Gucci Mane

It took just a couple of years for Radric Davis, a.k.a. Gucci Mane, to go from being a semi-obscure Atlanta trap-rapper to one of the hottest artists in hip-hop. Though Gucci lacks the virtuosity of Lil Wayne or the exhuberance of Young Jeezy, something about his leisurely, wordy flow and his ability to ride a beat with amazing ease -- not to mention a tireless work ethic -- has made him into a sensation both on the Internet and on the streets.

In 2005, after gaining buzz with “Black Tee” and “Icy,” a song with fellow Atlantan Young Jeezy, Gucci released his independent debut, Trap House. That album was almost entirely produced by Zaytoven, an Atlanta producer with whom Gucci often collaborates. Zaytoven’s productions are slinky, busy-sounding constructions that mesh perfectly with Gucci’s big baritone and have become an crucial ingredient in the rapper’s aesthetic. After releasing the independent albums Hard to Kill and Trap-a-Thon in 2006 and 2007, respectively, Gucci Mane made his major-label debut with Back to the Trap House in 2007, which featured high-profile guests like Pimp C, The Game, and Ludacris but failed to make much of a dent commercially.

2008 was when Gucci the mixtape phenomenon was born. He seemed to stop sleeping and do nothing besides get high and rap. Unofficial and official mixtapes seemed to drop by the week, and there were little duds among the flood. But the contents of Gucci’s lyric sheet didn’t expand to psychedelic, absurdist regions, as in the case of the similarly prolific Lil Wayne. Instead the rhythm of Gucci’s verses gained a laser-like precision, and he used the same limited vocabulary of drugs, money, cars, chains, and women to murder any beat he came within inches of. In 2009 Gucci jumped onto big singles by Mariah Carey, Black Eyed Peas, and Omarion, and released the much-anticipated The State Vs. Radric Davis. But legal issues put an unwelcome damper on the swelling hype. After getting picked up for a parole violation, Gucci went behind bars in November 2009 to start serving a year-long sentence. ~Wilson McBee

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