I can’t recall the first time I heard Gunna rap. As a signee to Young Thug’s YSL record label, the first time may have been “Floyd Mayweather,” off Thug’s 2016 mixtape, Jeffery. The song is six minutes long, and features Gucci Mane and Travis Scott, making Gunna, born Sergio Kitchens, the least known name on the track. I found him forgettable. Unremarkable. An average rapper who spends too much time not saying anything.
That was my stance on Gunna until 2019 when he completed completely changed my mind with the release of his debut album, Drip or Drown 2. I played the album on repeat for four months. Motivational background noise for daily tasks. The entire project features strong production, and unlike on “Floyd Mayweather,” Gunna’s feather-thin voice is fuller, more developed. He stands out. The same rapper I considered painfully average had become strangely compelling.
At the time, I came up with a headline for an article: A Case for Gunna: Young Thug’s Most Promising Protégé.
I never wrote the story, but the headline came to mind while playing Gunna’s newly released sophomore album, WUNNA. Once again, the 26-year-old rapper has elevated. The production on WUNNA, much like his flow, is fluid and aquatic. Wavy is a fitting word for the subtle, infectious bounces and electric basslines contributed by a starstudded cast of producers: Wheezy, Turbo, Taurus, Tay Keith, Mike Will Made-It, and more.
Lyrically, Gunna raps to the weaving rhythm of a wave rising and crashing―a surfer disguised as a rapper. His delivery always sounds effortless. That’s why production is vital to his success; a male surfer without the ocean is a man stranded in the desert.
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The entirety of WUNNA is worthwhile, but Gunna’s standout sleeper hit is track 11, “MET GALA.” Produced by Bobby Raps & Wheezy, “MET GALA” is eloquence in motion. Over the most beautiful beat on the album, Gunna is charged up. Every boast and stunt comes from the pit of his gut. He raps like a natural-born leader who will take you, not to the promised land, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
From that perspective, “MET GALA” lives up to its name: A song that sounds like walking on a red carpet wearing a luxury fashion brand that costs more than your monthly rent.
That’s what I love most about Gunna: his absurd confidence. He doesn’t care if you like his voice, his clothes, or his album covers. He worked hard for it all. No critic or hater will ever take that from him. As he says on “MET GALA:”
“Why hell you think that I'm maxin’? Relaxin’ in mansions, no cappin’, ‘cause we had it hard / I ain’t get this shit just from askin’, I made this shit happen and passion, it played a big part / I ain’t get this bitch off of mackin’, it came off of actions and fashion and stay in accord.”
WUNNA is proof Gunna stayed the course, that he made it his way. He’s no longer merely a promising artist. Young Thug’s protégé has arrived.