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A Night Out With The Trap God: Gucci Mane at Echostage

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Khaliff Davis


A Night Out With The Trap God

Gucci Mane at Echostage

Thursday night felt like a victory lap for Radric Davis a.k.a. Gucci Mane after a long history of fretful stops and starts that threatened to undermine his prolific career. Even the most casual of fans could tell that the road to trap god stardom wasn’t easy. After his impressive 2016 stretch—one engagement, three albums, a string of iconic features, and even a NPR tiny desk concert—it’s hard to imagine that this time last year he was awaiting the end of his latest prison sentence. But, while never welcome, his time away ensured two things. His yeoman like focus grew even more potent, which was witnessed in full bloom in late 2016. And for the world, we had time to digest just how instrumental he was to today’s trap heavy sound. He was a man ahead of his time. The night played out part audience appreciation to for contribution to the game and part reminder to what we could’ve lost had trap’s elder statesmen not gotten another chance.

After audience chants of “Gucci” subsided, operatic voices from 2009’s “Classical” belted out of the sound system. For nearly a minute, the song played with no one in sight. The crowd waited almost an hour after the last set and was growing impatient. In hindsight, the audacity of the move aided his regal-like stature; the pregnant pause only added to the frenzy building within the crowd. Gucci graced the stage as the prophetic words “no one’s going to stop my reign” looped for the fourth time. His toothy smile stretched across either end of the stage. The crowd went wild as they saw in person that the trap god was back.  

The grand ovation was cut short as La Flare immediately went to work. Like a man possessed, he rattled off five crowd favorites in medley. His signature melodic drawl playing conductor to an audience who recited all the lyrics to the two Drake featured anthems, Both and Back on Road. Savvy move for an elder rapper fresh Out Tha Feds. Why denounce the guy who appropriated a geographically distinct term you popularized when you can forge a lucrative relationship with him instead? Money makes the world go around I suppose.

Rounding out the first fifth of his set list were two infamous tracks whose point of view center around what gender really has the upper hand. In I Think I Love Her, the crafty femme fatale details her raw unadulterated, truth as the pulsating heavy metal guitar riff races to the cataclysmic chorus. The crowd erupts in a high-pitched roar. “Ni**a You Don’t Love Me” reverberates throughout the concert venue as if to exorcise all deadbeats from within a 10-mile radius. Never one to be bested for too long, I Don’t Love Her puts Gucci and his crew back into the driver seat. They rattle off a list of positive declarations before rescinding it all with a terse rebuke of love. Signature Gucci—he could have a successful career in comedy if it weren’t for the menacing undertones that cut razor sharp. You can’t tell if he’s pulling your leg or pulling a gun. This tension runs true throughout his storied career.

What most intrigued me during the concert wasn’t the enviable setlist he performed, which could easily be compiled into a greatest hits double disc, but the room he made for the next crop of rising stars in his set that night. Twice he handed the mic off to lesser known artists seeking to make a name for themselves. But, this is Gucci per usual. His A&R talent is the stuff of legend as some of today’s brightest stars—Migos, Young Thug, Mike Will, and many more can nod to the trap impresario’s co-sign. Even the D.C. based rising star, Shy Glizzy, can tip his hat to him. The music production backing Glizzy’s piercing vocals fit snugly into the Atlanta-based trap cannon. He, too, made an appearance during one of Gucci’s set breaks.   

The once regional rap subgenre has catapulted to near ubiquity during Gucci Mane’s absence. People across the globe sway to the syncopated snares that take hold of bodies, moving them in unison no matter the origin. I still can’t believe the video I saw of a packed club in Nigeria with people singing along to Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” halfway across the globe. It just doesn’t seem real. Yet First Day Out, Gucci’s last song of the night, reminds me that trap’s thematic foundation is indeed universal. After a raucous, celebratory affair, he takes a deep breath and poignantly details the singular declaration that collectively binds the genre he helped to create, which is that no matter what, those who are forgotten will always find a way to prevail.  

Setlist:

Both

Fresh Out Tha Feds

Back on Road

I Don’t Love Her

Bricks

Lemonade

Freaky Girl

Photoshoot

Pillz (I Might Be)

What’s A Good to A Goblin (Remix)

Black Beatles

St. Brick Intro

Trap House 3

Last Time

My Kitchen

Trap House

Pu**y Print

Gucci Please

Make Love

Nothin’ On Ya

Making Love to the Money

Wasted

First Day Out


Khaliff writes frequently about music, place, race, and the political economy. You can find more of his work at his blog NativeAesthetic.com.

 

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