Atlanta-based rapper and trap pioneer Gucci Mane made his mainstream debut in 2005 with his first national hit, "Icy." However, he became involved in a quarrel with that song's collaborator, Young Jeezy, and found himself facing murder charges in the Georgia courts. The skirmish would kick off a storied narrative that defined his career. Before the dramatic arc, Gucci Mane (born Radric Davis) loved to compose rhymes, writing poetry as a child in elementary school in his native Birmingham, Alabama. During the fourth grade, he moved to Atlanta with his single mother. By the time high school started, Gucci Mane had already spent time in a recording studio. The glamour and fashion sense of rappers like Big Daddy Kane motivated him to put words to music. His debut single, "Black Tee," was a hit on the local scene and earned him a contract with Big Cat Records. In May 2005, the label released his debut album, Trap House, which peaked at the number one spot on Billboard's Heatseekers chart.
The beef with Young Jeezy originated from a fight over the rights to the album's "Icy" hit single, which spawned a number of diss tracks traded between the two. Within the same month of the LP's release, Gucci Mane was arrested for murder following an altercation in which he shot at a group of five men who burst into his friend's house, threatening to kill the rapper. As it turned out, the murdered attacker was an associate of Young Jeezy, who denied any involvement with the incident. Gucci Mane declared in court that it was self-defense, and by January 2006, Georgia prosecutors dropped all charges, citing lack of evidence. However, the legal issues would only continue for the next decade.
After being released from jail (on charges unrelated to the murder) that same month, he quickly went back into the studio to make his second album, Hard to Kill, which was released in October. He took the song "Go Head" from his first album and made it the lead single for the second in order to make up for the time taken away from promoting Trap House. The State vs. Radric Davis, his second official album, was released in December 2009 following a dizzying array of dozens of mixtapes.
The Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted followed in 2010 with guest shots from Estelle, Nicki Minaj, and Wyclef. Featuring the single "Mouth Full of Gold" with special guest Birdman, the "street album" The Return of Mr. Zone 6 followed in 2011, along with two collaborative albums, 1017 Bricksquad Presents...Ferrari Boyz with Waka Flocka Flame and Baytl with V-Nasty. A second volume of Gucci Mane's The State vs. Radric Davis mixtape would drop in 2013. Entitled The State vs. Radric Davis II: The Caged Bird Sings, it featured appearances from Migos, Young Scooter, Peewee Longway, Verse Simmonds, Young Dolph, Rocko, and Young Thug.
In late 2013, his scraps with the law finally came to a head. He agreed to a plea deal over a firearms possession charge and would not emerge from prison until May 2016. During his two years of incarceration, Gucci Mane would release close to 30 mixtapes.
The rapper would have a landmark year in 2016. His ninth studio album, Everybody Looking, arrived mere months after his release from prison. Issued on his own label, Guwop Enterprises, the LP debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and boasted high-profile guest appearances such as Drake, Kanye West, and Young Thug. Keeping up with his prolific reputation, Gucci Mane released his tenth album just five months later. Woptober featured Rick Ross, Travis Scott, and Young Dolph. Guwop also scored his first Billboard number one single with the Rae Sremmurd hit "Black Beatles." To close out his busy 2016, he dropped his third album of the year, Return of the East Atlanta Santa, which debuted in the Billboard Top 20. ~ Cyril Cordor & Neil Z. Yeung, Rovi
California-born, Tupelo-raised, Atlanta-based rap duo Rae Sremmurd debuted on Mike WiLL Made It's late-2013 mixtape Mike Will Been Trill with "We," a scraping, lashing party track. While their name could have been read as a backward-spelled alias for Mike WiLL's songwriting and production syndicate EarDrummers, Rae Sremmurd turned out to be two young and exuberant rappers, Swae Lee (Khalif Brown) and Slim Jimmy (Aaquil Brown). They were former members of Dem Outta St8 Boyz, a trio that had competed on the Wild Out Wednesday segment of BET's 106 & Park program.
In February 2014, "We" was issued as Rae Sremmurd's first official single through Mike WiLL's Made-It Mafia label. Throughout the rest of 2014, following the signing of a contract with Interscope, the rowdy "No Flex Zone" and relatively kicked-back "No Type" and "Throw Sum Mo" (featuring Nicki Minaj and Young Thug) were released as preludes to the early-2015 album SremmLife. All three singles reached the Top Ten of Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart. The first two received platinum certifications. In 2016, they returned with the single "By Chance," along with SremmLife 2, their sophomore LP. Later that year, they earned their first Billboard number one with "Black Beatles" featuring Gucci Mane. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
LIL UZI VERT
A rapper who grew up on the beats of Marilyn Manson and Kanye's 808 & Heartbreak, Lil Uzi Vert came out of North Philadelphia with a relaxed style that connected the dots between Young Thug, Chief Keef, and the A$AP Mob. Debuting by featuring on some DJ Diamond Kuts tracks, Uzi kicked his career into high gear in 2015 when he dropped "Dej Loaf," a dedication to the Detroit vocalist. Don Cannon hosted his mixtape The Real Uzi that same year, then DJ Drama helped broker a deal with Atlantic Records, which released his Luv Is Rage mixtape late in 2015. Don Cannon was back for the early-2016 mixtape Lil Uzi vs. the World, which also featured beats from Metro Boomin and Maaly Raw. Two of its tracks -- "You Was Right" and "Money Longer" -- crossed over and reached the Billboard Hot 100, while the album itself broke into the Billboard 200 Top 50. Months later, The Perfect Luv Tape was issued, peaking at number 55. By the end of the year, his collaboration with Migos -- the viral hit "Bad & Boujee" -- began its ascent to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, hitting number one at the start of 2017. ~ David Jeffries & Neil Z. Yeung, Rovi