Music

Gunna Shines When He Branches Out On The Slickly-Executed ‘DS4EVER’

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In my review of Gunna’s last album, 2020’s Wunna, I wrote that he does just enough things right to warrant multiple listens and his inclusion in the debate over the best trap rappers. It has nearly been two years since then, but it has felt longer with a global pandemic, an attempted insurrection, and a half dozen natural disasters that have made finding moments of pure joy imperative to get through the slog. Gunna’s new album DS4EVER has become one of those bright spots for many fans, again showing just enough artistic evolution to shine even in comparison to his last effort.

Don’t expect to hear very much topical material, though. While Gunna has expanded the scope of his philanthropy over the past few years, even earning recognition from his hometown for his community-building efforts, his music remains focused on flaunting the trappings of wealth. He shines the most, though, when he stretches outside the boundaries of his comfort zone. On the illuminating “Livin Wild,” he details a harrowing near-death experience which contrasts sharply with the flexes of the album’s first four tracks.

“I just left the hospital, might need another liver,” he admits. “Kidney failures, I tell you this sh*t couldn’t be no realer.” Gunna’s occasional substance abuse has been no secret but here he both reveals the inherent struggles and defiantly challenges detractors while referring to specific incidents from the past year. “I been getting high inconsistent, but you tryna show me different,” he raps. “Judging me for trying the whippets, I’m tired of the critics.”

Meanwhile, the vulnerable streak continues on the Jon B-sampling “You & Me” featuring Gunna’s maybe-girlfriend Chloe Bailey. A stark departure from his usual attitude toward romance — even elsewhere on this very album — “You & Me” finds Gunna waxing idealistic about the possibility of finding and keeping love. “I get selfish with you, babe, you mine, all mine,” he gushes. “Keep it solid, don’t tell lies / She one thousand with me and the best of all time.” Wisely, though, he keeps the track short, letting the sweetness have its moment before moving on to more pressing concerns.

With Gunna and the rest of his cohorts, you know it’s all about the money. From the opening track “Private Island,” DS4EVER finds Gunna sticking quite firmly to his guns. “Poochie Gown,” “A Lotta Money,” “25K Jacket,” and “Too Easy” — which features Future as well as a remix with frequent Gunna collaborator Roddy Ricch — are the standouts and the likely fan favorites here, containing effervescent boasts and thrilling production from the usual Atlanta trap rap suspects, Metro Boomin, Southside, and Wheezy. Here is where the album departs from the usual formula, however, with each of these producers taking a harder-edged approach to the usual melodic, fuzzy instrumentation they’ve employed on prior projects.

This gives Gunna the opportunity to play with a fresher delivery style. While fans have probably become accustomed to the singsong delivery Gunna has used on standout projects like Lil Baby joint project Drip Harder, Wunna, and 2021’s YSL Records compilation Slime Language 2, on DS4EVER, he often fires off a more clipped cadence, biting off the ends of words like Red Vines to emphasize the more forceful beats like “Mop” and “IDK That Bitch” with G Herbo. He even tries his hand at cooking up his own slang like mentor Young Thug on “Pushin P,” which finds Gunna, Future, and Young Thug employing a slurred, foggy take on the old-school in-and-out, pass-the-mic flow.

Although Gunna only takes a few steps into new territory, he executes well enough on the familiar material to justify hanging back from making any big artistic leaps. After all, he knows what his fans want, and he’s been clear from day one that he considers his job delivering on those expectations rather than making big statements — he leaves that work to his increasingly elaborate wardrobe and burgeoning philanthropic efforts. It’d be nice to see him branch out more in the future, but even if he doesn’t, his final Drip Season mixtape offers strong evidence that he’ll at least keep creating the music he’s known for at a high level for a while.

DS4EVER is out now via 300 and Atlantic. Get it here.

Gunna is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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