In the year since his release from prison after serving nearly two years behind bars, Gucci Mane has done more than simply make up for lost time.

The Atlanta trap icon has managed to not only regain the momentum he had before his sentence — he’s surprised everyone by surpassing it.

On May 26, Gucci dropped his collaborative project with producer extraordinaire Metro Boomin. That mixtape, Drop Top Wop, was his sixth big musical offering since leaving jail and a body of work that not only spoke to his relentless work ethic, but also his generational transcendence.

Gucci Mane

With the hip hop landscape having changed so drastically in the two years Gucci was gone, it was hard to imagine what kind of success he would enjoy once he returned. What most people didn’t anticipate, however, was just how drastically that the hip-hop landscape would change in Gucci’s favour and how many rappers, that were direct descendants of a sound and style he cultivated, would become commercial stars.

He even addressed this fact on his 2016 single “All My Children” off his acclaimed comeback album Everybody Looking. As a pioneer of the Atlanta trap genre and one of the most influential artists in that space, Gucci examines his impact on the current state of the culture through a generation of rappers he’s inspired.

Gucci’s return to prominence has become the stuff of legend, especially when you consider where he was before his sentence. A role in the Harmony Korine film Spring Breakers, a feature on the remix to Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed” and spearheading the rise of 1017 Brick Squad. Gucci was by no means a small-time rapper when he went in and that’s why seeing his career flourish since coming home is so inspiring and perplexing at the same time.

Part of it seems to stem from our fixation with comeback stories in general. Take Robert Downey Jr., for example. Downey’s film career was taking off even in its infancy and his talent was always evident but after suffering a very public battle with drug addiction, he hit rock bottom and his name became a tabloid punchline. Then came Iron Man and the subsequent Avengers franchise and suddenly all was forgotten as Downey climbed to the top of Hollywood and eclipsed all his previous success.

While they’re in two radically different realms of the entertainment industry, Gucci’s story is similar to Downey’s in many ways. Gucci worked on himself, lost a significant amount of weight and kicked a nasty lean addiction that followed him from the beginning of his rap career. It was that same dedication to bettering himself that made the 39-year-old an even more valuable brand when he left prison. Most of the baggage was stripped away and people could finally focus on Gucci the artist and not Gucci the trap boogeyman.

Gucci Mane

Sounding fresh and reinvigorated on all his projects since leaving prison, Gucci’s old fan base has a lot more members these days as younger acts like Migos and Rae Sremmurd have paid homage and featured him on some of their biggest tracks. He’s earned the respect and admiration of the generation he’s inspired and they all look up to him as the father of their genre.

Maturation hits people at different stages of life. For Gucci, it seems like that time came while he sat behind a prison wall, wanting to enjoy his success but not having the ability to do so. He’s still Gucci, but he’s a wiser and worldlier Gucci, and one that knows it’s better to practice and still be in the game rather than watching it from afar.

Gucci Mane’s new album Mr. Davis is out now

Words by Patrick Cwiklinski. 

We can’t all be Gucci Mane. But we can wear Gucci. Treat yourself to a pair of Gucci Slides.