Tag Archives: Gucci Mane

WHO DA ONLY ONE YOU TRUST?

The emotional depth of a rap song is very often different than the emotional depth of most other lyrical music.  Most other musics are much more obvious and up-front about the pain and emotional turmoil the songwriter is experiencing, drawing on direct imagery and description to communicate that pain.  But we should keep in mind that these musics come from cultures that don’t require its members to be as emotionally guarded as many of the communities that rappers grow up in, and so we have to be a bit more insightful to catch the deeper issues at work in many rap songs.

I once read an essay by a Buddhist monk who didn’t believe in lies; not that he avoided trusting the word of people who weren’t telling the truth, but that lies themselves do not really exist.  He believed that clear communication is really a question of how one interprets the language of someone’s message.  Words are always symbolic, and people don’t always say the same things with the same words.  His example involved asking two different people their age, one of them thirty years old, the other much older.  The first person responds that they’re thirty, which in their case means specifically that they’ve taken thirty trips around the sun on this planet so far.  The second person might give the same superficial response, that they too are thirty, but what is actually being communicated is that they fear death, or perhaps that they fear the perception of being seen as “old”.  Both of these people speak the same words in response to the question, but communicate very different information if the listener is informed and insightful enough to interpret the messages correctly.

Gucci Mane – Me

Ever since I first watched this Gucci Mane video two days ago, it has strangely haunted me.  Almost everything about it is completely what you’d expect from a street rapper in 2013, but a closer listen to the lyrics and some background on Gucci’s recent life changes transform this into a much darker and more complex picture.  I think it is one of the best illustrations of this concept I’m trying to explain that I’ve ever seen.  I believe Gucci is like the second person in the example laid out by the Buddhist monk: what he’s saying superficially and what’s really being communicated are not as simply related as one might think.  People who don’t take rap and rappers very seriously will probably hear this song and hear nothing but aimless arrogance and braggadocio.  The blatant self-centeredness of the lyrics is unavoidable, even the title, “Me”, could not speak more directly to this interpretation.  But if instead of writing this off as pointless boasting we try to treat Gucci as the human being he is, with just as many emotions, worries, fears, and desires as the rest of us, a very different picture begins to develop.

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the opening lines of this song was his recent falling out with long-time friend and collaborator Waka Flocka.  The two spoke with utmost respect and love for each other (listen here starting at 6:14), collaborated on numerous songs and albums together, boosted each others’ careers, and influenced each others’ styles for years.  The two were almost inseparable.  Now we see headlines like “Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Will Never Do Music Again” on every hip hop news outlet and we have to wonder how this is affecting the emotional lives of the people involved.  I don’t care where you come from or how hard you are, feeling betrayed by someone you once held in the highest esteem hurts, and that pain doesn’t go away easily.  This song feels to me like a tragic attempt to seem unfazed by a situation that in reality is probably extremely difficult to come to terms with.  Gucci wants to think that he doesn’t need Flocka, or anybody else for that matter, but this song ends up coming off more like overcompensating than nonchalance.  If all he needed was himself, would he really need to go on and on for a full five minutes about it, or could he maybe just mention it, make a joke about it, and then talk about something else?  Even his voice sounds strange on this recording, and the overwhelming number of models (who really look like they’re only there to get paid) in the video really only make his situation look even lonelier.

I believe that messages like this are being put out every single day in seemingly shallow, tasteless rap songs and are more often than not falling on deaf ears.  Not all rappers can be like Z-Ro, some can only cry for help in subtler ways.

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I’M UP

I gotta get up at 6 tomorrow, and I know that like most mornings that I have to wake up with an alarm, I will have this song going through my head (with a slightly different mood and meaning, obviously) for the period of time in between when my alarm starts ringing and when I turn it off.

Gucci Mane – I’m Up (feat. 2 Chainz)

Someday Gucci Mane will make a one-syllable rap hook, and it’ll still be hot, and everyone will just quit making new rap songs after that.

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SOFTER THAN A BLUEBERRY MUFFIN

Hearing Gucci on that first verse rhyme “bail bondsman” / “Charles Bronson” / “do nothin” / “be bluffin” / “blueberry muffin” / etc. etc. is just gorgeous.  And shout out to OG Boo Dirty for dropping the first Peach Nehi reference I’ve ever heard in a rap song, that was awesome!  Speaking of OG Boo Dirty, doesn’t the lineup on this track reads like a brainstorm session to make up names for a rapper character on In Living Color or something (that is if In Living Color had made the comeback it was supposed to in 2012)?

Gucci Mane – Squad Car (feat. Big Bank Black & OG Boo Dirty)

Trap God 2 comes out sometime today…

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GUCCI MANE IS FOR THE KIDS

It seems the administration at Crawford Long Middle School has underestimated the fear in the hearts of the greater Atlanta community about who should be able to speak to their children.  Last week, Gucci Mane let the world know that he’d been invited to speak at Career Day for the middle school and in turn sparked a huge negative outcry.  Complaints consist mostly of selections from the tired canon of complaints about rappers who rap about the streets, so I won’t bother to individually address them because they’re not offered with as much thought and discretion as it would take to refute them, but I would like to draw some attention to some reasons for why Gucci Mane is not only an acceptable, but in fact an excellent choice as a speaker at any middle school, especially in Atlanta, and especially on career day.

The purpose of career day is for students to see what possible paths lie ahead of them and possibly gain some inspiration as to new directions their own life can take.  Students will not necessarily (in fact they will almost definitely) not take the exact course taken by the speakers, but will find the bits that interest and resonate with them and begin to reimagine their own future with these new elements.  A student who gets moved by a presentation made by a veterinarian may not become a veterinarian, but they may find some small anecdote from that person’s individual story that will inspire them on their own journey.  Maybe that veterinarian grew up without a father, or got a scholarship to a prestigious university even though they came from a poverty stricken area, or suffered some physical or mental disability that made most people think that they could never achieve such an admirable career position.  The kid in the class might have no interest in taking care of animals, but they might have some of those same difficulties described by the speaker and become inspired to keep pushing on their own path despite their unique personal handicaps.  Career day isn’t about learning how to become a firefighter or a postal worker or a banker or a politician, it’s about seeing that there are possibilities that they never considered for themselves and to give them hope for achievement in their own future.  The firefighter might beat his wife, the postal worker might cheat on her husband, the banker might embezzle money, and the politician might take illegal contributions for his/her campaign, but those things are not the things that career day is about, especially for the kids.  That’s perhaps the biggest oversight by the critics of inviting Gucci to speak to these students: they underestimate the intelligence and vision of the kids they’re trying to protect.

By the time these kids hear Gucci’s speech, they should already know that selling drugs, acting violently, and throwing women out of moving vehicles aren’t cool things to do.  If they don’t, then it’s not Gucci Mane’s fault, it’s the fault of the rest of the community that raised them.  A kid that gets inspired from Gucci’s presentation (what I wouldn’t pay for a video, even a manuscript…) is most likely going to take away lessons like “even though I’ve made mistakes in my life, I can still be a successful business person,” “it’s really possible to make a career out of artistic self-expression and I don’t have to deny my creative gifts to make a living for myself and my family,” or “I don’t have to bend to the will of the larger system that I’m working in, I can maintain my integrity and work for what I believe in and still have great success.”  Gucci Mane’s business sense has always been one of his greatest assets, he’s managed to be one of the most notable artists of the past decade without capitulating to the major label system and giving up what he truly believes in.  He’s reached out to friends and family members to offer and receive help of all kinds, he judges his own creative work by his own standards, and he’s shrewd about who he does business with.  These are all skills that an entrepreneur in any field must have, and the fact that Gucci Mane raps about and takes part in some unsavory activity doesn’t mean that he has nothing to offer the youth of America.  How beautiful would it be if a 7th grader in Atlanta that’s just beginning to get mixed up in the kinds of activities that Gucci Mane references in his music sees a shining example of someone who left that life behind to pursue more legitimate business ventures and has succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations?  Wouldn’t Gucci reach that kid much more effectively than a lawyer or a police officer or any other approved career-holder according to the hand-wringing parents of the Atlanta Public School system?  The kid that’s going to grow up to be a doctor isn’t going to hear Gucci Mane’s presentation and be like “damn I need to start cooking crack if I’m going to make it in this world…”, they’re going to listen to the role models that resonate for them and then maybe get Gucci’s autograph afterward.  Give the kids some credit.

Gucci Mane – Street Smart

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OH, GREAT

I don’t know why, but today I inflicted the Rolling Stone “50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time” list on myself, in its entirety.  I know that “Greatest of All Time” lists are inherently dumb, and complaining about them is even dumber, but this particular one seems so especially dumb that I think it might not be excruciatingly dumb to criticize it, as long as I can keep it short and un-ranty.  So I’ll put aside as many personal biases that I can and try to actually play by the guidelines of a list like this.  These kinds of lists measure things like historical significance and cultural impact, and they worship “firsts”.  “Great” in the sense it’s used here isn’t an extreme form of “good”, it’s an attempt at objectivity about something inherently subjective by looking at factors like a song’s sales, chart positions, and the population’s general familiarity with it.  Framed in this way, it’s easy to see why lists like this are dumb, because those things aren’t what’s actually interesting about music.  But this list doesn’t even follow through on that flimsy objective.  It is unsurprisingly biased towards old guard “Golden Age” sensibilities, and yet still finds ways to overlook many obvious old school contenders as well.  Hardly any of my personal favorite songs are on that list, which is to be expected, but there are so many truly relevant-to-our-culture artists, songs, and movements that aren’t even touched on that I think it would be worthwhile to create a new list in response:

DRIVE SLOW’s Top 15 Artists Somehow Completely Ignored by Rolling Stone’s “50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time” List

1.  Too $hort

2.  Lil’ Wayne (or anyone from Cash Money)

3.  TI

4.  Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

5.  Gang Starr

6.  Goodie Mob

7.  Slick Rick

8.  Ludacris

9.  Gucci Mane

10.  Three-6 Mafia

11.  DJ Quik

12.  E-40

13.  Nate Dogg

14.  Ice T

15.  2 Live Crew

But nobody really reads Rolling Stone anymore anyway right?

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RAP JOURNEY #21 – FROM GUCCI MANE TO CURTIS MAYFIELD

If you haven’t picked up Gucci Mane‘s newest tape, “Trap God”, you probably should.  You can get it free from basically anywhere on the internet legitimately for free, or you can pay $9.99 on iTunes, I guess it just depends on how generous you’re feeling?  Or how important it is for you to own the one bonus track on the iTunes version?  I’m not quite sure what the strategy is there.  But putting all that aside, it really is a nice listen.  I feel like I actually hear some moments where Gucci is taking a little influence from Waka Flocka on his hooks, and Flocka himself appears several times on the tape prominently sporting the flow I mentioned back in this post.  The production is really interesting too, there’s considerably less ruckus and harshness in the tones used across the board than what I’ve grown accustomed to hearing from Gucci, and the tape as a whole comes off sounding more like a stream of fluid than a blast of hot sand, which some of his recent efforts have felt like to me (not necessarily in a bad way).

One song in particular caught my attention for purposes of this blog though since it’s got a pretty rich history that’s really worth tracing.  I definitely learned a few things following it.

Gucci Mane – That’s That (feat. Kevin McCall)

The first time I ever heard Jay Rock, another rapper who, like Gucci, isn’t usually found rapping over upbeat major key soul samples, it was on this song that should sound strikingly familiar after hearing “That’s That“.

Jay Rock – All My Life (feat. Lil’ Wayne & Will.I.Am)

While tracing the source of both of these surprising pairings, I came across this much older track from 2Pac‘s one-album group Thug Life that actually uses the same song that “That’s That” and “All My Life” use, but a different section and to a much different effect.

Thug Life – Stay True

So where did it all start?  I don’t think many sample-hunters will be shocked to find that this song springs from the same artist that so many other upbeat hip-hop samples have come from over the decades.

Curtis Mayfield – Just Want To Be With You

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THAT SUCKA THINK I’M LOYAL

Let me start by saying that I feel the same way about this beat as Weezy.  And the raps are weird too.  But weather the storm with me, if you will, I think this song is actually pretty interesting.

Gucci Mane – I Think I Love Her (feat. Esther Dean)

I’ll challenge anybody to find me a Gucci Mane song where he lets somebody call him a sucka in it.  This one’s definitely a departure for ol’ Gucci.  I guess if Plane Jane and Iamsu! win newest, Jay and Foxy win oldest, and Trick Daddy and Trina win nastiest, then Gucci and Esther win… most bizarre?  Least listenable?  Clearly I’m gettin’ a little thin on this concept now y’all.  Help me out.

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YOU GON’ TAKE THIS TRIP TO KANSAS

I can’t help but post this in honor of leaving Kansas today.  This one goes out to Mandie, Brian, Susan, Rusty, Danielle, Candace, Jordan, Floyd, Kristen, Maddy, and every other cool person in Kansas whose name I didn’t properly commit to memory.  I don’t think any of those people I just thanked will actually like this song I’m posting, but it’s the only rap song I can think of that even mentions Kansas, much less has it as its title.  Love y’all.

Gucci Mane – Kansas (feat. Jim Jones)

Chicago, get ready.

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GIMME 5 MINUTES AND A COLD ORANGE JUICE CUZ I’M REALLY REALLY TRIPPIN’

Those of you that are on the REDLiteDJ email list (just send an email to REDLiteDJ@gmail.com to join!) already heard that I joined Twitter a couple days ago.  I have to say that so far, it’s been a very positive experience.  I’m reconnecting with some people I haven’t talked to in a while, and I’m connecting on a new level to people I see regularly as well.  Awesome.

The other cool thing that’s happening is that I’m getting nice little updates from artists I’m interested in, especially those that don’t get much press buzz around them every time they do anything.  For instance, I started following DâM-FunK, and I quickly learned that he has a Tumblr page that he runs called Galactic Funk Federation, and on that page I found this crazy little 4 song mix that some dude named Damon Swindell made where he took some DâM-FunK instrumentals and put some Gucci Mane acapellas over the top.  It’s called Gucci Funk, and it’s free, so I snatched it up and listened to it immediately.

The only real complaints that I have are that he uses censored acapellas (probably that’s all that was available, but it’s still kind of a bummer to listen to Gucci Mane without cursing) and the way the vocals sound doesn’t particularly blend with how the beats sound (only in a mixing capacity, and most likely that’s just how the acapellas he was using sounded to begin with, I’m not talkin’ shit on the man’s work).  But the rhythm of Gucci’s flow works pretty well over some real synthy, west-coast style funk, so it was still a very nice listen.  My favorite is probably this one, where he mixes Gucci Mane & Shawnna‘s “Pillz” with DâM-FunK’s “10 West“.

I wish more really dissimilar artists would collaborate on stuff like this.  I know Gucci and DâM didn’t actually get together to do this, it was mixed by a third party, but I think this proves that there’s some definite potential for the meeting of these two dudes’ styles.  I feel like artists get pigeonholed by their labels, fans, and probably themselves at times into this subgenre or that, but I feel like there are constant reminders that dudes and ladies from different zones can really get together to do some cool shit if they put their minds to it.  I remember first hearing about the Freddie Gibbs/Madlib team-up that’s happening right now and thinking “Whoa, I have no idea what this is going to sound like, but I know it’s gonna be awesome”, and so far it is.  Another good example is the cLOUDLIFE EP that came out recently with members of cLOUDDEAD and Main Attrakionz.  That shit came out of nowhere, to me at least.

I feel like it might even be pretty marketable too, I could see some Gucci Mane fans really warming up to DâM-FunK’s style if they got introduced to it through a collaboration between the two, and vice versa.  What do I know though?  Maybe it’s easier to sell records if people stay in their own lanes, I don’t pretend to be an expert on how to make money with music.  But I do know a thing or two about what sounds badass, and in that spirit, I’m gonna continue to be on the lookout for cool, unexpected collaborations in the future.  Let me know in the comments if you know of any that I didn’t mention.

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REALLY LOOKIN’ COOL IN HIS… WHITE LEVI’S

One thing a lot of rap detractors like to pretend and insinuate is that the problematic ideas expressed in many rap songs (violence, misogyny, materialism, etc.) are only newly problematic.  No one can deny that these ideas are present in rap music or that they are problematic, but I feel like I see more and more evidence all the time of the antiquity of these ideas in our culture as well as our music.  Why can Johnny Cash shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die, but when Weezy empties his clip, then rolls his window up, people start raising their eyebrows?  Why can Robert Plant claim that “the soul of a woman was created below“, but when Dre, Snoop, and Daz assert that “bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks“, they’re being offensive and destructive to society?

The materialism present in some rap music is probably not as hot-button an issue as these previous two, it’s usually at the end of a long list of complaints by people that want to disparage this music and is framed as more of an annoyance than a full-fledged indictment.  But today I found a really great example of even this more minor evil of rap having its predecessors in more “wholesome” music.

The Majorettes – White Levi’s

Name-brand dropping in rap songs definitely a lot more widespread than it was in 60s pop, but it’s good to be reminded that it wasn’t absent.  It reminds us that our culture really hasn’t changed that much, certain parts might have grown and expanded recently, but the issue itself is not at all new.  The Majorettes’ attitude toward name brands is the same as Rick Ross’s.  But how many people do you know that would scoff and turn their nose up at a rapper named Gucci Mane, but would find this song completely harmless, aesthetically and morally?  The point isn’t whether you want to be an advocate for materialism or not (or violence or misogyny for that matter), it’s whether or not you truly believe that the music we’re making is creating or bolstering these societal problems.  There isn’t a single one of us that doesn’t have a violent side, a bigoted side, a greedy, materialistic side.  But are we really going to believe that hearing a song where an artist channels that particular part of him or herself for a few minutes is going to make people that hear it drop everything and completely indulge that part of themselves?  When I hear a song like Waka Flocka’s “Bustin At ‘Em“, I’m no more likely to murder anyone after listening to it than before because I’ve been raised in an environment that teaches me that things like murder aren’t good things to do, and I live in an environment that doesn’t push me to abandon my morals to survive.  It’s when we create situations where there is little or no choice but to do things you know are wrong or when people start getting relaxed about teaching the youth these moral lessons that they can begin to be affected by something like a song in this way.

But I don’t believe it’s the artist’s role in society to always take the moral high ground and set a glowing example for the youth.  That’s not their job.  That’s why we have parents, grandparents, teachers, elders, priests, rabbis, shaman, monks, imams, chiefs, presidents, and countless other societal roles that are charged with the occupation of being examples to follow in ethical matters.  These are the people that need to be stepping up to do that job, it’s their job to stand on a hilltop or behind a podium and make sure you know that it’s not OK to steal from people, or to persecute people, or to murder people.  It’s the artist’s job to whisper in your ear that if you happen to have a passing thought or urge that defies these moral absolutes, you’re not alone, or crazy, or sick.  As long as our moral leaders are doing their jobs and our society isn’t pushing big groups of people into desperate circumstances, then it’s safe not to fear our artist’s whispers, because all they are doing is comforting us in our times of weakness and imperfection, allowing us to be comfortable with being human.  Flocka himself explained how his music plays that role in our society.

It’s for people that’s going through or living what I’m talking about. It teaches them how to relieve stress verbally instead of physically.

You don’t have to love the vices, you just have to admit that you’re susceptible to them like everybody else is.  I think we could all get along a little better if we all admitted that to ourselves, and each other.

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