gucci mane everybody looking
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Gucci Mane recently released his new album, Everybody Looking. A longtime fan, I felt an instant twinge of nostalgia in anticipation. (To be honest, I might’ve squealed a little.) You see, I grew up on Guwop. His prolific catalog (along with the music of Mr. West) was the soundtrack to my semi-wild and irregular youth. For better or worse, parts of my life mirrored his lyrics. Wasted? Check. Thinking I loved her? Check. Doggish Lothario? Check and double check — over a decade of firsts (and, fortunately, some lasts) were chronicled through the lens of Gucci Mane Laflare. So, one could only imagine my excitement for his latest project.

Rapture aside, as I opened my music app to listen to his long-awaited album, I couldn’t help but feel an equally intense feeling of concern. Let’s face it — my life has changed completely since Gucci dropped new material. I am not the same person as I was a decade ago. No longer am I the 18-year-old who hung out in a small, smoke filled room listening to Gucci’s signature nonsensical colloquialisms, drinking cups of brown, and smoking blunts of an undisclosed substance (I can’t say too much. I’m a working professional).

Sobriety, two degrees, and a mountain of experience later — it goes without saying that I've evolved. I couldn’t help but wonder that when the nostalgia faded, could I relate to the content left behind?

To my surprise, I can.

Laced seamlessly within the whimsical wordplay of old, lies an introspective and observant trap Tony Robbins — a welcome soundtrack to my own life transition. In Gucci’s absence, the past few years of my life have been packed with personal reflection, defeat, vulnerability, but nonetheless, steady growth — major themes Gucci undoubtedly applied to his own life. For instance, his first track "No Sleep" is a full-on indictment of his prior lean-drinking proclivities. The song immediately puts a chasm between him and the dope advocates of today — forcefully denouncing his past actions while recognizing his own role in perpetuating the culture of prescription drug abuse.

Another stand out, "Pick Up the Pieces," details his reflection on the devastation he wrought during his ascension as one of the most notorious names in modern rap. His candid reflection signals to listeners that, while flashy and entertaining, his previous actions masked deeper issues — only to wreak havoc on the relationships he held dear. I can relate. My own deceit and arrogance hid insecurities I had yet to resolve, straining my relationships as a result.

Perhaps the most endearing aspect of the album, however, is his insistence on vulnerability.

Long-critiqued for its hyper masculine machismo, rap historically showcases an over-representation of artists boasting hubris and invincibility. Not so with Gucci — he manages to balance one of rap's oldest tropes while relating real life accounts of his personal insecurities. He effortlessly weaves in tales of getting robbed with over-the-top boasts such as his pronouncement of being the slickest, [and] the richest [who] ever rapped on a track. That is motivating for someone who only recently learned how to use words to communicate uncomfortable truths, in addition to building a healthy sense of self-confidence. It’s a winning formula to which I’m most appreciative. Thanks, Gucci!

What I know to be true is that music has a sneaky way of staying with us, often triggering fond memories of our past. My most vivid memories were made in tandem with the music I was listening to at the moment. Furthermore, music is a window into how we interpret our lives. For me, Gucci was the quintessential interpreter to how I lived mine. It wasn’t just about witty lyricism against a melodic bass line. It was about running into formation to join my frat as we strolled to "Wasted" through a sea of intoxicated onlookers. It was about the head-pounding cruise down the streets of my hometown to pick-up my then girlfriend blasting "I’m a Dog." It was about discovering the only underage bar in town as I ordered my fill of Blue Muthaf***as while listening to "Vette Pass By."

Often in our lives, we don’t get to make new experiences with the artists we grew up listening to in our youth. Either the music doesn’t resonate or the artist just stops creating. Few artists manage to grow with their music while continuing to keep listeners intrigued (Sorry, Nelly. I’m done rocking my Air Force Ones). Fortunately though, Gucci Mane is up to the task, managing to transcend his ways of old while still reaching his core audience. That’s great news.

As I continue my own life journey, I’m happy to know trap’s Deepak Chopra will be leading the way.