“I wasn’t really able to tell my story before, but I think I am now.” Gucci Mane speaks from behind a glass window in a visiting room at Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail. “Got closure on a lot of things now.”

He has a lot to talk about. Two weeks from dropping his fourth album, the all-too-appropriately titled The State vs. Radric Davis, through Warner Bros., the 29-year-old rap star sits in a blue uniform with his hair slightly grown out, 11 days into a yearlong bid. He received the sentence on November 12, 2009, for a probation violation, and was escorted directly to jail, where he’ll be for at least the next four to six months as inmate No. 0936417.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new to Gucci Mane. When he graduated Atlanta’s Ronald E. McNair high school in 1998, he got a full scholarship to Georgia Perimeter College. But during his freshman year, he was busted with 90 bags of crack and locked up for three months. He lost his scholarship. So upon his release, he directed his focus on rap. Gucci spent five years in Atlanta’s underground mixtape scene, before signing with local independent label Big Cat Records for his first album, 2005’s Trap House.

The album’s first single was the hit “Icy,” featuring fellow ATL up-and-comer Young Jeezy. Unfortunately, the song’s success led to a beef over credit, and Jeezy soon placed a bounty for Gucci’s “So Icey” chain on a diss record, “Stay Strapped.” Gucci responded with his own diss, “Round One.” And so on.

On May 10, 2005, while Gucci was visiting a lady friend at Springside Run, in Decatur, five men invaded the house armed with guns, brass knuckles and tape. Gucci grabbed his own weapon, got a few shots off and escaped. Three days later, one of the assailants, Henry Lee Clark III, reportedly an associate of Jeezy’s, was found dead behind the nearby Columbia Middle School.

Gucci was arrested, charged with murder and released on $100,000 bail, on May 24. Two months later, he was rearrested, after beating up a club promoter with a pool stick. Denied bond, he stayed locked up through October, when he entered a no-contest plea to assault charges and was sentenced to six months, with credit for time served. He was released in January, put on probation and given 600 hours of community service. Right before he got out, the murder charges against him were dropped.

In 2006, Gucci put out his second album, Hard to Kill, and severed ties with Big Cat. The following year, he inked a label deal for his So Icey Entertainment with Asylum Records (then a subsidiary of Warner Bros.’ Atlantic Records arm) and dropped Back to the Trap House, which included the smash “Freaky Gurl (Remix),” featuring Ludacris and Lil’ Kim.

But instead of back to the trap house, it was back to the jailhouse. On September 12, 2008, Gucci was sentenced to a year at Fulton County for failing to complete his community service, after performing only 25 of the 600 hours.

Released on probation in March , Gucci got busy—flooding the streets and the Internet with new songs and videos, collaborating with big-name artists like Black Eyed Peas and Mariah Carey, building up the So Icey team with OJ Da Juiceman and Nicki Minaj, and starting a new imprint, 1017 Records.

Two days after visiting Gucci in jail, XXL got on the phone with the rapper to see just what he really meant about being ready to tell his story. —Vanessa Satten

Check back next week for more of this exclusive jailhouse cover story, and look for the March 2010 issue, featuring Gucci Mane on the cover, on newsstands nationwide now.