YFN Lucci has struck gold in his musical pursuits. He secured a record deal with Warner Records in 2018, and has worked with some of the industry’s biggest stars such as Quavo and Rick Ross. Still, as many artists can attest, no deal or amount of money or success can soothe one’s pain, such as losing loved ones and the pressures that come along with fame. When Lucci, born Rayshawn Lamar Bennett, signs off his latest mixtape, 650Luc: Gangsta Grillz, with the words, “An album worth of hits made a mixtape worth of pain,” the line reads as a loud reminder of the connection between songs, success, and struggle.
Throughout his career, Lucci, 28, has established his name by spilling everything he’s endured on wax and adding satisfying melodies that ensure those stories stick with you. On 650Luc, however, the Atlanta, Georgia native wanted to focus on having fun and delivering a tape that is easy to digest.
“I still wanted to give you the real with 650,” he says inside the Warner Records office in downtown Los Angeles. “But it was mainly trap-vibes, something you can get in the car and ride to. Songs that make you bounce. I tried to give you a different feel.”
650Luc is the story of YFN Lucci’s Atlanta, in more ways than one. Years before he became serious about rapping, Lucci fondly remembers riding through the city to the sounds of Young Jeezy’s Trap Or Die—his favorite Gangsta Grillz mixtape alongside The Dedication by Lil Wayne.
“That was the middle of the crack epidemic when Jeezy dropped that,” Lucci says. “That’s what everyone was on; everyone’s trying to trap, get some money, and listen to Jeezy. I remember them riding through the hoods in Atlanta, the truck behind them and shit. It was shit we could relate to, but had never seen before.”
It’s unsurprising, then, that much of the tape revolves around motor vehicles. From the NASCAR-themed logo on the cover art to “Skrrt Skrrt” with YFN Kay, racing hi-hats are a constant across 650Luc. Lyrically, Lucci’s life is on full display during a song like “Turner Fields (Stadiums),” where he reminisces of days spent hustling outside the former home of the Atlanta Braves.
In fact, stadiums are responsible for some of Lucci’s fondest memories, such as the day he scored seats at field-level.
“We used to park cars because we had a lot of lots in Summer Hill,” he says. “Whenever the game sold out, people would have nowhere else to park, so we’d park them and make our money. One day I went to a Braves game after we finished, I paid a dollar to get in. Once we got in, we ended up getting all the way down to the field, right behind the bench.”
Whereas Turner Field has been an epicenter of Atlanta sports since opening in 1997, DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grillz series has been equally integral to the fabric of the city’s sound. As storied as its legacy is within Atlanta—and hip-hop as a whole—it’s no surprise Lucci would want to stamp his mixtape with DJ Drama’s signature boasts.
As it pertains to his work with Drama, Lucci says the most significant thing he learned is consistency. On 650Luc, he dives into several sounds. “Trap” finds Lucci pushing his product with support from Jeezy and T.I., with the three artists trading off on the mic as they detail their exploits. On “All Night Long,” he switches his target audience, serenading the ladies with a dazzling R&B hook courtesy of Trey Songz.
Lucci’s desire to hit every possible demographic is as consistent as his Wish Me Well series, which he’s kept in his repertoire since 2014. Both the original mixtape and its 2016 sequel contain some of Lucci’s biggest hits, such as the unavoidable "Key to the Streets" and the downtempo track "Documentary." For Lucci, it was a natural choice to stretch out the series once more, with the third installment of the trilogy expected to arrive later this year.
“I’ve been switching it up, but I gotta keep the Wish Me Well,” he says, assuredly. “That’s what I came in the game with; my fans are looking forward to [three]. So if I do give them something else, I feel like I at least have to give them that one first.”
Lucci first “I made it” moment arrived when DC stalwart Wale brought him out as a special guest at the Hot 107.9 Birthday Bash in 2015, giving him a taste of the bright lights on the big stage. Four years later, Lucci has Gold and Platinum plaques to his name, and just recently, made a primetime appearance on Rick Ross’ highly anticipated Port of Miami 2.
When I ask Lucci if he feels he has anything left to prove, his answer is decisive.
“I never felt like I had anything to prove, I just do me,” he exclaims. “I get in the studio and rap about what I want to rap about and do my melodies until they sound good. It’s how I’ve always done it. As long as I like the music, and they’re fucking with it, I keep it going. I do it for myself first, and have fun with it.”