Before achieving widespread success, most rappers are forced to endure a series of hardships. But few have gone through the same kind of trials and tribulations that Gucci Mane has.
On “Lil Friend,” the intro track on his latest album, The Appeal—the follow-up to his 2009 mainstream breakthrough, The State vs. Radric Davis—Gucci admits as much when he delivers a painfully honest admission about the self-destructive pattern he’s repeated over the course of the last five years. “I coulda been a doctor, shoulda been a lawyer,” he raps over an uptempo Darkchild production. “I go to court so much I coulda been my own employer.”
In true Gucci Mane fashion, it’s a tongue-in-cheek moment unleashed in his trademark garbled flow that’s both playful and insightful. But it also accurately depicts what the Atlanta rapper has endured throughout the early part of his career. After building up a solid buzz in the South in the early 2000s thanks to the overwhelming success of his infectious 2003 club anthem, “Icy,” featuring fellow up-and-coming Southern rapper Young Jeezy, Gucci caught an attempted murder charge during a much-publicized beef with Jeezy and had to serve a year in prison. Upon his return, he released his debut album, Trap House, his stellar sophomore project, Hard To Kill, and his 2007 major label debut, Back To The Trap House, before eventually being forced to serve another year-long prison sentence for a probation violation stemming from a 2005 incident.
But Gucci wouldn’t let a second major legal battle stop his movement. Instead, he jumped into the studio for days at a time before his sentence started and recorded dozens of songs that he eventually released through his So Icey Entertainment and 1017 Brick Squad Records imprints while he was incarcerated to help keep his name alive in the streets. It worked, and by the time Gucci was released in March 2009, his buzz was better than ever and he immediately started recording songs for what would become his second major label album, The State Vs. Radric Davis.
By late 2009, the album was finished. Featuring the smash singles, “Wasted,” and “Spotlight,” featuring Usher, The State Vs. Radric Davis was shaping up to be the biggest release of Gucci Mane’s career. While he had already enjoyed plenty of success in the South and routinely made thousands of dollars for performing at shows every night, the album was projected to move him into the upper echelon of rap. He looked like he was primed to end the year on a positive note. Unfortunately, he had one more hurdle to clear—and it was a big one.
In November 2009, just a few weeks before the album hit stores, Gucci found himself getting thrown behind bars again for breaking the terms of his probation. It was devastating for his fans, his followers and, most importantly, himself. “Unfortunately, my incarceration also came at a pivotal point in my career, just as my first major label album was dropping,” Gucci admitted later. “I was forced to miss what should have been one of the proudest moments of my life.”
He didn’t let those moments go to waste, though. While in prison serving a one-year sentence, Gucci wrote rhymes constantly, stayed in touch with his Brick Squad affiliates Waka Flocka Flame and DJ Holiday and set the stage for his return by releasing an official mixtape, The Burrrprint 2 HD, in March, which moved more than 15,000 units in its’ first week in stores. All of this prepared Gucci to get back on his grind when he released from prison in May.
And grind he did. He released several notable mixtapes, including Jewelry Selection hosted by DJ Holiday in August and Ferrari Music hosted by DJ Drama in September, toured the country and also completed The Appeal—his second major label album through So/Icey/Asylum/Warner Bros. Records. With the help of a strong first single, “Gucci Time,” featuring Swizz Beatz, and guest appearances from Ray J, Pharrell, Nicki Minaj, Wyclef and Bun B—as well as production efforts from Drumma Boy, Zaytoven, and the Neptunes—Gucci is out to prove that you might be able to lock him up, but you certainly can’t lock him down.
“After my recent jail bid, spending those six months in a cell, I got out and knew I had a whole new lease on life and my career. My goal was to take advantage of that and to outdo The State Vs. Radric Davis —and that’s what I did. This is definitely my most complete album to date.”
After going through a unique series of trials and tribulations, it’s finally Gucci Mane’s time to shine.