Arts Desk

Stage Name: Gucci, Code Name: Chilly

Atlanta based emcee Gucci Mane is not on Facebook or Twitter. His Myspace is a label curated holder space mostly advertising an eighteen month old album that, by all rational accounts, was a flop. And yet, strictly though word of mouth, he's become the most popular rapper in the South and probably the country. Or at least in those corners of the country where rap music still holds cultural cachet. Last Friday night (5/8) was his debut performance in one such corner, Washington D.C., as part of the week-long celebration of Wire star/Backyard Band frontman Big G's birthday party. (Forgive the delayed quasi review, this writer has seemingly lost an entire week of his life in Gucci Land. Pause.)

As a live performer, Gucci is not outstanding but considerably better than he needs to be. He leans on the all too common live rap show crutch of simply rhyming over his own vocal tracks but he does it well enough that it doesn't seem like a crutch. He exudes stoicism, barely moving but paradoxically breaking a sweat (understandable, DC Star was a sauna and at least one unconscious, presumably heat stricken body was hauled off the floor by security) as he mechanically runs down nihilistic dope boy hits like "Make The Trap Aye," "Photoshoot" and "I'm A Dog". Yes, hits. Gucci is the last underground rap star standing and even with no major label promotion much of the room knew every word before he said it. The only glimmer of personality Gucci showed was upon closing with a heartfelt and reverent thanks to DC. He then exited stage right, only to quickly announce a middle school style "PSYCH!" and run back out to the tune of "Trap House." The encore is a rarity in hip hop, and its presence implies a certain unspoken dedication to the craft that has permeated and probably assisted Gucci's meteoric rise.

The week since has, coincidentally, been something of a coronation for Gucci, turning up with both an XXL magazine cover and his long awaited, first post prison mixtape, the aptly titled Writing On The Wall. For those of you playing the proverbial rap stock market, Gucci is the smart money for '09. Think 50 Cent or Lil Wayne before your grandmother knew their names.

Here's a single blurry photo I was able to take with the camera I snuck into Star against their wishes and took to spite my own incompetence. Note, if you can, Gucci's half forerarm length diamond piece looking like something out of medieval times. Show money must be nice.

TCB opened and basically tore the house to pieces with their trademark bounce beat go-go. Their momentum was squandered by a string of unidentified competent rappers. Backyard followed and delivered something of a trunucated set, but delivered none the less, rocking fan favorites like "Keep It Gangsta."

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