While some critics bemoan Migos’ massive Culture II album as a distended offering, it’s clear the group can’t help themselves when it comes to creating music. During an interview with Power 105’s Breakfast Club, Quavo bluntly revealed his requirements for collaboration: “when the price is right, we can work.” As he gave a “simple-as-that” shrug, I laughed because I knew exactly where that mindset came from: Gucci Mane.
Sure, Lil Wayne was the most prominent artist to flood the internet and mixtape market at such a prolific rate, but Gucci had his own successes in the same timeframe. In 2007, the FBI raided the mixtape pioneer DJ Drama’s Atlanta compound. The move abruptly halted the sale of mixtapes featuring remakes of popular songs. Gucci saw the breach in the market and revolutionized the mixtape game in his own fashion. While Wayne is considered a mixtape king for free projects that skillfully repurposed other artist’s songs, Gucci Mane is an innovator of mixtapes with full, original songs that could chart on their own.
Similar to Wayne — who had to hold the once-bustling Cash Money fort down on his own — Gucci’s rapid musical output arose out of necessity. After an infamous beef with Jeezy got bloody when he murdered an associate of Jeezy’s in self-defense, Gucci Mane was incarcerated for six months. He became a pariah in the trap music kingdom of Atlanta. Upon his release, the doors were still closed on him. That’s when he and go-to producer Zaytoven started recording and releasing music on their own at a breakneck pace that persists to this day. How productive is Gucci Mane? While incarcerated on gun charges from 2014 to 2016, he managed to drop 24 projects. Not songs. Projects.
While Gucci was away, many of the artists that he co-signed and collaborated with rose to prominence, becoming Atlanta royalty in their own right. He gave producers Zaytoven, Mike Will Made-It, and Metro Boomin some of their first breaks; Atlanta rappers OJ Da Juiceman and Young Scooter earned hits under his umbrella; Waka Flocka, Nicki Minaj, French Montana focused their craft and vaulted into national consciousness while affiliated with him. Rich Homie Quan was first heard on Gucci’s Trap House 3 mixtape, and he also began working with Migos, Future and Young Dolph very early on in their careers. Gucci says he gave Young Thug a $25K advance before even hearing a song, merely trusting the co-sign from then-1017 Brick Squad member Peeway Longway.
If Gucci Mane had all of those artists signed to 1017 Brick Squad, we’d have to call him Suge Gotti-Dash Laflare. What’s most impressive is that it appears like he’s never co-signed artists with a capitalistic, exploitative agenda, but to simply put another person on. Several Atlanta artists have echoed Quavo’s sentiment that there was “no paperwork” upon meeting Gucci, just instant love and collaboration. Metro Boomin said “Gucci’s the kinda n—- where I could bring my homeboy through, like, ‘Yo this n—-’s dope,’ and if he thinks they’re hard, he’ll give them a deal. Gucci really would try to make other n—-s bosses.”
When we talk about hip-hop as a vehicle for upward mobility, Gucci Mane’s 1017 Zamboni was the ride of choice for so many of today’s prominent acts. He invited hoards of trap aspirants to the Brick Factory, his East Atlanta studio that served as an oasis for some of trap rap’s crown jewels — and a foundation for young artists to find their polish.
Coach K told The Fader that “[the studio] was a home for all the street rappers. Gucci gives you that confidence. He makes you feel comfortable.” Quavo said from the moment Migos walked into the Factory, they “locked in” and would literally sleep in the studio between sessions. DJ Holiday said that the Brick Factory was like a school, and Gucci Mane was “teaching.”