The relationship between artist and producer should be reciprocal. Producers have to create a sound that works for the artist, while the artist must give them space to leave their impression. When you find a pair that syncs their creativity, it’s a beautiful moment. Since producers and artists frequently rotate collaborators, however, this match isn't always made, often resulting in one party sacrificing part of his or her vision. Luckily, there’s a small group of artists that can adapt their style to just about any beat thrown their way and Gucci Mane has assumed the role of their adopted father.
Gucci has collaborated with most of the major players in today’s trap scene—if not all. While his hallmark delivery and charisma follow him on all his tracks, he’s able to channel a unique persona with each beatsmith. You know Laflare will be at the meeting, you’re just not sure which outfit he’s going to don.
In an effort to flesh out the differences between his personas, I binged his catalog and studied his work with seven of his most frequent collaborators, each important in Gucci’s extensive discography.
Gucci x Shawty Redd
Back when Gucci was first making a name for himself in the mid-to-late '00s, it was Shawty Redd who helped to cultivate much of his early sound. At that time, listening to this pairing allowed fans to hear keys from another planet as if Redd had descended from space to bring his galactic synthesizers to us. Bass drums weren’t the focus of these early mixes; instead, Redd opted to let the keys direct the track. Though the sound spread quickly and would become “gimmicky” in the years to come because of so many imitators, no one could channel the cosmos quite like Redd.
Guwop was free to explore flow shifts and rhyme patterns between his notes. Listening to old Gucci-Redd songs like “Pyrex Pot” before giving their recent three-song EP a spin paints a clear picture of their creative relationship. The same triumphant tone that Gucci delivered when he was becoming the Trap God echoes through their newest collaborative project. There’s something about those orchestral keys that makes you feel unconquerable. For nostalgia’s sake, I’d like to see another joint project before they hang up the pot for good.
Gucci x Zaytoven
Of course, Zaytoven had to be on this list. I grew up in the South during the 2000s so, because of “Icy” alone, Zaytoven will forever be in my heart. It’s stunning how Zay has evolved his sound in the last decade while keeping his name in our minds. Oftentimes he’ll produce the standout track on a project, i.e. “I Shoulda Left You” from Merry Christmas Lil Mama.
His distinctive keys and strings don’t define his early collaborations with Gucci, though. There were standouts like “Lawnmower Man,” which includes ominous strings, but most of their tracks featured otherworldly keys similar to “Icy.” You continue to see Zaytiggy evolve over time through Gucci’s discography. Hard to Kill proved to those in doubt that Zaytoven can produce lively bass drums, but by the time we get to Murder Was the Case, you see the elements that brought Zaytoven fame become more distinctive. “Trap Money” and “Cuttin of Fingaz” feature piano sequences that give John Carpenter a worthy competitor. Gucci both channels this sound and engages with his dark side. The title “Cuttin off Fingaz” speaks for itself.
Over the years, the relationship between Gucci and Zaytoven has not only continued but also prospered, resulting in standout selections like “Out Do Ya” and “Right on Time” from Everybody Looking and Woptober, respectively. His keys might be holy, but they inspire something sacrilegious from our favorite trap deity.
Gucci x Mike WiLL Made-It
“Mike Will made it, Gucci Mane slayed it!” Those words announced Michael Williams' entrance to the world stage. Though he's now produced for artists ranging from Kanye to Miley Cyrus, Mike WiLL always seems to honor his original blessing from the Trap God. He handled much of the production on Everybody Looking, Gucci’s first release after being freed from prison last May, and on standouts like “Pussy Print” and “1st Day Out Tha Feds,” you get a feel for the mask Gucci wears when Mike WiLL is behind the boards.
The bounciness of Mike’s production makes Gucci more energetic and his flow hops between the drums. This quality is probably what causes pop musicians to flock towards Mike's studio. “Pop Music,” from that same project, is a subtle nod from the super producer to let us know he’s just as comfortable with the Trap King as he is with a Pop Queen.
Gucci x Bangladesh
Bangladesh gained popularity in the early 2000s for his work with Ludacris and he went on to produce anthems that will make any millennial nostalgic. Try to find someone in his or her twenties who can’t rap the first verse of “A Milli” and you’ll know who was homeschooled. It’s one of those songs that signaled a new era of 808 innovations. Where Guwop is concerned, he doctored the instrumental for “Lemonade,” one of Gucci’s most popular singles—aka your favorite Gucci song if you don’t really listen to Gucci.
Bangladesh’s staple bass reverb is present in both songs, which often gives artists the urge to flex. While boasting is a common theme in Gucci’s music, Bangladesh soundtracks some of his most braggadocios moments. “Lemonade” is a list of his expensive possessions of a certain pigment. “Stupid Wild,” also from The State vs. Radric Davis, details living a wealthy lifestyle with a street mentality. The title of their Brick Squad Boyz collaboration—“Man of the Year”—should be enough to tell you what point he’s making. The Return of East Atlanta Santa (“Bales”) only proves that Guwop and Bangladesh are proudly continuing their tradition of unabashed flexing.
Gucci x Metro Boomin
Gucci Mane is known for seeking out hot Atlanta-based talent. Once Metro Boomin came on the scene in 2010, it was only a matter of how many mixtapes Gucci was going to release before the two worked together. 2013 was the year, as Metro contributed beats to four different Gucci Mane projects in the year's first half before the two collaborated on a full-length mixtape of their own (World War 3: Molly) a few month's later.
Like Bangladesh, Metro’s production has an effect similar effect on Guwop—it gives him a jolt of confidence. It’s a different type of confidence, though. On top of a Bangladesh beat, Gucci is in your face, whereas Metro creates an atmosphere for him to present a lackadaisical boast. “Bling Blaww Burr” is a good example of this. The Woptober standout has all the features of a beat that would force most rappers to adopt a rapid flow. Instead, Gucci uses the space between bass slaps to deliver his message of stunting. The Return of East Atlanta Santa's "Both" finds him in a similar exercise. Metro and Guwop have continued their ceaseless work ethics, and we’ll have much more raw material to analyze at 10:17 a.m. this Friday.
Gucci x 808 Mafia
Listening to old Gucci-808 Mafia collaborations gives you a sense of Southside and TM88’s development. They discovered their lane in the early 2010s on Ferrari Boyz and Trap House III and Gucci developed a persona to fit it.
Songs like “Trap House 3” and “Darker” capture the nihilistic side of Gucci, the one that’s used to violent acts and substance indulgence. While Gucci’s left these activities in the past, he still channels the energy of that time in more recent collabs like “Multi Millionaire Laflare” and “Crash.” 808 Mafia has a reputation for making songs of this sort—“Codeine Crazy,” “Digital Dash,”—and the Trap God happily indulges. “Selling Heroin” practically communicates the theme in the production. It’s slow but powerful and the bass consumes you like a depressive episode.
808 Mafia is a preeminent production team and their influence rings louder than their distinctive siren. They come out when Gucci wants to indulge his darker side.
Gucci x Drumma Boy
Did you really think I’d write about Gucci’s producer collaborations and leave out Drumma Boy? Another Grandfather of Trap alongside Shawty Redd, Gucci and Drumma have been crafting bangers for over a decade now. When these two link up Gucci’s at his most comfortable.
Drumma’s rapid production style refines Gucci’s flow and he’s able to fit the niche you’re looking for when you turn on a Gucci track. He’s grimy, fun and candid about his life experience, like an older cousin that’s seen some shit. Like “Classical (Intro)” from The State vs. Radric Davis shows us, Gucci speeds up his delivery on a Drumma track. It’s lighter than a Zaytoven or 808 Mafia collab but still conveys an ominous tone. Gucci’s in a similar vein on Everybody Looking's “All My Children.” He’s recognizing his influence on the latest generation of rappers and he’s proud of them, but it also contains the reminder that they wouldn’t be where they are now if it wasn’t for Big Gucci.
He’s been home for a year now and I’ve only heard a few official collaborations from the two. Please let that change.