It was never a given that Gucci Mane would make it to the Chicago Theater this evening. I’m not saying that he was going to cancel the gig — though there was a travel delay of some kind that caused him to nix the first date of his Trap God tour in Boston — or that he would fail to show up out of sheer capriciousness. I mean, it was never a given that Guwop would manage to pull through all of the challenges and obstacles that were thrown in his way over the last five years to arrive at a place where he could solo headline a venue like this ornate, 3,600 seat concert hall.
Gucci Mane was always prolific. He was always grinding; always recording, always hustling, but around 2011, his already chaotic life started to really spiral out of control. There were physical altercations with fans, drug problems, a stint in a psychiatric facility, multiple stints in jail. Everything finally came to a head that fateful day in May 2014 when he entered a guilty plea in court on firearms charges that sent him away to federal prison for a two-year bid.
Prison is a mean and ugly place. No one wants to go there, but Gucci has credited his time behind bars for saving his life. He’s one of the remarkably few examples of people that was actually rehabilitated by the experience. He got healthy, both in mind and in body. Even more remarkable, it didn’t turn him bitter. He gained a new lease on life, and a new optimism that remains to this day.
A few months after he was released in 2016, Guwop showed up for an interview with the Breakfast Club where he said, “If you keep looking back, you gonna trip going forward.” Coming from anyone else, that sentence could have sounded like a corny platitude, yet it felt very real coming from Gucci. He’s one of the few established rappers to embrace the next class coming up in his wake, most of whom owe a tremendous debt to the impact he’s made on the sound and style of hip-hop over the previous decade.
He announced his arrival back in the game with the harrowing track “First Day Out Tha Feds.” His two verses on the Kanye West-curated Cruel Winter cut “Champions” made that song. Then came the album Everybody Looking, one of his most critically well-received releases to date. It was largely put together by two of his oldest producer friends Zaytoven and Mike WiLL Made-It. After that he jumped in with Rae Sremmurd on the song “Black Beatles,” the first No. 1 single of his career.
These days, Gucci is a happily engaged man. He’s got an autobiography coming out later this year. He put out a mixtape Woptober last year, another album The Return Of East Atlanta Santa a short while after that, and has his next project Drop Top Wizop already in the can. He’s going to close things out at the Sahara Tent at Coachella for the next two weekends. Things are going well.
A few months back Gucci announced the first solo headlining tour of his career. Like most rappers, La Flare is given to playing one-offs at clubs all the time, but performing inside of large-scale venues are a completely different story. Noticing the Chicago date early on in the schedule, I knew I had to make it out and witness the full effects of the Gucci’s revival myself.
Gucci emerged from the wings at 10 PM on the dot to a massive cheer from the audience. He looked immaculate in a white jacket with the blue sleeves, black shirt underneath, and a trio of 1017 diamond chains dangling from his neck. More noticeable than the thousands of dollars worth of ice however, was his near-blinding smile; a constant fixture throughout the entire performance. Guwop didn’t dawdle once he hit the stage. Time is money, and he’s a money-making machine. His DJ dropped the needle on his duet on his Drake-featured single “Both” and we were off.
For the next 50-minutes, Gucci ran through a collection of 24 of the biggest bangers in his entire, expansive catalog. It was interesting watching how the crowd reacted to each selection. One segment seemed way more primed to hear newer material like “First Day Out Tha Feds,” “P***y Print,” and “Back On Road,” while another portion, his day-one fans, went crazy for cuts like “Freaky Gurl,” “Trap House 3,” and “Bricks.” Everyone turned the hell up for “Black Beatles.”
Gucci didn’t say much during the show. There were the expected big-ups to the City of Chicago and a compliment to all of the ladies in the audience — “Chi town got some gorgeous women in here tonight. I need all my shows to look like this” — but beyond that, Guwop seemed intent to race through his set list with as much urgency as he could muster. Most songs bled into one another with hardly a moment in between to catch your breath of applaud.
He became more effusive at the very end of the night. Right before performing the final song, he took the mirrored sunglasses off of his face and said, “I always like to end my shows like this.” Then he gave a touching tribute to his partner and friend Shawty Lo who was killed in a car accident last year. “This is for everyone that’s got someone who couldn’t be here tonight,” Gucci declared, and went acapella on the 2009 track “First Day Out.” The song ended. La Flare smiled. “Gucci back b*tch. Did you miss me?”
“First Day Out Tha Feds”
“Back On Road”
“I Think I Love Her”
“I Don’t Love Her”
“I Might Be”
“Trap House 3”
“I’m A Dog”
“Vette Ride Past”
“Nothin’ On Ya”
“Making Love To The Money”
“First Day Out”