively simple from a distance but revealing new rhythmic dimensions upon closer inspection. This has proven to be a gift and a curse — it’s likely allowed him to sneak more complicated cadences into tracks with crossover appeal, but has also drawn him the ire of rap fans raised on more conservative, East Coast tongues, who deride him as insufficiently “lyrical.”
While Gucci’s hood stardom never translated to the same level of crossover success that contemporaries (and rivals) like T.I. or Young Jeezy did, his modern-day resonance dwarfs theirs. He’s directly mentored two generations of trap rappers: his original Brick Squad affiliates Waka Flocka Flame and OJ da Juiceman, who took over Atlanta rap around 2009, and then Young Thug and Migos, both alumni of around-the-clock, circa-2013 sessions at his Brick Factory studio, and who have redefined the genre again in his absence.
“A lot of artists have a problem with putting other people on, and people don’t embrace them [when they do it] because it ain’t genuine,” Gucci says. “I’m always trying to help people. I wouldn’t give a damn if I get four artists right now and all of them burn me. I’mma get me four more, because I feel like the more people I help, the more good I do. No matter what a person does, helping somebody can never hurt me.”