In the brilliant, bestselling Autobiography of Gucci Mane, published in 2017, the rapper recalls the two times his life when it was, as he puts it, “open season on me”.
The first came about in 2006, when fellow Atlanta artist Young Jeezy took aim at a then-ascendant Mane with the diss track ‘Stay Strapped’. Almost five years later, flush with cash but with a career on the skids due to an all-consuming drug addiction, the author looked out to a non-plussed crowd at the BET Hip-hop Awards. “Everything was slipping away from me,” he remembers.
Few have had such a turbulent and event-filled life as 39-year-old Radric Davis. There have been so many Guccis – Guwop, La Flare, El Gato, to name a few of his personas – that it’s taken around 110 records to document them all so far. Last year’s extraordinary album ‘Evil Genius’ was a full-stop on his transition from pre-prison, drug-ravaged Mane to the happy, toned married man (he’s credited wife Keyshia Ka’Oir for his rehabilitation) in his splashy Instagram snaps.
It was his most accessible and poppy album so far, right down to a smash-hit Bruno Mars collaboration in the form of the hooky ‘Wake Up In The Sky’’. Where, though, could he go from there?
The answer, we find on ‘Woptober II’, his second release of 2019 (‘Delusions Of Grandeur’ came out in June), is to dial back the commercial pop sensibilities but add a shimmer and sheen to the brooding sound he began to explore with 2011’s ‘The Return of Mr. Zone 6’. Where ‘Delusions of Grandeur’, while good fun, sometimes felt airless and even sterile, suspiciously resembling material dredged from an ancient hard drive (On ‘Love Thru The Computer’, Justin Bieber croons “you can meet me on my laptop” like it’s 2009), ‘Woptober II’ is much more intimate.
‘Came From Scratch’, featuring Migos’ Quavo, opens with creeping synths that could have been lifted from a ‘Halloween’ soundtrack, before Mane ruefully recalls, “I needed folks / They left me dead / They kicked me / I was down”. On the muted ‘Opps And Adversaries’, he addresses the infamous ice cream face tattoo he had inked after leaving a mental health facility in 2011: “Tattoos on my face / The media said it was dumb / Momma threw me out her house for trapping / I was young.”
There’s a sense of claustrophobia here, and endless reminders of the hardships he had to outrun to arrive at ‘Evil Genius’. But there’s also playfulness on ‘Woptober II’, which bears little relation to 2016’s ‘Woptober’ except for the fact that it’s a Gucci Mane album released in, erm, October – which is playful in itself.
‘Big Booty’, featuring woman of the moment Megan Thee Stallion, is a dancefloor smash wrapped around a lithe guitar line and includes enjoyably groan-worthy puns (“She’s a masterpiece / The way she’s running games on you / She’s an atha-lete”). On the louche ‘Big Boy Diamonds’, Mane comes as close to social commentary as he’s ever likely to: “I’m changing the climate like global warming.” He needn’t to look far beyond his own life for compelling material.
On ‘Tootsies’, featuring Atlanta’s Lil Baby, the rapper boasts about his recent collaboration with the high-end fashion brand that once wouldn’t touch him with a 48-karat gold barge pole: “Gucci sandals on like I was Jesus / B**ch as fine as Kim K / And these are not Yeezys”.
Much of ‘Woptober II’ finds Mane vowing not to repeat his past mistakes, but an equal amount sees him looking ahead with a sense of positivity – the presence of Lil Baby and Megan The Stallion tells you everything about his commitment to new sounds. Last year he told Zane Lowe: “I’m just proud that I’m still around, still making music and people still wanna hear it”.
A lot has changed since it was last open season on Gucci Mane. The optimism and positivity on this album is infectious, even when he’s reminded of the darker times.