It’s said that art mirrors life. In hip-hop’s case, there’s always been a deliberate entanglement of perception and reality. Fans demand their MCs be real…but never too real. Successful hip-hop is about the hint of the danger, the tease of it, the mystique. Hip-hop is about balance.

Gucci Mane is an artist striving for that balance, volatility versus musicality. Controversy, including a feud with former collaborator Young Jeezy, has grabbed the headlines, with insufficient regard paid to his considerable mic skills, raw talent, and business acumen. Gucci is looking to wrest his name from public speculation and let his own words do the talking.

Good music firmly in hand, Gucci was fast approaching stardom when more tragedy befell him. But let’s backtrack; how did the man born Radric Davis in Bessemer, Alabama, become Gucci Mane, mouthpiece for Atlanta stuntin’? Mane remembers little from his time in Alabama, just that it was rural, and that it’s changed dramatically since he left at the age of nine. Mane’s identity coalesced when he moved with his mother to Atlanta.

t’s a bleak portrait. When asked to describe his home life more vividly, Mane offers a look into his contemplative side, a side honed as a schoolyard poet. "I was just a young dude in a single parent house most of my life. I can’t complain that much. I would guess it’s like any black child growing up in a single parent household. There are a lot of people who know how that is. I didn’t have a lot coming up; but what I did have, I appreciated. I was blessed to have a caring mother to raise me right and to help me with my business ventures; she’s been there through the whole struggle. There’s a lot that goes along with that; it made me who I am today."

A stepfather would enter the picture during Mane’s adolescence, introducing not only a male figure, but also inspiration for Mane’s unusual moniker. Drawing inspiration from a pantheon of rappers before him –Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, the Beastie Boys, N.W.A—Mane went on to release Trap House, a lethal brew of his signature sound.

Unfortunately, Trap House was ill timed; the month of its release, Gucci was accused of murder and jailed for two days. Eventually deemed to be acting in self-defense, and without sufficient evidence to hold him, Mane was exonerated. But the ordeal left an indelible imprint on the man.
Asylum/Atlantic Records welcomed Gucci Mane in early ’07, granting him his own imprint, So Icey Entertainment. With it comes an entire stable of artists, the So Icey Boyz. As the Boyz ready for their own exposure, Gucci is focused on his magnum opus, Back to the Trap House.

But don’t mistake Gucci’s confidence for self-absorption. The vicissitudes of his career have dictated a longer view. Lyrics aside, he’s less preoccupied with visible means and more so with acting as an emissary from his under-repped block.

And Gucci’s professional aims have matured as well. While other rappers stress platinum plaques, Gucci hasn’t forgotten the route he took to stardom. Fortunately for Gucci, he should be prepared to welcome an army of new fans with Back to the Trap House. But longstanding fans shouldn’t fear; they’ll recognize “Freaky Gurl,” reprised from its previous appearance from Hard To Kill. Luda, upon hearing the joint, asked for a guest spot on the remix. Said remix now appears as the lead single on Back to the Trap House, following in Gucci’s theme of mating old and new. Over a bouncing, meandering beat from Cyber Sapp, the two cook up the requisite concoction of whips, chips, and chicks. Also look out for “Bird Flu,” the album’s number two single, laced by New-York based Supa Sonics. Elsewhere, firm guest verses from Rich Boy and Pimp C of UGK round out Gucci’s regional flavor, while Bay-area producer Zaytoven (of “Icy” renown) locks down Gucci’s West Coast appeal. Gucci Mane has something for everyone, and with the struggles of the past in his rearview, Gucci is settled in for his ride to the top.



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