Tag Archives: Gucci Mane

2016 RAP

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  1. Boosie Badazz – Mann
    Young Thug is still the best rapper breathing but Boosie owned 2016 for me and that’s not just because he gave me a pound on the DFW airport tram wearing pink socks.  After stirring some mainstream attention in 2015 when he got out of jail while simultaneously releasing some of his weakest material to date, multiple personal tragedies struck late last year to reawaken Boosie’s deepest talents and push them to the heights we witnessed in 2016.  Boosie has long been on my Top 5 Rappers with the Most Conviction, but 2016 might put him at #1.  So many have spoken nearly identical words, but with Boosie you believe him; and by that I don’t mean the literal content of the sentences, but the emotional force behind them.  Only a fool would believe the literal truth of every word any rapper says, but let me at least believe that you really feel the way you’re claiming, and not just selecting an emotion or message you think will make people think you’re deep or smart or relevant or scary or whatever image you’re going for.  When you hear a Boosie song from 2016, you know that each time he stepped into the booth he made the only song that he could have possibly made at that moment.  So many rap songs sound like the result of board room conversations or long ponderings about what kind of song would be relevant at this moment in the cultural zeitgeist (e.g. every Kanye West song).  With Boosie you’re getting the rawest, most pure expression of his perfectly flawed self at every moment, and that is a rare gift to receive as a listener.  Everyone wants you to believe that 2016 was terrible (and this song is in fact a great soundtrack to that sentiment), but for me it will forever be the year I proposed to the woman I love and gave Boosie a pound on the DFW airport tram.
  2. Young Thug – King TROUP
    While “Harambe” stood out out as perhaps the most marked development of Thug’s style this year, my favorite version of Young Thug right now (there are so many…) is the delicate, restrained version.  Maybe I’m just always one step behind his movements; last year I thought Barter 6 was boring on first listen and wanted the wild, unpredictable Thug back, now he breaks his voice screaming an entire song at me and all I want is whispers and syncopated empty space.
  3. Spodee – Black & Flashing
    It was almost as hard to pick a Spodee song for this list as it was to pick a Young Thug song for this list, his music touched me in so many different ways on different songs that it’s hard to say what the “best” was.  In situations like these I let the song that makes my body do the most interesting things break the tie, which is how we get “King TROUP” and “Black & Flashing“.
  4. Denzel Curry – Purrposely
    Now that Percocet, Xanax, & MDMA are the dominant rap drugs it’s rare to get such raw aggression from today’s artists like Denzel achieves here.  Boosie of course also achieved it with “Finish U” but he is the exception to every rule.
  5. Kodak Black – Slayed (feat. Boosie Badazz)
    Kodak Black wins Best Pronunciation of 2016.  The dropped consonants and captivating “ur” syllable repetition throughout his verse on “Slayed” are enough to keep my interest alone, but there’s so much more to this mournful track than this, and the mixtape that contains this gem is easily Kodak’s strongest project to date.
  6. Lil’ Wayne guest spots
    Sometimes you give up on artists only to have them nonchalantly waltz back into your life with an impossibly turned-around trajectory and revitalization.  Wayne did this for me in 2016 but puzzlingly only in his features, most notably “I Got A Question“, “Mad“, and “Bout That“.
  7. Tree – Heard Nothing
    We already know Tree had the non-rhyming chorus of the year on “All Dat“, but “Heard Nothing” is actually the best song on that project.  It’s easy to think of Tree as an artist with a single signature style that is just as deep, personal, and sincere as it is predictable (we’re still pretending like Trap Genius never happened, remember).  But “Heard Nothing” truly breaks new stylistic ground for Tree and I’m glad to hear him still experimenting with new flows and approaches to songs.  The almost mumbling, trailing off, crossing-the-bar complexity of phrase in this song is a far cry from the “I’m a better gangster than my father was…” one-liner style we’re accustomed to, and even though I could listen to infinite iterations of Tree rehashing his Sunday School flow for eternity, development and growth are certainly refreshing as well.
  8. Future – In Abundance
    The first few months of 2016 saw an abundance (see what I did there?) of Future releases but this loosie moved me more than anything on those mixtapes/albums/EPs/whatever they’re called now.  You might think of this as Future’s “King TROUP“, which is probably why I love it – constant delicate whispered syncopation.
  9. D.R.A.M. – Broccoli (feat. Lil’ Yachty)
    This song is way higher on the list than it should be but I just realized we’re almost 10 songs in and every track has been pretty heavy on the dark, sad, lonely, angry spectrum so here’s a beautifully fun happy song to vibe to for a few minutes before I make you listen to another song about death and loss.
  10. Chance the Rapper – Summer Friends (feat. Jeremih & Francis & the Lights)
    Y’all already know how I feel about Coloring Book, but even I can’t deny the beauty of this track.  Not only is it the only understated moment on that whole album, but it finally pairs Chance & Jeremih on the same song, something I’ve been wishing for since I first heard “Oui” and saw some parallel stylistic leanings.  The only way to improve this track would be to increase the Jeremih ratio by a factor of at least 3; matter of fact they should have kicked whoever Francis & the Lights is off the track completely and let Jeremih do all the singing.
  11. Zeroh – clock
    Zeroh makes rap music that’s actually as crazy as Desiigner and Danny Brown want you to think their music is.
  12. YG – Who Shot Me?
    A lot of the best music this year was the result of tragedy and pain.  Tree almost lost his mom, Boosie got cancer, and YG got shot under circumstances that made him call into question the loyalty of those closest to him.  I’m not thankful for any of these events but I admire these artists’ ability to transform these tragic moments into captivating, timely pieces of music for us lucky listeners.
  13. Ty Dolla $ign – What Are We Doing?
    A rare & welcome moment of honest introspection from Ty.  This song is tied with “No Justice” but wins out on the list because “No Justice” is arguably not even a rap song.
  14. Fetty Wap & PNB Rock – Addicted
    This mixtape was unexpected in so many ways, from the odd artist pairing to its surprising replayability.  PNB came into my awareness via “Too Many Years“, and we all know how Fetty Wap was introduced, but nothing about these artists histories or styles warned me that they’d come together to make this weirdly enjoyable mixtape that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.  What each of these rapper/singers lack in raw talent they more than make up for in chemistry on the best moments of Money, Hos & Flows, and that chemistry is best exemplified on the opening track where they calmly trade fours over an unassuming IBeatz production, somehow able to constantly hold my attention through three and a half minutes of pretty middling rap.
  15. Cousin Fik – Learn Sumn (feat. K00l John)
    Glad to see punchline rap alive and well in the bay thanks to Fik.  Sickest Nigga Healthy 3 is worth your time.
  16. Ezale & DJ Fresh
    See I like happy rap songs too!
  17. Nef the Pharaoh – Michael Jackson
    We’re getting into more stream-of-consciousness selection than song ranking at this point, I’m just gonna go ahead and knock out all the 2016 Bay Area jams now.  I think this song actually came out in late 2015 but it’s the best track on the 2016 Cardo/Nef tape so it gets a pass. “Say Daat” is good too.
  18. Mistah F.A.B. – Up Until Then (feat. Boosie Badazz & Iamsu!)
    Son of a Pimp, Pt. 2 turned out to be pretty disappointing but this track still jams.  I hope someday Iamsu! starts having fun making music again, sometime around 2013 we went this weird serious/aloof direction and his music has only suffered as a result.  This at least has a glimmer of that former lightheartedness, with strong verses from F.A.B. and Boosie.
  19. E-40 – Slappin’ (feat. Nef the Pharoah and D.R.A.M.)
    Before “Broccoli” captured everyone’s hearts and attention, this banger was in heavy rotation in my world, and still gets frequent revisits.  E-40 has a similar effect on Nef that Birdman had on Wayne in Like Father, Like Son – Nef checks his ego just enough to focus on rapping well instead of the kind of self-indulgent wanderings we’ve seen on some of his recent releases.  D.R.A.M. is also great on this song, pulling off a chorus only he could.
  20. Lil’ Durk – Check
    Last year two artists clicked for me after years of being unable to appreciate their music – Jeezy & Lil’ Durk.  I’m still not sure if their styles changed or my brain did (maybe both), but I’m happy I have two more active rappers whose releases I can be excited about.  Durk 2x is awesome, and “Check” is easily one of the best album openers of 2016.
  21. Jeezy – Goldmine
    Trap or Die 3 wasn’t quite as strong as last year’s eye-opening Gangsta Party but there’s still plenty to vibe to on this tape – see “Bout That” on #6 above.
  22. 9% Camp – Shit Right
    Gotta give these cats props for going in hard on a 6/8 beat like it’s nothing.
  23. Jeremih – Giv No Fuks (feat. Migos)
    I know this came out in late 2015 and Jeremih is not a rapper, but this is a rap song and none of us had time to fully process Late Nights: The Album before this year, so it deserves its place on this list.
  24. Nipsey Hussle – Basic Instinct
    Slauson Boy 2 is great, and this song feels like if you boiled that whole mixtape down into its most potent extract and then dripped a droplet of it onto each eyeball.
  25. Ka – Mourn at Night
    Honor Killed the Samurai wasn’t a huge step forward for Ka or anything, but was still one of the albums I listened to the most this year.  This is an especially swirly one that contrasts beautifully with Ka’s stone cold delivery.
  26. Starlito – Greatness
    Now that his friend Red Dot is out of jail, Starlito will definitely have to come up with some more album, shout-out, and song title sources, and I wonder if it might even shift his whole creative direction in some way with how heavy that message has been in the past few years.  Maybe that’s how we got Starlito rapping over a hopeful Jazzy Pha beat and not talking about depression every few bars.
  27. Justiiice – Running in Circles
    I’m pumped that my Justiiice pick for this year is still on Soundcloud to post after having my 2015 pick disappear from the Internet before I could pay it homage.  Anyone still doubting Chief Keef’s influence on today’s rap or auto-tune’s emotive power should study this song thoroughly.
  28. Vince Staples – Big Time
    Little Bit of This had a cool video but I think “Big Time” is the best Vince Staples song this year.
  29. ScHoolboy Q – By Any Means (Part 1)
    How “That Part” became as huge as it did this year will forever be a mystery to me, but this track might actually be my favorite ScHoolboy Q song ever (which isn’t saying much because I don’t actually like him but one of my favorite things is when an artist I don’t like makes a song I do like so enjoy).  Parts 2 & 3 ain’t bad either.
  30. Danny Brown – Lost (as of this writing, the only YoutTube link for this is actually weird instrumental funk song that has nothing to do with “Lost“, so this is the only link to a paid streaming service, sorry for it)
    Maybe it just needs a little more time to grow on me, but Danny Brown’s Warp debut didn’t quite rub me the right way.  Unlike the best moments of XXX and Old, Atrocity Exhibition shows Danny Brown at his least synergistic with the production he’s choosing.  Most of the raps don’t feel like they were written or even chosen for the beat they’re on, and as a result the rhythm and cadence of the individual lines don’t interlock very well with the rhythm and cadence of the music.  It sounds disjointed and sloppy and not in the good ways that Danny Brown can sound disjointed and sloppy.  The off-kilter production serves to highlight not Danny’s weirdness or individuality, but rather exposes his rap style as being surprisingly basic.  The dominant aesthetic is warbly unquantized sample with disconnected single couplets in a weird voice.  There are a lot of cool textures and gestures throughout, but “Lost” is one of the only tracks that feels cohesive in the way I know Danny Brown can be; and by that I mean cohesive within a single song, the album as a whole is quite cohesive.
  31. Curren$y – Told Me That
    I’ll admit I haven’t paid much attention to Curren$y since he left Young Money and the best parts of his rap style behind back in ’07 or whenever that was.  Luckily I try to listen to everything Starlito puts out so I happened to catch this moment where a glimmer of Curren$y’s former A game peeked out from the darkness.  For the first time since the “Ridin’ with the AK” era we hear Curren$y making the words fit the groove instead of the other way around.  This is when Curren$y sounds his best, putting just the right syllables on the right places in the bar, and emphasizing just the right moments to pull you into the flow of the beat even more strongly than before.  Now that I know he’s still capable of this, it makes me wonder if these gems are sprinkled through his whole back catalog just under the surface.  Anybody know whether or not that’s the case so I don’t have to spend the next month listening to a bunch of weak ass Curren$y songs?
  32. Lil’ B – Finess ‘Em
    Now more than ever we need to remember that Lil’ B exists and take his music to heart.
  33. Mozzy – Messy Murder Scenes
    Rap game Energizer bunny on this one.
  34. Ralo – My Brothers (feat. Future)
    I’ll admit a lot of the driving force of this track comes from Southside and Future, but Ralo holds his own on this uncharacteristically upbeat track, and is definitely an easier listen than most of the other tracks on Diary of the Streets 2.  It’s possible that my ear just hasn’t quite adjusted to Ralo’s usual voice and delivery, but I find that I enjoy his songs most when he’s got a little bit of staccato mixed in with the constant dragged-out lilt of his crazy ass voice.  I’ve got faith he’ll catch his stride and hone his sound, or that I’ll come to realize he’s been great all along and just couldn’t hear it.
  35. Earl Sweatshirt – Mirror
    Earl stays comfortably in his own lane with this one, relying on the strength of his lyrics and delivery to keep you engaged with this wildly gritty production.  I’m absolutely in favor of this kind of under-produced basement rap, as long as it has the urgency and vibrancy Earl exhibits on songs like “Mirror“.
  36. Tate Kobang – Oh My
    Also in favor of the stripped-down physicality of songs like “Oh My“, it’s a nice break from the hazy somberness and detachment of so much of today’s rap.
  37. Butch Dawson – Ain’t No Limit I Go
    This song does a great job of never giving  you quite what you want but in a very endearing way, like an older brother holding a piece of candy just out of your reach with a big grin on his face but you know he loves you.
  38. Noname – Sunny Duet (feat. theMIND)
    I haven’t heard a female rapper be this playful and lyrical at the same time since Ladybug Mecca and its wonderful to hear.
  39. DJ Carnage – Mase in ’97 (feat. Lil’ Yachty)
    Here’s a pretty serious rap conundrum – Yachty spitting “hella bars” on a song named after a 90s rapper [scratching chin emoji].
  40. Z-Ro – New Shit
    Ro keeps it almost too real on this one with the “I don’t do this for y’all” line but by now we should be used to Z-Ro’s keeping it a little too real.

    These next 5 I’m still on the fence about

  41. Aminé – Caroline
    It’s hard to say exactly what’s holding me back on this one, I just have this feeling my future self will find my current self naive for thinking this was cool.  I should probably just enjoy it for the fun song it is, but I can’t shake that sinking feeling…
  42. 21 Savage – No Heart
    I’ve listened to Metro Savage or whatever that album is called  a few times now and I sorta get it I think but I just don’t yet feel like it achieves what so many people think it has.  I see what he’s going for, but it doesn’t feel to me like he actually got there.  Might just take a few more listens.
  43. Kevin Gates – Really, Really
    I like Kevin Gates a lot but I’m never actually in the mood to listen to his music.
  44. Gucci Mane – Dirty Lil’ Nigga
    Gucci is a legend and I’m glad he’s fit and out of jail and has shiny teeth and everything but every song I heard from him this year just didn’t quite hit home for me.  I like a lot of things about a lot of it, and this one’s probably my favorite, but it’s still a little lackluster compared to what I know he’s capable of.
  45. Brodinski’s collaborations (Dead People, Get Me Some More, Big Dawg, etc.)
    Feel kinda the same way about these as I do about “Caroline“.  I can’t deny the immediate physical response I get from these songs but something feels suspicious about it.  I feel like I’m almost being catered to too much, and it leaves me wondering about the hidden agenda there, or worse what better music might I be missing?

    Best from other people’s lists:

  46. The Team – Can I (RAP MUSIC HYSTERIA!)
    It’s embarassing but also beautiful that this video was shot 4 blocks from where I live but it took a blogger in Florida posting it for me to find out about it.
  47. Smino – Zoom (Noz)
    This dude is pushing into Zeroh territory as far as actually-crazy-sounding rap music and not “look how crazy I am” rap music.
  48. NBA Youngboy – 38 Baby (The Martorialist)
    I saw this video when it came out and loved it but then forgot who it was or where I saw it posted or anything about the dude’s name or where he’s from so it slipped through my fingers in the moment.  Luckily it popped up on a few of these lists this year so I could rediscover it and share.
  49. WNC Carlos, JMM Larry, & SOG Sherwood Flame – Cross Me (So Many Shrimp)
    Rap can do relentless like few other genres can (see “Messy Murder Scenes” above and “Gas Chamber” below) and this is an especially fun version of it.
  50. DB tha General – Gas Chamber (RAP MUSIC HYSTERIA!)
    Speaks for itself.
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RAP GAME HUGO BALL

It’s great when completely disparate artists make the same discovery completely independent of each other.  While the Dadaists felt the need to pontificate and publish manifestos about their groundbreaking movement, street kids making the same aesthetic realizations are just posting them on Worldstar.  Check out this new track whose chorus is just as pure sound poetry as Zang Tumb Tumb.

Yakki – Gang Gang (feat. Lotto Savage & Yung Booke)

Gucci got close to this with some of his more hypnotically simple choruses, but was still relying on the sounds he was making to have some semantic meaning.  “Versace” is also in this realm.

Gucci Mane – I’m Up (feat. 2 Chainz)

Young Thug of course comes to mind as well, but even he keeps his guttural chirps and growls in the background punctuating the more traditional vocal sounds that you find in the dictionary.  This is maybe the closest effort from Thug, with a chorus 50% comprised of the word “yeah”.

Young Thug – Dome (feat. Duke)

Who’ll be the one to take it to the next level, with entire verses of utter beautiful nonsense with maybe a few familiar definition-having sounds for decoration in the background?  Maybe rap isn’t that concerned with taking concepts to their logical extreme, but I’d welcome it if someone tried as long as it was a sincere effort like the ones above, and not some silly shit.

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MORE STAMINA THAN ANIMALS

Sometimes when I get desperate for something different to listen to I’ll dig into old Tumblin’ Erb posts for stuff I overlooked or under-appreciated at the time.  Today while clicking my way through this post from 2012 I discovered the origin of the hook from my favorite Sasha Go Hard track which coincidentally came out that same year.

Sasha Go Hard – Tatted

Gucci Mane – Photoshoot

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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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