If you’ve ever walked past a works site and felt the seismic rumble as they drilled underground, you probably know how Gucci Mane felt when ‘Lemonade’ dropped. The third single off his second studio and fifth actual record, ‘Lemonade’ pretty much ate chart dirt from the second it hit the ground, never maming it into the Billboard Top 50 and quickly dropping out of higher places in the R&B and Rap charts, too. You’ve got to wonder what the hell else was so good in December of 2009, because if you headed over to hypemachine or rolled up to any party with a decent DJ, you could not escape this song for love or money. In a chequered career full of hits, misses, murder charges and multiple arrests, Mane’s flow on ‘Lemonade’ may be the one highlight everyone agrees on. Retrospectively, of course. I feel like I’ve heard this track blasting out of speakers more in 2012 than I did three years prior. Certainly Diplo took it for a good spin when he teamed up with La Roux on that mixtape that everyone downloaded a few months later, and he’s one of thousands. So what is it about the undeniably unsavoury ‘Lemonade’, then, that’s kept it so sweet for so long?
The first hint is in the producer, obviously. If you subscribe to hip-hop in any serious capacity, you have to know who’s making the beats, whether it’s Khaled, Swizz, Yeezy, Salaam Remi or, in this case, Bangladesh. It’s interesting that since we first started writing about him, someone finally deemed this guy important enough to have his own Wiki, which didn’t exist last year. It’s still scant, but I kind of like it that way. It’s meant that Dave and I have gone from Busta to Lil Wayne to MIA and back again with that amazing nugget of knowledge that one guy who probably wasn’t even from the country of his namesake was behind all of these killer tracks. ‘Lemonade’ seals the deal for me, putting Iowa-born Shondrae Crawford up there in my top producers of all time. This whacked out interpolation of a song from 1976 that I won’t pretend I ever knew over a deceptively simple yet consistently floor-filling bassline is genius. It is actual genius, not just ‘genius’, because if you told me that you could get a hardcore Atlanta rapper to spit codeine-addled rhymes over an innocuous sounding, unaffected piano line, I’d tell you to get out. Oh, and then there’s those schoolkids in the chorus when the beat drops out. I don’t know if this could get any more gloriously inappropriate unless it had a restraining order slapped on it.
The other half is the words, and Gucci Mane is known as a guy who is as much about the delivery of his words as he is about what he’s saying. On this song, primarily because I’ve heard it about a million times and still can’t figure out at least a quarter of the context, I’d say that gets ramped even higher. Swaggering and rolling his consonants into neat little bullets that blast out of his mouth whenever the hell he wants. Way before Wiz Khalifa hopped on the colour bandwagon, Mane was pulling out rhymes where the word ‘yellow’ featured in so many lines that you’d swear he nicked the mantle from Coldplay. But it’s the brute force with which he attacks the couplets, doubling his vocals to prove the point he’s already made that makes it so damn entertaining. Nobody would ever entertain selling codeine-spiked soda on the side of the road to make a few bucks, but Gucci makes it sound like a serious career aspiration. Three years later, as the yellow sun finally starts shining again, we may just consider it. Or at the very least, we’ll roll to this song.
Gucci Mane – ‘Lemonade’