Over the past three days, Gucci Mane’s Twitter account twisted from a typical rapper’s account — full of retweets and bursts of promotion, presumably not even updated by the Atlanta rapper himself — to an endless stream of strangely punctuated messages that are all over the place as they air out grievances, fire cheap shots at supposedly fake rappers who’ve betrayed him, and deliver plenty of gossip-mongering details about his former record labels and managers, for those mired in hip-hop-business minutiae.
But yesterday, Gucci went nuclear. The more salacious elements include a claim that Jacob York of Gucci’s former label, Big Cat Records, is a child molester; that he had sex with Nicki Minaj and has photos (which he’s willing to sell for a million dollars); and that Debra Antney, Waka Flocka Flame’s mother and Gucci’s former manager, has stolen from OJ Da Juice Man, French Montana, and Waka himself. Meanwhile, he’d like to remind you that Gucci Mane is the realest out there, needs absolutely no one, and save for Young Scooter, everybody else can drop dead.
Furthermore, even Young Scooter can take a hike for the right price: Gucci also offered to sell him to whoever wants him for half a million dollars, apparently. Oh yeah! Gucci is listing prices for the artists he’s signed: A million for Waka Flocka; $250,000 for Young Thug. Other interesting (and unsubstantiated) numbers: Gucci makes five million dollars a year touring; Waka Flocka got $6,000 a show when he toured with Drake.
These bizarro tweets — which by the way, are very strange, but also not that strange, as Gucci is better at rapping words than Tweeting them, just like you’re probably OK at tweeting words but terrible at rapping them — have inspired fiery responses from some of their targets, from Waka Flocka to T.I. (“Only a fool acts reckless for publicity”). Typically, it’s Nicki Minaj who got in the best zingers, telling fans she rejected Gucci’s request for a guest feature last week, and laughing off the idea that she had sex with Gucci, adding the hashtags #crackhead and #BubbaGump.
Nicki’s tweets are harsh, but they’re more than acceptable to throw at a man who spent a few hours publicly claiming he had sex with her while threatening to post pictures. It’s also worth noting, as frequent SPIN contributor Julianne Escobedo Shepherd pointed out, that back in April on Atlanta’s Hot 107.9, Nicki expressed worry for Gucci’s mental health and suggested an intervention: “In terms of intervention, I think about how talented he is, and I kind of wish there was somebody that could step in and say, ‘Gucci, if you only knew how special you were. You would take a moment to really just get centered.’ I just think he really needs to center himself and not to point fingers.” She’s a beyond-frustrated friend at this point.
Gucci’s rant arrives at a moment when his visibility is at an all-time low. His problems with the law have been consistent, but over the past few years, he’s increasingly been viewed as a problem. His music has grown sloppier, meaner, and much more inconsistent. Earlier this year, he released a rambling rap diss track called “Birds of a Feather” that calls out his enemies and praised his few allies, and when it didn’t hit like he thought it did, he put it on his tepid album Trap House III, reusing it later as a bonus track on Lean, one of the three mixtapes (along with Molly and Gas) he released back in August as the World War Three trilogy.
That trilogy was a desperate move from someone who seems to be increasingly the only person in charge of his own career and label, and probably shouldn’t be (The Fader reported yesterday that Atlantic Records dropped him). Indeed, the entire WW3 roll-out was a little pathetic, a vain attempt to flood the market like he did back in 2009 with the Cold War series, back when he was at the height of his word-happy powers. And just step back and consider the sloppy conceit of these new tapes: Each one is named after a trending drug in hip-hop (Lean, Molly, Gas), though none are conceptually connected to their respective titular drug. “Extacy Pill,” for example, appears on Lean. What a hot mess.
Still, it’s hard not to feel very bad for the guy. Gucci’s scorched earth policy towards his career is a case study in the worst case scenario for what happens to a street rapper in the current rap climate where major labels hedge their bets, and the kind of creative gangsta rap Gucci makes can get nowhere near the pop charts. For a very long time, major labels assisted guys like Gucci Mane, providing them resources and promotion, and presumably, would help them when they were clearly addicted to drugs or mentally ill. Around the middle of the 2000s, at about the point when record sales were cratering and the Internet ruined and fixed everything at all at once, street rappers became nothing more than a liability. Their regional success, street buzz, and savvy ability to mine the mixtape scene and the modern day chitlin circuit of touring didn’t mean shit.
It is not a coincidence that street rap’s pop stars all ended up in jail in the late 2000s: Lil Wayne, T.I., Lil Boosie, Gucci Mane. These guys were no longer protected or assisted by their labels, because suddenly, dangerous rappers were simply not worth the investment. If you can’t get behind that — because yeah, all four of those guys certainly had a hand in their own incarcerations — consider Young Jeezy’s rocky, post-The Recession career (he went from dropping an album a year to constant delays), or the convenient rise of Rick Ross, who wears street-rap menace like a costume, but has none of the problems of guys who are actually from the streets. Rick Ross isn’t going to try to buy guns in a parking lot or throw someone out of a moving car.
This isn’t a game of authenticity or realness, mind you, because who cares whether Gucci Mane is “real” and Rick Ross is “fake.” But rappers like Gucci are experiencing very different artistic fates as a result of their connection to the life. Gucci Mane is his own worst enemy, and his problems, whatever they may be, don’t justify his idiotic and hateful Twitter account. But he’s also a victim of a majorr-label system that doesn’t even provide its artists basic care and concern. It sure would be nice if all of those goofballs shouting “Free Gucci” back in 2009 now started a “Get Gucci Mane to a mental-health professional” campaign. But don’t hold your breath.