Gucci Mane’s propensity for trouble never really got in the way of his prolific music career. In his approximately 2 years spent locked up at USP Terre Haute, Gucci released over twenty different projects, largely thanks to a backlog of old verses and an ever-so-loyal team of producers, artists and marketers behind him. After his various flirtations with the law and the dwindling image of his label and crew, the deluge of releases was a last-ditch attempt to maintain the artist’s relevancy as trap royalty — at least until he can go back to warming the throne himself. With millions parading #FreeGuwop all over Twitter as a gesture of support, Gucci and his team’s efforts didn’t go unheard, making the anticipation for Gucci’s first release post-prison all the more sweet for his fans. Atlanta’s rap scene has seen an upheaval of sorts since Gucci’s incarceration, introducing newfound mainstream media attention and a smorgasbord of new players to the game. In the face of that, Gucci finds himself comfortably at home on Everybody Looking — a project that comes less than two months after his release. Despite some loose ends on the album, it’s as if he never left.
Helmed by Atlanta producers Zaytoven and Mike WiLL Made-It, Everybody Looking was tasked with the responsibility of ensuring fans (and quiet critics) that Gucci has yet to deviate from his form. With standout songs like “1st Day Out tha Feds” (initially released as a single) and “Guwop Home,” Everybody Looking packs a sonic punch, especially in the face his past two-to-three years of releases. Despite a steady flow of content while in prison, thanks to the haphazardly-slapped-together nature of his many prison-era releases, a Gucci-sized void was still glaringly present in Atlanta’s trap scene. The amalgamated image of what Gucci is as both a personality and a rapper slowly became muted in those absent years, taking away the authentic and bombastic aspects of his character from prominent public display. Everybody Looking eschews those mistakes, instead conveying Gucci in a light that wouldn’t be expected so soon after release from prison. He sounds clear, sober, healthy — but he also sounds strong, aggressive, and more full of life than ever. It’s the Gucci Mane we haven’t heard in years.
Despite Everybody Looking’s refreshing predisposition relative to Gucci’s past releases, it’s still necessary to observe the work through an objective lense. Gucci and his team’s past misjudgements don’t serve as a license for unabated praise. For all the charm Gucci serves on the record, the lack of aural variety can leave listeners longing for more. Zaytoven and Mike WiLL deliver with an arsenal of beats they had to have been saving for a project like this, but Gucci’s bars, as entertaining as they are, don’t seem to match the celebratory quality of production that backs them. Gucci isn’t known for being a master lyricist, but he’s had more memorable moments stringing together bars and verses on past tapes. Some fans might expect something next-level on a release like Everybody Looking, but those same fans probably have a history of having unreasonably high expectations too.
Even in the face of those critiques, Gucci’s homecoming project has an incomprehensibly charming gusto. Hearing Gucci happy, healthy and sober makes the album enjoyable purely on its own. It’s assurance that Atlanta’s rap godfather hasn’t left his patrons yet. It’s a promise that he has a lot more for us too. He makes playful and humorous jabs concerning his otherwise sordid upbringing, and he frames his rise to fame in ways that can only be described as fodder for inspiration. Gucci shows that prison matured him, both musically and personally, involving mainstream artists of rap’s new school with elements of the genre that Gucci can accurately call his own. It’s a message of redemption and success rather than simply being a piece of art — fitting, considering the kind of person Gucci is.
Everybody Looking isn’t Gucci’s magnum opus by any means. That’s probably not the point of it either, though. For an album hurriedly churned out in a matter of weeks, its quality exceeds the expectations it set for itself; for a rapper who’s had his fair share of trials and tribulations, it’s also an album that expresses a strong and resilient man whose best years are ahead of him rather than behind. Everybody Looking deserves a listen, not because it’s Gucci’s best yet, but because it’s a sobering message of the Gucci we have yet to see.