Producer: Zaytoven
Album: Writing On The Wall
Label: So Icey Ent. After one of his many dalliances with the law, Gucci re-emerged from jail in spring 2009 to a rapidly growing audience. At that point, he had built on a pure grassroots buzz to become the biggest rapper in the South not named Lil Wayne.

Hip-hop media at the time was caught up in the goings on of the newly-emergent blog game, focused on a kid named Charles Hamilton. Meanwhile, the rest of the country had become fixated on the most unlikely of street heroes, a potbellied whirlwind presence whose legend preceded him.

Upon his release from jail, he went straight to the studio. Onlookers came to watch him in the booth: The rapper spit with no pad, no pencil, stringing along verses as if drawing on some encyclopedic taxonomy of colors and cars. It was a hedonistic sprawl that, on close inspection, seemed to create its own internal logic. He was a force of nature. But strangely, his very first song upon release is almost completely unique in his catalog.

"First Day Out" is written about a crack dealer, also fresh out of jail, but it doubled as autobiography, in that confusing way gangster rap is at once based in truth and purposefully mysterious about it. It wasn't his most lyrical outing, and it wasn't his most pop-friendly. It also wasn't a reformulation of previous ideas, as many of his improvised raps had developed to at that point.

Instead, "First Day Out"'s appeal was that it was uncut Gucci, each phrase a new creative moment. There wasn't a street-rap fan in 2009 who couldn't do a call-and-response off "First Day Out," from its striking opening line on, "I started off my day with a blunt of purp/No pancakes, just a cup of syrup." Over a thinly layered, hypnotic Zaytoven production, it was the rapper's raw appeal, stripped-back and skeletal, each line starkly unforgettable. —David Drake