Backstory has become such an important part of rap artists’ appeal. Fans are very familiar with the life stories of people like Eminem, 50 Cent and Jay-Z. Do you think your story is well-known? Do you want it to be?
I don’t think my story is as known as those artists’. But I feel like, in a way, people know me better than they know these people that you named. Because a lot of my fans, they feel like they know me. They feel like they can hang with me. I’m more touchable than a lot of those artists. I’m, like, an around-the-way boy—a dude that you can relate to. And a lot of those guys, they can’t relate to them. Even though they know their stories in and out, they can’t relate to them. And with me being from the streets—honestly, with the life I’ve lived, some things I can’t even share—and they respect that. But for some of the people who are just now learning about me, there is kind of a mystique to me, a curiosity that I think attracts them to me, to want to get to know me. And I give them bits and pieces of it. When it comes to me and God puts it on my heart to share something with somebody, I do it, but that’s not something that I feel compelled to do. I don’t think that’s a requirement of being an artist—to air out everything in your closet of everything that you done went through. I don’t feel you have to do that. That’s all if you want to. If you feel you can help someone by doing that, that’s a good reason to do it. But to do it to show that I’m harder than this other artist or that I’m more real, I don’t feel I have to do that, because I know where
I stand in my community.
There have been long-standing problems between you and Young Jeezy. The public perception is that it all stems from the dispute over the “Icy” song. And then from the shooting incident, in May of 2005, because the man who was killed, Henry Lee Clark III, was said to be an associate of Jeezy’s. Some have speculated that Jeezy’s recent problems with DJ Drama are because Drama collaborated on mixtapes with you. What are your thoughts on the situation with Jeezy?
[EDIT NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to Gucci and Jeezy squashing their beef over Atlanta airwaves last December.]
That situation with me and homie, that just happened. I definitely didn’t expect that it would work out like that when we first got in the studio and made those records, and I don’t think he did, either. So it’s either like we can keep that going on forever or we can agree to disagree, and push on. With me, I’ve already pushed on. And a lot of people on my team, they follow the leader, what I got going on. So if I don’t speak on it, they’re not going to speak on it. And can’t nobody push my buttons to make me do anything. So regardless of whether anybody disses me or doesn’t like me, that doesn’t make me dislike them. Instead, they don’t like me.
Me and him are in two different places right now. There was a time where, honestly, I was angry, and I was upset, and I dissed him a lot. But now I don’t feel like that. I dissed him and a lot of other people. But right now I’m not even there no more. I’m so focused on trying to keep my record label tight and keep my family tight, keep everything going on the up and allow God to keep blessing me. So I don’t like to get into a lot of negative things. And that’s just negative. Even though it may sell a trillion records, it’s just not the lane that I want to go. I want to show people that Gucci is a talented songwriter, that he’s a hell of a performer, and that he’s a stand-up guy, and he made something out of literally nothing. And I feel like that’s a story that can help a lot of people. A lot of Black brothers need to hear that. A lot of all [different] colored brothers need to hear that—and sisters—that you can do it. So that’s the song that I like to sing. It’s so easy to be angry and negative, and it’s hard to say that you was hurt. And people don’t do that. So I’d like to be the first person to say I’ll do it, and maybe people will follow my lead.
Even though the murder charges against you were dropped, your lawyer spoke about the difficulty you’re having with your role in Henry Lee Clark’s death.
I never glorified that situation, you know what I’m saying? I rarely ever rap about it, if I ever rap about it. But, at the same time, you know, it always will bother me that someone had lost their life. You know, even if I don’t say anything about it or speak about it, it always bothers me and will bother me until I die. That was a situation I didn’t want to be put in, and it was also a situation I wouldn’t wish on nobody to be in. But some things happen for a reason. And the past, I can’t go back and… I can’t edit the past. I can only try to use that situation to help me help someone else, so they don’t be in that situation, ’cause who wants to be locked up? And for a murder charge, and probably face the death penalty for a charge, ’cause that could go either which way. The law said I was right, but I still hold that with me. And I still have to take that to the grave with me. Some people are gonna see that and think that’s tough-guy shit. But the tough guy is the person to say, Shit, man, I wouldn’t wish that on you. Don’t go down that road, lil’ shawty. Try to stay in school. Try and make something out yourself. You can be a rapper. You can be a producer. Kids, you can be an executive. You can be whatever. You can own XXL magazine. Do something positive with your life. Raise your family, be a good brother, be a good father, be a good son to your mother. That’s tough-guy shit to me. —Vanessa Satten
For the rest of this in-depth interview, be sure to pick up the March 2010 issue of XXL with Gucci Mane on the cover now, and stay locked to XXLMag.com for more exclusive content from the pages of the magazine.