Gucci Mane and the timelessness of authentic trap

Trey Alston

 // Sep 27, 2018

A // Instagram

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Gucci Mane recently announced that he's going on tour this November. Dubbed "The Unusual Suspects Tour," Carnage and Smokepurpp will be joining him for a surprising amalgamation of styles and ages; Carnage is 27, Smokepurpp is 21, Gucci Mane is 38. That Gucci Mane is the binding force that connects all three generations is not a surprise, but expected. He's braved nearly 15 years in the game's unforgiving climate, managing to not only remain relevant, but to remain in the conversation for rap's best. Largely due to his creativity and the game's ebb and flow always remaining in sync, there's a certain amount of next-level respect that Gucci unknowingly commands. What's more amazing is the fact that, for him to remain one of rap's most dominant factors, his sound has remained largely the same over the years. Consider it not to be continuous strokes of luck, but just the strength of Gucci Mane and the power of authentic trap music itself.

To describe the sound of Gucci is nearly impossible with words, but easily apparent once the music starts. It's thick, musky trap rap, light on punchlines, heavy in moodiness. There's a timeless nature to its brilliance and lack of atmospheric ambience. "So Icy"-era Gucci Mane, despite his considerable heftier appearance, shares many similarities to the paragon in 2018. Gucci's never been one for serious experimentation. His music mostly follows a classic pattern; he growls on the intro, delivers a few choice verses with a deft ear for aesthetic over content, and he sprinkles in clever choruses and bridge. This formula isn't anything new, and isn't contributed to Gucci. But he's one of the only ones to continuously mine this well and reap equally positive benefits each time.

T.I. swears up-and-down that he created trap music; hell, his second studio album was called Trap Muzik. Gucci Mane never claimed to be the subgenre's progenitor, but he should have staked his claim as the genre's most important. His debut studio album, Stack House, was comprised of the kind of anxious energy and street power that would go on to become a template for countless Datpiff mixtapes seeking to emulate the imposing gangster template Gucci cultivated. Album after album, of which there are 12, and mixtape after mixtape, of which there are 72, Gucci continued to build on the blocks of the particular trap sound he brought to the forefront.

For a while, Gucci Mane was like black licorice; he was an acquired taste that, if you were already into that type of thing, made sense, but if you weren't, his music felt empty. But as time went on, and the various dance phases of hip-hop continuously brought in and kicked out waves of rappers, Gucci became one of only several artists to withstand the purges that took place every few years. His three-year prison stint for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon helped him to emerge on the other side as a more commercial-friendly artist on the precipice of a new journey to continue building his image.

Against expectations, Gucci showed that the only thing that changed in jail was his eating habits. He released a mixtape and two albums by the end of 2016 when he was paroled. His work ethic was untouched; the sound, equally unchanged. On DropTopWop, he worked with haunting producer Metro Boomin for a slightly darker affair, making use of atmospheric beats for an assortment of slightly-stockier trap songs. Since then, every verse and every feature from Gucci exists in the claustrophobic creative space he's set. And each time, he receives acclaim.

Kanye West has long been one of rap's most innovative minds. But as the years have gone on, his portrait of himself has gotten progressively worse. His music is often an encapsulation of whatever he's feeling at the moment, with his latest project ye being an obnoxiously loud and irate collection of juvenile thoughts. The one takeaway that came from listening to the album was that Kanye was out of his element, slowly becoming farther and farther away from the genius creative streaks that he would go on in his younger days. Nicki Minaj suffered a similar feeling with the release of Queen, with many comparing the album's lack of true creativity to being stagnant and beneath her. When Drake released Scorpion, the album's sprawling demeanor was ridiculed because it lacked any innovative works within.

Gucci Mane is arguably more stuck in his ways than any of his fellow industry paragons, yet he never gets called out for it. Consider it the strength of his brand and the pedigree of music he's pushed for years. Trap music may have truly found its footing in the years after he first rose to prominence but, unlike hip-hop subcultures that remain relevant for a few years before fizzling out, it has continued to be one of the genre's most important subgenres. Trap music's pounding 808s and steely calm mannerisms have become intertwined with hip-hop itself, with Gucci Mane becoming something of a legendary figure for his continued utilization of these cultural cornerstones. Both Gucci Mane and the authentic trap that he's become associated with are widely considered timeless.

This immortality doesn't extend to his peers who have struggled with remaining relevant to the new-age. Every item has a shelf-life; for hip-hop, it's often age that determines when rappers need to go. Age is the way that we often judge declining creativity. The weak push for original sounds from rap's rotating cast of stalwarts is sickening. Drake channeled 21 Savage on "Nonstop" as a means of stepping outside of the box. Nicki Minaj repurposed a Notorious B.I.G. classic with "Barbie Dreams," showing her ability to follow a well-trodden blueprint. Kanye's many attempts to still innovate often strike out before they can connect.

Gucci's ability to connect with the next generation as well traces back to his authenticity at play. He's served as a mentor to many who respect his pioneering work for gangster rap in the 2000s. His template is akin to a blank Microsoft Word template, with artists building beautiful works of art with what he's created. Since his template serves as the nexus for the current generation, his music fits snugly into the kind of music already out. And when you strip down current trap music's melodies and other bells and whistles, you'll find Gucci's trap at the base. His peers' music lacks this same sturdy foundation, attributing to a plethora of lackluster projects this year.

Trap is a constantly changing subgenre of rap that continues to be one of the most important aspects of modern hip-hop. Its most basic template can be traced back to Gucci Mane's work in the mid-2000s and, since he still adheres to this template, his music is still satisfying in the modern rap climate. He consistently shows that true trap music is timeless. Gucci Mane's going to be rapping until he's 70 years old and still spewing hits because the entirety of modern rap culture is built off of his template.

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