Don’t call it a comeback. Even though he’s been absent for the last few years serving a three year sentence for gun charges, Gucci Mane somehow managed to stay relevant by keeping up with and still releasing music while behind bars. Since his early release in March (he’s still on monitored house arrest) he wasted no time releasing his latest album, Everybody Looking, which finds a mature, reflective Gucci rapping through his reintroduction to the hip-hop community and negotiating his place within the changing landscape.
Gucci starts the album by setting the ground rules by declaring, “I can’t even sleep I’ve got so much to say.” You can sense the pent up energy from his long time away in prison. He goes on to reflect on his years of drug and alcohol abuse, “For all you junkies that’s addicted, please don’t get offended/ I’m a recovering drug addict and that’s not my intention.” This frank disclosure at the start of the album shows that Gucci has faced some of his demons in prison and come back transformed, both emotionally and physically (he lost over fifty pounds).
He goes on to consider his place as an icon and major influence on the Southern rappers of today on tracks like “All My Children.” On that song he takes a surprisingly mature and laid-back perspective to consider himself as a Godfather of sorts to his many proteges, including Waka Flocka Flame and Young Thug (who appears on “Guwop Home”). The track shows a benevolence rare in rap music today when he says, “Making rockstars out of trap boys/ And if we never talk again, still got your back boy.”
Lest you think Gucci has gone all soft, he’s still diligent about promoting the Gucci Mane brand. As I listened to the album I imagined a drinking game where you had to take a sip every time he says “Gucci” or “Guwop,” but I think most players would pass out before the fifth track. The lighthearted braggadocio that Gucci is known for is also present throughout Everybody Looking. The second track “Out Do Ya” chides non-incarcerated rappers for being outdone by a man behind bars, which comes off as a funny, ironic spin on Gucci’s time away.
Another frequent bragging point is his millionaire status. There are the usual mentions of Bentleys, Rolls Royces and gold chains, but throughout the album Gucci puts a strange, elitist twist to it, identifying himself more with the 1% than with the trap scene from which he came. One track is literally called “Richest N**** in the Room,” which is probably usually a literal truth. But Gucci goes on later in the album to say “I don’t even associate with n*****s who’s associates don’t have at least an M,” and “All my friends are millionaires, I hang out with millionaires.” It paints an odd picture of Gucci relaxing at a country club in his tennis whites, which seems at odds with his life and career as a whole.
Despite the silver spoon air, the album is straight trap music. Deep 808 bass beats, staccato high hats and grimy synth lines abound on every track. The sound could almost get monotonous if it weren’t for the dexterous, amorphous delivery of Gucci Mane weaving in and out of every track. He can come off as silly, bored, ambitious and wise all at once, which makes for an entertaining album.
On first listen it may seem that Gucci hasn’t missed a beat since his incarceration. But if you pay close attention to his lyrics, you can tell a change has come over Gucci Mane.