Atlanta-based rapper and trap pioneer Gucci Mane made his mainstream debut in 2005 with his first national hit, “Icy.” However, he became involved in a quarrel with that song’s collaborator, Young Jeezy, and found himself facing murder charges in the Georgia courts. The skirmish would kick off a storied narrative that defined his career. Before the dramatic arc, Gucci Mane (born Radric Davis) loved to compose rhymes, writing poetry as a child in elementary school in his native Birmingham, Alabama. During the fourth grade, he moved to Atlanta with his single mother. By the time high school started, Gucci Mane had already spent time in a recording studio. The glamour and fashion sense of rappers like Big Daddy Kane motivated him to put words to music. His debut single, “Black Tee,” was a hit on the local scene and earned him a contract with Big Cat Records. In May 2005, the label released his debut album, Trap House, which peaked at the number one spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart.
The beef with Young Jeezy originated from a fight over the rights to the album’s “Icy” hit single, which spawned a number of diss tracks traded between the two. Within the same month of the LP’s release, Gucci Mane was arrested for murder following an altercation in which he shot at a group of five men who burst into his friend’s house, threatening to kill the rapper. As it turned out, the murdered attacker was an associate of Young Jeezy, who denied any involvement with the incident. Gucci Mane declared in court that it was self-defense, and by January 2006, Georgia prosecutors dropped all charges, citing lack of evidence. However, the legal issues would only continue for the next decade.
After being released from jail (on charges unrelated to the murder) that same month, he quickly went back into the studio to make his second album, Hard to Kill, which was released in October. He took the song “Go Head” from his first album and made it the lead single for the second in order to make up for the time taken away from promoting Trap House. The State vs. Radric Davis, his second official album, was released in December 2009, following a dizzying array of dozens of mixtapes.
The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted followed in 2010, with guest shots from Estelle, Nicki Minaj, and Wyclef. Featuring the single “Mouth Full of Gold” with special guest Birdman, the “street album” The Return of Mr. Zone 6 followed in 2011, along with two collaborative albums, 1017 Bricksquad Presents…Ferrari Boyz with Waka Flocka Flame and Baytl with V-Nasty. A second volume of Gucci Mane’s The State vs. Radric Davis mixtape would drop in 2013. Entitled The State vs. Radric Davis II: The Caged Bird Sings, it featured appearances from Migos, Young Scooter, Peewee Longway, Verse Simmonds, Young Dolph, Rocko, and Young Thug.
In late 2013, his legal problems finally came to a head. He agreed to a plea deal over a firearms possession charge and wouldn’t be paroled from prison until May 2016. During his two years of incarceration, Gucci Mane would release close to 30 mixtapes.
The rapper would have a landmark year in 2016. His ninth studio album, Everybody Looking, arrived mere months after his release from prison. Issued on his own label, Guwop Enterprises, the LP debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and boasted high-profile guest appearances such as Drake, Kanye West, and Young Thug. Keeping up with his prolific reputation, Gucci Mane released his tenth album just five months later. Woptober featured Rick Ross, Travis Scott, and Young Dolph. Guwop also scored his first Billboard number one single with the Rae Sremmurd hit “Black Beatles.” To close out his busy 2016, he dropped his third album of the year, Return of the East Atlanta Santa, which debuted in the Billboard Top 20.
Gucci Mane’s career renaissance continued into 2017. After issuing the Shawty Redd collaborative EP 3 for Free, he joined forces with another producer, Metro Boomin, for Drop Top Wop, which was issued on the one-year anniversary of his release from prison. His eighth effort — counting the mixtapes and EPs — to arrive in the year following his release, Drop Top Wop featured appearances by Offset, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, and Young Dolph. Later that year, Gucci released Mr. Davis, his 11th official studio album. The effort featured guests like Migos (“I Get the Bag”), the Weeknd (“Curve”), Nicki Minaj (“Make Love”), Monica (“We Ride”), and many more. Mr. Davis debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. Before the close of 2017, Gucci issued his third official LP of the year, El Gato: The Human Glacier. His 18th effort to debut in the Top Ten of the rap chart, the Southside-produced El Gato also landed within the Top 30 of the overall albums chart. ~ Cyril Cordor & Neil Z. Yeung