For anyone into hip-hop, they are likely to be aware of Gucci Mane's most recent release from prison. Dubbed the “Boogey Mane of Hip-Hop” by Charlamagne, Gucci will have to not only redefine himself in a new era of music but also make money in the midst of shifting music business and revenue models.
With many of his active competitors being 10-15 years younger than him, Gucci, who's government name is Rodric Davis, will need to leverage mobile and web technologies in order to market his brand and music.
Hip-Hop has become so mainstream that the trap sound of Atlanta's black subculture can even be heard in some of the whitest bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
This widespread embrace creates new consumers. However, it also invites stiff competition from the many artists who can replicate and iterate on the Gucci Mane' style, while still avoiding the Gucci Mane-type of drama.
Gucci's Creative Genius and Persistent Devils
It was roughly a decade ago in 2006 when his hit song “So Icey” made Gucci Mane a staple for many Atlanta-style hip-hop listeners. His smooth cadence and sonnet style of delivery provided great contrast to the harsh and vulgar content of his narratives.
At his peak, Davis sold 425,000 albums (Gold) of his 2009 album The State vs. Radric Davis. And yet, the same harsh conditions and struggle which sparked much of Gucci Mane’s creative genius also stoked his inner demons.
A pattern of public feuds, erratic outbursts and violent behavior gradually began to chip away at the success he had earned.
In 2005, a nasty feud emerged between Gucci and fellow Atlanta trap artist, Young Jeezy ,which climaxed in a violent attack on Gucci by 3 assailants, resulting in one of their murders by Gucci in self defense. Young Jeezy denied any involvement with this attack.
13 proved to be a very unlucky number for Davis, as the year 2013 brought multiple arrests, feuds and eventually jail time. That year, Davis would be arrested for 2 assaults on fans. He was later arrested twice more that year for gun and drug possession.
In 2014, a crude and accusatory Twitter rant against friends and colleagues further isolated him from the industry and fans, while also signaling that he was hitting a personal low. Finally in 2014, Gucci was arrested and charged for firearm possession as a convicted felon, causing him to be locked up until Spring 2016.
Gucci Does from Jail what Other Artists can't Do Ever
Even while locked up, Gucci understood his need to remain relevant in an incredibly competitive and overly-saturated music market. While in prison, Gucci released 13 different mixtapes and musical projects with various artists, earning himself a total of $1.3 million in paid downloads and online sales.
What is amazing is that Gucci achieved this success while incarcerated and as streaming apps ruined the business models of many. As many artists struggle with both sale records and in earning adequate income from streaming plays, Davis seems completely unfazed.
According to Nielsen, digital track sales in 2015 were suppressed by the rise of music streaming. Sales fell by 12.5 percent to 964.8 million units in 2015 – a total decline of 1.1 billion purchased units in 2014. In particular, R&B and hip hop music made up 21 percent of the 317 billion streams played via on-demand services.
The slip in revenues was less intense in the category of digital album sales: Figures in this are tumbled by a mere 2.9 percent, down to 103.3 million in 2015 from 106.5 million in 2014.
As many artists were be rocked with depression by these statistics, they only bring joy to the ears of Radric Davis. His career has always leveraged massive levels of free music as a way of marketing and branding his shows and paid content.
Promptly after his release from prison, Gucci released "Back on Road" with Drake
Using Social Media to Stay Engaged and Relevant
The reality that Gucci knows how to sell a record is clear.
However, since 2014 when Gucci man sentenced was locked up, the idea of celebrity has shifted greatly, with social media tools increasing the level of connectivity fans expect from their artists.
Adjusting for this new marketing paradigm, Davis' management team has done a fantastic job of keeping the Gucci Mane persona connected with fans via Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. His longtime girlfriend, Keyshia Ka'oir in particular has been active in connecting fans with their beloved artist, using Instagram pictures and snaps from prison.
Thus, to say that the public and fellow rappers have noticed the evolution of Gucci Mane would be an understatement.
Even as recently as June 22nd, Gucci trended on Twitter amidst a comedic conspiracy that the newly released Gucci is a clone of the US government, as the new Gucci Mane is quieter, more polite and in great physical shape.
Before and After his 2014-16 Prison Stint. Radric Davis is putting in the necessary and real work to strengthen and evolve his "Gucci Mane" brand.
Gucci, climbing his way back into the series...
Maybe he will be back in jail in 3 months, in 3 years or never again. Who knows? However, the fact that Gucci has been able to stay relevant both behind and outside of those familiar jail bars means that this guy is a fighter.
He's unconventional and arguably inefficient in how he runs his business. He's a liability, burns professional bridges and, yet, keeps fans engaged with his brand. This engagement with fans allows him to distribute his music, sell tickets and downloads and build new relationships with the most relevant musicians.
As he trends on Twitter, produces features with Drake, and performs at concerts just after his bid in federal prison, Gucci is proving himself to be like Lebron in Game 5: ready for a come back and determined to win.
Video Below: Back on Road - Gucci Mane ft. Drake
Medvis Jackson is a web designer at Hindsite, curator at Kulchah and avid cricket fan. You can follow him @medvisjackson for his random thoughts.