The story of Gucci Mane will remain etched in rap lore for decades to come. While the East Atlanta veteran’s 12-year career hasn’t yet spawned any household hits of his own, and his discography doesn’t boast an undisputed classic LP just yet, his cultural influence is unmatched. The destruc-tive duality of a life balancing entertainment and crime has plagued Gucci’s career: whenever it looked like he was on a home run musically, the street life would strike him out. Since the turn of the millennium he’s been incarcerated at least 10 times.
When we meet up with Radric Davis to interview him for this cover story, he’s still not permitted to enter the UK. Instead we’re invited to join him at K Club, a luxurious golf and leisure complex just outside of Dublin where he’s residing ahead of a show at Longitude Festival. It’s the 37-year-old’s first time outside of the United States, and he isn’t too cool to reveal how much fun he’s having. Pulling up a chair in the corner of the closed restaurant area, he’s unable to hide his gleaming white veneers as he reaches out for a handshake.
After emerging last year from his longest prison sentence yet - three years for possession of a fire-arm by a felon, which at one point looked as though it could be ten times as long - the transforma-tion of his appearance has been written, tweeted, commented upon and memed thousands of times. Just days before our interview, Rihanna posted a before-and-after shot of his 75lb weight loss on Instagram along with the caption “If you can’t handle me at my 2007 Gucci Mane, you don’t deserve me at my 2017 Gucci Mane,” which he laughs about during our conversation. However, Gucci’s biggest change lies beyond the surface.
On ‘1st Day Out Tha Feds’ - a track that was penned in prison then recorded and released a day after he regained his freedom in May last year - he describes the plague of thoughts that had been troubling him; paranoid, numb, violent and impatient as he struggled for survival. “I did some things to some people that was downright evil,” he raps. “Is it karma coming back to me? So much drama. My own mama turned her back on me, and that’s my mama.”
Today, overlooking the K Club’s vast golf course, Gucci is thankful to have overcome that self-destructive internal narrative. “I just monitor what I think,” he explains. “I didn’t know that what you think all the time is really what you end up doing. I always used to think that everybody was against me. Nobody really wanted to see me win.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. While inmate #65556019 was holed up in Terre Haute, Indiana, he received countless letters from fans around the world, and read every single one. With “Free Gucci” ringing off around the globe, his trusted engineer Sean Paine kept fans fed, releasing countless mixtapes from his expansive stash of unreleased music. And when news spread that he’d be being released a few months early, Drake and Kanye West were lining up to work with him.
A year on and Gucci is truly appreciative of how his life and career have progressed. Two months after his release from prison he dropped ‘Everybody Looking’, his most successful album to date, followed by ‘Woptober’ and ‘The Return Of East Atlanta Santa’ both before the end of 2016. In August last year he joined Rae Sremmurd on their viral hit ‘Black Beatles’, which would be his first number one single on US Billboard, and his Drake-featured single ‘Both’, released in December, would become his first platinum single as lead artist.