This image is from the artist’s official Instagram.

Gunna has never tried to sell listeners on profound lyricism or ambitious experimentation. The Atlanta rapper, born Sergio Kitchens, has always been about aesthetics. From his music videos to his production to his often boundary-pushing fashion sense, Gunna’s work prioritizes style over substance and has always been about providing consumers of his art with pure pleasure through his smoothness and grace.

In the weeks leading up to the release of DS4Ever, the final installment of Gunna’s signature Drip Season mixtape series, the project looked to be a zenith of collaboration between lyricist and producer. Some of the most infectious leaks made their way onto the internet, most notably the impossibly catchy “bacc of the bach” snippet, which gained popularity as a sound on TikTok. Another leak that gained traction online was the Drake-assisted and Metro Boomin-produced epic, “pussy is power.” Crafted around vocal samples of women moaning, this masterclass in smooth trap production took rap enthusiasts by storm. With both of these leaks circulating, hype for the album was higher than ever — which is why fans were perplexed to find that neither of these leaks were featured on the actual album. The reason for this is presumably so that Gunna can save them for either a later release or the deluxe version of DS4Ever, which would allow it to top charts for a longer time (Gunna has since released “pussy is power” as “p power,” after fan outrage). This dirty trick has become common practice in the rap community, especially in a time where streaming numbers and the Billboard charts reign supreme. Thus, any analysis of the album has to account for this seemingly disingenuous practice by Gunna and his label. 

Sonically, DS4Ever is a bit softer than previous Gunna projects, with more simplistic melodies on many of the beats. Gunna’s main producer, Wheezy, has his hands all over the album, as does Metro Boomin, one of trap music’s most important tastemakers over the last half-decade. On DS4Ever, simplicity is often beauty, exemplified by the stellar Kodak Black collaboration, “how you did that.” Gunna and Kodak effortlessly trade flows over a simple piano loop and trap drums. However, some of the album’s instrumentals skew spacey and nihilistic, like the Young Thug and Future-aided track, “pushin P.” Thug, Future and Gunna reduce their auto-tuned voices to growls as they heavily enunciate their Ps over a pulsating drum rhythm. 

DS4Ever’s musical apex is the effortless, smooth, “idk that bitch.” Over a bouncy rhythm from producer Atari, Gunna opts to abandon his trademark synthetic moans for a more muted delivery, albeit with similar lyrical content. Collaborator G Herbo also rides a more chill beat surprisingly well, even with his aggressive delivery. Other bright spots on the project include the infectious “alotta cake,” and the boisterous “thought i was playing.”

Outside of these high points, the album comes across as uninspired, as Gunna does not show much variation in flow or beat selection. Even his attempts at auto-tuned sonic gorgeousness oftentimes fall flat. “how you did that” wastes some solid interplay between Gunna and Kodak Black over the more boring portion of the song’s beat. Conversely, Gunna wastes a brilliant Keith Sweat-sampling Turbo beat with tired attempts at depth via aesthetic on “livin wild.” This malaise continues onto songs that Gunna should theoretically thrive on, such as “you & me,” which juxtaposes crispy trap drums under a honey-buttered guitar sample. Gunna tries to let his infamous moans cover up the absence of any top-tier output, and even a heavenly verse from guest Chlöe Bailey can’t redeem him. 

Although for much of the album Gunna tries too hard, his best moments are when he relaxes, allowing his flows and melodies to come naturally. The album’s opener, “private island,” is the best exemplar of this trait, showcasing that sometimes the best Gunna songs happen when all the lyrics are completely unintelligible. While DS4Ever features many fun moments, it is damaged by two of its predicted highlights being excluded from it, as well as its focus on more heavily rhythmic and less melodic beats.

Daily Arts Writer Ryan Brace can be reached at