Gucci Mane is, for the moment, the most important rapper in hip-hop. It won’t last, but for now – a month-and-a-half since he got out of prison on parole after a three-year sentence – rappers from old-collaborators-made-good like Young Thug to the likes of Drake and Kanye West are hitting him up to join projects. Both even stooped to be featured on Gucci’s first post-prison full-length, Everybody Looking, which dropped last night. Actually. “P** Print” includes one of Kanye’s more distinctive verses of this year.
Perhaps Gucci’s greatest period, when he was the dominant force in Southern rap absent Lil Wayne, was between 2008 and 2009, when his mixtapes and radio singles alike were positioning him for a world takeover. But Everybody Looking finds a youthful-sounding Gucci (almost too spritely to seem real) audibly trying harder at his art than he has since roughly 2010. The throwback effect is helped, to some extent, production, handled largely by his storied collaborators Zaytoven and Mike Will Made-It. The beats are high-grade, largely channeling the bouncy, percolating trap sound that initially made Gucci an icon in Atlanta. Some sound like they could have been pulled from a 2009 hard drive.
If Gucci’s couplets on Everybody Looking aren’t as grabbing and grin-inducing as those of his golden days (see our recommendations here ), he makes up for it with a newfound voracious energy. It’s easy, when listening to Everybody Looking, to recall why the sound and flows he invented have become common practice across all walks of hip-hop.
Here are the five essential tracks from Everybody Looking.
Outside of joyous count-up jam “Guwop Home,” Gucci’s throwback Zaytoven-produced “Waybach” is the primary victory lap of the album, both in musical particulars and lyrical content. It answers an important question with its central line: The rumor was that Atlantic Records dropped Gucci in 2013, which is why the countless releases he put out in prison — and others just before — came directly from his 1017 Records. But Everybody Looking is a major-label release, showing that even the major-label illuminati want a piece of the nu-Gucci pie.
“They know my Glocks sing my hooks and we call it pop music…My choppers sing all my hooks and I call it rock music”
A classic Gucci extended-metaphor track.
Gucci just got out but goddamn he goin’ in/These lil’ boys don’t ball like Guwop, they play above the rim”
It’s a nice interruption: more upbeat than Gucci’s usual plodding BPM. The No Limit-esque skitter of “Gucci Please” finds Guwop as nimble as he’s been on a beat in years.
“At Least a M”
The Mike Will-produced highlight of Everybody Looking opens with a reference to “a walking lick.” The line is a nod to one of the best songs Will and Gucci ever collaborated on. “At Least a M” is a standard-issue Mike Will and Gucci creeper, with Gucci firing off his most memorable couplets of the tape. It’s full of the non-sequitur humor and playful shifts in flow that characterize all of his best work: “When I was behind the fence you was acting like a bitch/ So I might slap you like a pimp/ My chef is cooking shrimp.” Gucci, newly sober and tired of street life, sounds like a new man. But this song is full of the same charm that has made him an icon for several generations of Southern rappers.