Whether or not you listen to Trap music or hip-hop/ rap music in general, chances are you have heard about the notorious Big Guwap better known as Gucci Mane. One thing for sure, Gucci has to be one of the most polarizing figures in all of music. From his trouble with the law, to his not so subtle way of telling the world who he doesn't respect in his field (see below), there is plenty of ammunition for the average person to judge him negatively, but his relentless passion, legendary work ethic, and musical talents give many other people positive inspiration.
However, love him or hate him, it appears Gucci is not just here to stay, but firmly planted as an integral part of the make-up and new trends within modern music. You need look no further than Future, Young Thug, Migos, Fetty Wap, Waka Flocka Flame, Mike Will Made It (the list goes on and on), and countless others to understand how influential Gucci Mane is in today’s music industry (which will be discussed in-depth later on in the series). Gucci Mane was not only the key ingredient in the creation of what has been dubbed by the streets as, “trap music”, but he is its living, breathing embodiment and the – if you will – Don Corleone of the genre.
Gucci Mane’s fame and persona go above and beyond his musical talents. As you learn more about him it becomes clear that it has not just been his patented snot nose flow that has his albums flying off the shelves and the masses buying “Free Gucci” t-shirts at mind-boggling numbers, but even more so, his business acumen, personal life, and the countless motion picture like stories surrounding it, has built the legend of Gucci Mane to mythological proportions.
Where it all Started – The Green Machine:
If you have been listening to Gucci for as long as I have then a few things are abundantly clear to you about his past, but for those of you who aren’t so familiar allow me to lay it out for you. Radric Davis (Gucci Mane), was born in Bessemer, Alabama, a small former coal town and suburb of Birmingham. However, it wasn’t long – when Gucci entered the fourth grade – until he would move to east Atlanta, Georgia with his brother and mother, and where the real saga of Gucci Mane began.
While in Atlanta Gucci would meet his long-time friend and collaborator, Oj Da Juiceman, according to Oj he lived right across the street from Gucci at Mountain Park Apartments in east Atlanta and they became friends trading Nintendo game cartridges. It wasn’t long before the two moved to the notorious Sun Valley Apartments on Bouldercrest (routinely mentioned by Gucci Mane in his music, he even has a song named after it) and started to experiment with music, albeit at a very limited capacity. The way Oj tells it, it all started with what the friends called, “the green machine”:
You know how apartments have generators, like with a little green box on them? I remember sitting on the generator eating snacks, just beating on the generator. We called it “the green machine.” We used to beat on the green machine and we both started freestyling, rapping, thinking we had talent.
Little did the pair know that they were right, they did have talent, and that “the green machine” would serve as the starting point for their careers in rap music.
The Start of a Legacy: Meeting Zaytoven and Kevin "Coach K" Lee
Before diving into this section, I feel that just for a short disclaimer I have to mention my infatuation with Zaytoven’s production. He has so perfectly been able to blend the sound from his native area, the bay, with the modern style of trap production to a point where he has become head and shoulders one of the best and most talented producers in the game…. Not to mention that his beats, and Gucci Mane’s lyrics and flow, go together like peanut butter and jelly, but I digress…
Ironically enough, the first time Gucci and Zaytoven met, it was surrounding the rap career of someone else - Gucci’s nephew - who wanted to get into music. During this first meeting Gucci originally wanted to pay Zay to make a beat for his nephew for what would be a song entitled “Lil Buddy”. However, when Zaytoven noticed Gucci teaching and showing his nephew how to rap he “felt something special about Gucci at the time—the way he was helping his nephew out. [They] exchanged numbers, and then it turned into Gucci coming over to rap rather than his nephew. That’s how [they] got started.” And the rest was history… literally. The two have not looked back since, having the closest of working relationships that still continues to this day. But, at the time, it wasn’t about the money; it was all about the joy of making music. That is, until he met Coach K and was introduced to Young Jeezy – which I will touch on in the next section.
Just who is Coach K you might ask? Well, in Atlanta, he is a legendary music manager (former manager of both Gucci and Young Jeezy) and co-founder of Quality Control Music. Early on, once word started to get out about Gucci’s music, the streets were buzzing, and the industry was listening. Around this time, after hearing tracks like “Fork in the Pot”, Coach K was interested, he was looking to meet Gucci, and would get his wish in the famous Atlanta shoe store, “Walter’s”. A week later, he got Gucci in well-known Patchwerk Studios with Young Jeezy where they would craft the revolutionary, financially lucrative, and internally disputed, smash single “Icy”.
Part 2: The Reinvention of Beef, Birth of Trap Music, and Dawn of a Legend To be continued…
“Icy”, Young Jeezy, and the REALEST beef of all time:
*Huge shout out to The Fader for having an oral history of Gucci Mane that was so influential in helping piece together the life and times of this genius.