Gucci Mane returned from federal prison, where he was sent after a 2013 arrest for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, in the most Gucci Mane way possible. Just as he did in 2009, after a shorter bid, he released a new song less than 24 hours after his release. But there’s a marked shift in tone from 2009’s “First Day Out” to this year’s “1st Day Out Tha Feds.” On the former, Gucci went straight back to the trap, starting his day with “no pancakes, just a cup of syrup.” On the latter, there’s regret, pain, and fear about the lifestyle that led him here—to the point of being a yearned-for rap megastar, a self-described recovering drug addict, and a freshly-released federal inmate—in the first place.
“1st Day Out Tha Feds” is track 11 on Everybody Looking, Gucci Mane’s latest major label LP. The song was produced by Mike WiLL Made-It, who, along with “First Day Out” producer Zaytoven, forms the sonic foundation of the album. Both producers have a longstanding relationship with Gucci—Zaytoven’s beats helped define Gucci’s style before he blew up, and Gucci helped Mike WiLL make a name for himself during the producer’s ascent. Aside from Murda Beatz’s “Back On Road” and Drumma Boy’s “All My Children,” the handled production on all of Everybody Looking. The beats are far from paradigm shifting, but they mesh with Gucci’s unpredictable, adlib-laden delivery. Gucci himself acknowledges this on “Waybach,” declaring he’d “rather rap on a Zay track than a Dre track.”
The album arrived only eight weeks after Gucci was released to his Atlanta home, where he’s serving the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. The speedy delivery of the project mirrors the urgency of its first single. Eight weeks is a short amount of time for anyone to put together an album, let alone an artist readjusting to a life and industry which he’s been distanced from since September 2013. All of these songs were allegedly recorded in only six days.
Just as “1st Day Out Tha Feds” is a sequel to previous work but also a slight departure in tone, Everybody Looking is evidence that the evolved Gucci is ready to get back to business as usual. He may have traded his excess weight for muscle, gone sober, and started writing lyrics again, but this quick turnaround is proof that he hasn’t changed his approach to output, specifically prolifically and speedily feeding fans with hook-heavy trap anthems. He barely even took a break from doing so while behind bars, as longtime engineer and assistant Sean Paine released 20+ mixtapes of old recordings on his behalf. Of course, those mixtapes were just holdover, cobbled together from preexisting verses. It makes sense that Everybody Looking would receive a different sort of scrutiny.
But the problem with viewing Everybody Looking through that lens is that Gucci Mane has never been an album artist. Whether or not the project as a whole is exemplary as an album doesn’t necessarily matter. Gucci has never been about being perfect, or even attempting it. His music is spontaneity, a way of letting a particular consciousness stream loose over big beats. He can make a hook out of anything—including, on this album’s “Pussy Print,” a comparison of his wallet to female genitalia.
An absurd Gucci one-liner stashed in an otherwise lackluster song—like as “If I ain’t a millionaire my little boy can grow a pussy” on “Out Do Ya”— forgives everything that surrounds it. Gucci’s thorough depictions of his inner self—“I done robbed niggas, I done got robbed/I done sold soft, and I done sold hard/I done got away, and I done got caught/So if I’m crazy, then it ain’t my fault” on “Robbed”—are equally as important. Everybody Looking is a snapshot of a particular moment more than a monument intended to stand the test of time.
The theme of Everybody Looking, if there is one, is simply that Guwop is back. He says as much on multiple hooks. And that’s enough. Never mind the subpar Kanye and Drake contributions, or the generic lyrics of “Gucci Please” and “At Least a M.” He’s home, which means he no longer has to talk about beats with Zaytoven and Mike Will via CoorsLink, the messaging service for incarcerated individuals. He can make an entire album alongside them, and then invite Young Thug over to record music videos for each song in every room of his house. His absence left a void in hip-hop, but the state of the genre to which he has returned reflects his status as a legend. Atlanta is the epicenter. Young Thug is a star, and plenty of other artists owe much to the mentorship of Gucci. Zaytoven and Mike WiLL are two of the most sought-after beatmakers. All of these things were at least partially true before Gucci’s arrest, but his return reinforces his influence.
Everybody Looking is more of a hastily recorded celebration of Gucci’s return rather than a toiled-over project—which is the most Gucci Mane thing he could have possibly given us. Hopefully he’s already working on the next one.