BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Gucci Mane’s decision to offer an unvarnished glimpse into his roller coaster life in “The Autobiography of Gucci Mane” is one of the smartest in his rehabilitated career.
After its first week of release, the book from the Atlanta rapper and writer Neil Martinez-Belkin sits at No. 24 on the Amazon Best Sellers list. It’s also No. 11 on the site’s Most Sold and Read through its own services (Kindle, Audible.com, Amazon.com) and, unsurprisingly, No. 1 in books about rap and hip-hop.
In the current Publisher’s Weekly ranking, Mane’s autobiography is No. 7 among the Top 10 nonfiction books.
Last week, Mane visited a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan for a book signing (and was heckled by anti-fur activists, whom he calmly ignored), but according to the book’s publishing rep, he has no other events planned.
It is odd that Mane hasn’t slated an Atlanta appearance considering that his autobiography is firmly rooted in the city he’s lived in since moving from Alabama with his family in 1989.
If you haven’t spent time with Mane’s unflinching recap of his life – his early years of running drugs to Alabama, the numerous arrests that often overshadowed his musical output, his crippling addiction to “lean,” the three-year sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary in Indiana, almost losing his love, Keyshia Ka’oir (they’re now engaged) – it’s worth the dive.
Mane (born Radric Davis) and Martinez-Belkin unspool some of the most traumatic incidents in the rapper’s life with vivid detail and sharply recalled conversations. But what is most impressive is Mane’s obvious self-reflection. This exercise might have started as a way to share his life with fans, but readers can sense as Mane comes to realizations about what he lost – and how much more there was and is to lose.
In one passage he says, “I was spending money like it was never going to stop coming. Why would it? Some nights I was making ninety thousand dollars. I was pulling in sixty thousand at these stadium shows, like Hot 97’s Summer Jam or Hot 107.9’s Birthday Bash, and then I’d do an after-party and bring in another thirty thousand. I had songs all over the radio. The royalty checks were flowing. It never occurred to me that any of this could be temporary.”
As it should be, the Atlanta rap scene is highlighted as Mane – who gets his nickname from his father, the original “Gucci Mane” – delves into his ongoing beef with Jeezy, describes working with his “go-to producer” Zaytoven and Mike Will Made It and shouts out to the ascension of 2 Chainz and Future.
Of working with Mike Will on his 2012 mixtape, “Trap Back,” Mane says, “Mike Will has me feeling like this s*** is a job sometimes. Recording is supposed to be fun, and re-doing verses and ad-libs is not my idea of a good time. It’s not something I typically do. But when we were working on ‘Trap Back,’ I could tell that Mike Will wanted to see me come back and win just as bad as I wanted it. He knew what time it was.”
After spending three months at Jackson State prison in Georgia for a probation violation (an experience that included lice shampoo and rats “the size of cats”), Mane was released to find that 2 Chainz – whom he’d known for 15 years – and Future – a newcomer to Mane – were the new kingpins on the scene.
It became an easy collaboration among the three after Mike Will Made It recruited Future and 2 Chainz to hop on Mane’s song, “Nasty,” and a new respect manifested between Mane and Future.
Future, Mane says, “was certified Zone 6, so that made me even more inclined to work with him. Also I liked what a studio rat this dude was. I recorded every day but I also hit the clubs at night and enjoyed myself. Future didn’t leave the studio. All he did was record.”
After Mane’s release from federal prison in 2016, the image-reconstruct began immediately. He lost a ton of weight, produced a successful homecoming concert at the Fox Theatre (with surprise guests Drake and Future), was featured in a major profile in the New York Times and, with fiancée Ka’oir, signed in for a reality show on BET to highlight their upcoming wedding (reportedly Oct. 17 at 10:17 a.m.).
The date “The Autobiography of Gucci Mane” arrived also marked his final day under probation – two years earlier than scheduled.
Perhaps it is a new chapter, indeed.