2016 No. 1s: Gucci Mane's Triumphant Journey From Prison to the Top of the Charts

Meredith Jenks
Michael Kyser [president of black ­music, Atlantic Records], Todd ­Moscowitz ­[manager], Mane, Marsha St. Hubert [vp marketing, Atlantic Records], Craig Kallman [chairman/CEO, Atlantic ­Records] photographed on Nov. 8 at Diamond Horseshoe in New York. 

Everybody Looking -- Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (1 week)


Gucci Mane started 2016 in a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., more than two years into what would be a 32-month prison sentence on federal weapons charges -- and far from his hard-fought position atop the Atlanta street-rap scene. Finally released on May 26, Mane, 36, emerged a changed man; thinner, sober and focused on reclaiming a career he nearly threw away. The result was Everybody Looking -- recorded while Mane was on house arrest during his first six days of freedom and released July 22 -- his first-ever No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. “I was fighting to come back and still be able to relate to people and have fun recording music,” he says. “It’s one of the proudest moments of my life.”

MICHAEL KYSER (president of black ­music, Atlantic Records​):
There were all these stories that he was coming home, he’s not coming home. Finally we got a real date and we just got ready.

MARSHA ST. HUBERT (vp marketing, Atlantic Records​):
It was something he was crafting the entire time he was locked up. As soon as he touched down, he was able to go to the studio and get out all the creative juices that he had been storing.

TODD MOSCOWITZ (manager):
The recording process was pure adrenaline and excitement. The most surreal thing was that everything was done in the house: the plotting, the recording, the photo shoots, the videos. It started to get to the point like, “What room hasn’t been used yet?”

CRIAG KALLMAN (chairman/CEO, Atlantic ­Records​):
We felt the demand, it was very palpable -- the excitement, the anticipation. He’s so embraced, and his music is as urgent as the youngest, hottest new kid on the block. That’s a testament to Gucci’s skills and forward-thinking nature and abilities as a rapper and a creative genius.

MANE:
With all the restrictions and stipulations placed on me, the small window of time we had, looking back on it, it’s a hell of an accomplishment. The day the album came out was like a homecoming, a family reunion, a victory lap, a huge celebration. The icing on the cake.

Gucci Mane talks recording the "triumphant" Everybody Looking in just six days after getting out of prison.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17 issue of Billboard.

Billboard Year in Music 2016