First Impressions Of Gunna's New Album, 'A Gift & A Curse'

After giving it a few initial spins, members of the Complex Music team shared their first impressions of Gunna's new album.

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Six months after Gunna returned home from jail in the YSL RICO case, he’s back with a new album, released with little warning and no press run.

There’s been a lot going on in his personal life, to say the least, and he’s decided to stay quiet publicly, choosing instead to address everything in the music. Released a year and a half after his No. 1 album DS4Ever, A Gift & a Curse is a 15-song project with no features, guided solely by the inner thoughts of Sergio Giavanni Kitchens.

But is it any good? After giving it a few initial spins, members of the Complex Music team shared their first impressions of the album, breaking down the best and worst parts of the project.

Best song?

Eric: “Fukumean.” I had to run this back like five times before moving on to the rest of the album. Gunna’s flow over those vocal chops (shoutout Dunk Rock and Flo) is perfect. It’s funny, because this album is full of Gunna’s most raw, honest songwriting ever, but this specific song doesn’t even really represent that. Still, it sounds great and it’s a reminder of just how good Gunna is when he finds the right pocket. (I also love “Go Crazy” and “Ca$h $hit.”)

Jessica: “Back at It” is my personal favorite. Gunna’s determination to reclaim his position in rap is palpable by his sharp flow and lethal delivery. Because of his nothing-to-lose mentality, he sets a great tone for the album. “Ca$h $hit” is another great song because it flexes the classic Wunna flow. 

Jordan: “Alright” feels like the most emotionally raw song on the album, which is what makes it the best in my opinion. The production on the track is amazing, and Gunna’s melodic crooning about how fame changed his life for the worse sounded authentic.

Stefan: Gunna is floating on “Fukumean.” This track isn’t going to give you heavy barslike “I Was Just Thinking” and “Alright.” Instead it feels like a welcome break for Gunna, who spends most of the album getting everything that’s been plaguing him off his chest. Gunna flaunts his seemingly effortless ability to find the perfect pockets on this verse, while creating a wildly catchy chorus. Make sure you play this one all the way through… The transition into “Rodeo Dr.” is as smooth as butter.

Biggest skip?

Eric: “Born Rich.” It’s fine. It just lacks the urgency of the rest of the album and kind of floats by without making much of a mark.

Jessica: “Born Rich” and the “ee-yah” ad-lib on “Fukumean” just don’t do it for me. 

Jordan: There were no glaring skips for me.

Stefan: If I had to pick one it would be “Born Rich.” When I stack this track up to the rest, it leaves me wishing he did more with it. The verses feel short and sleepy, and the chorus is forgettable.

Best thing about the album?

Eric: Gunna’s focus. He’s always been a gifted hitmaker with some of the best flows and melodies of his era, but his lyrics weren’t always as inspired as they could be, and he had a tendency to get caught up in rapping about the same handful of topics over and over. (To be fair, it was impressive how many different ways he figured out how to rap about dressing well.) This formula was fun, producing a lot of hits, but at a certain point, those songs started to blur together, and Gunna often seemed more interested in the flows than the lyrics. But on this album, as unfortunate as the circumstances are, he sounds inspired. There’s a chip on his shoulder. The songs are urgent. He’s getting personal. The melodies are there (as they always are) but this time he paired them with the best songwriting of his career. It’s his most complete, balanced album yet.

Jessica: The album offers glimpses of the “old Gunna.” Tracks like “Back at It,” “Ca$h $hit,” and “Bottom” showcase Gunna's playful, yet energetic flows, while also highlighting his undeniable rap skills. It’s also exhilarating to hear the moments when Gunna is in attack mode, directing his aim at those who doubted him or turned their back on him. It adds an extra layer of intensity that the album needed.

Jordan: I think it’s powerful that Gunna was so transparent on this album. He could have easily fronted and rapped as if all of the commentary about his legal decisions didn’t bother him or not address it at all, but instead he allowed his anxiety to spill into the music.

Stefan: Gunna is rapping with a purpose. He has a chip on his shoulder and he has shit to say. In the months since getting out of jail, he has been scrutinized and isolated by a substantial number of his peers and fans. It’s been a quiet six months for Gunna, and instead of acting emotionally and taking to social media during that time to defend his name, it’s clear he’s been thoughtful about how he wanted to break his silence, making sure he left no stone unturned.

Worst thing about the album?

Eric: This isn’t even a knock on the album itself, but hearing some of these songs (especially tracks like “Turned Your Back” and “I Was Just Thinking”), I can’t help but get sad about the whole YSL situation. Social media drama and snitching allegations aside, no one wants to see a group of incredibly talented artists (who literally treated each other like family) torn apart and locked up by a predatory criminal justice system. Just a year and a half ago, Gunna was hitting new heights, earning a No. 1 album over The Weeknd, and now his reality (and, of course, Young Thug’s) has been completely ripped apart, which is demoralizing to watch (and listen to). 

Jessica: I totally empathize with Gunna's circumstances and understand his need to address the allegations surrounding the YSL case, but the album felt bogged down by a ton of introspective tracks that were solely focused on the topic. Yes, it would have been strange to completely ignore the situation, but having nearly a third of the album dedicated to it felt somewhat forced. Additionally, the somber tone of these introspective tracks detracted from the lighthearted and fun nature typically associated with listening to Gunna's music.

Jordan: The album suffers from not having any features, which is to be expected given how the music industry has been moving around Gunna since he was released from jail. Songs begin to blend together in the middle portion of the tape because of the lack of different voices.

Stefan: I think the things people will harp on the most is the lack of any features and lack of “outside music,” but to me this is exactly the music we needed from him and we didn’t need anyone else getting in the way of his story.

Biggest surprise?

Eric: There was a lot of pre-album talk about how Gunna’s go-to producer Wheezy called him a “rat” and cut ties, raising into question whether he’d be able to find worthy beats for the project. Well, that turned out to not be an issue. Thanks to producers like Turbo, the beats live up to the high bar that Gunna’s set for himself. In the same regards, he also successfully pulls off a no-features album, which is impressive for an artist who usually builds his projects around at least a half-dozen features.

Jessica: No major surprises here. The subject matter addressed all of what I expected it to. 

Jordan: It surprised me how honest Gunna was here. He was able to respond to all the narratives around him while still being able to make an album that sounded therapeutic for him.

Stefan: Word for word this has to be the least amount of times Gunna has used the word “drip” on any of his albums and I’m not mad at it. According to HipHopNumbers, 43.3% of Gunna’s bars are addressing the people who doubted him, 25.1% of his bars speak on his vulnerability, while 0.9% of his bars were about oral sex, which apparently is his lowest percentage on any of his projects.Gunna has always fallen in that category of rappers for me where I’m not going to them for much substance in their raps. Showcased in albums like Wunna, you could just hit play on track one and vibe out without paying too much attention. The main draw was always his flow and the energy the songs create, not so much what he’s saying. On A Gift & a Curse Gunna said, “Why not both?"

Final thoughts/overall first impressions?

Eric: This is Gunna’s best album. For years, he’s had some of the best flows in rap, and now he’s added a chip-on-his-shoulder edge to the mix, coming through with the most urgent, inspired music we’ve ever heard from him. He’s been through an unimaginable year, but he figured out a way to work through his personal tragedies in the actual music, without losing any of the flair that made him a star in the first place. I usually laugh off the day-one “album of the year” talk on Twitter, but it might just be in the mix (so far).

Jessica: A Gift & a Curse, is an intriguing addition to his discography. While it feels like Gunna had an obligation to address his circumstances and prove himself, the album occasionally is weighed down by too many serious moments. However, it also showcases Gunna's unwavering determination and undeniable skill. The album truly shines when Gunna is able to let loose and have fun with it. It serves as a solid start, and I'm eager to see how Gunna will continue to build on this moment. Moreover, I feel like 2023 had been missing its standout “rap moment,” but this album might have changed that. 

Jordan: I will always be on the side of a free Black man, and I applaud Gunna for ignoring the trolls and sharing what feels like an authentically transparent album with A Gift & a Curse. The production on the album is also impressive, especially considering the lack of major producers aligned with it. “Wanna know how Wunna feel? Then listen to my music,” he raps on “Idk Nomore.” That’s the crux of A Gift & a Curse: Stop the speculation and let the art speak for itself. Gunna did not owe anyone any explanation, and it’s unfortunate that the court of public opinion has allowed people to feel empowered enough to speak on someone else's freedom despite not abiding by the same street politics that they preach. Even though A Gift & a Curse isn’t a memorable album for me, I applaud Gunna for getting on with his life, especially when many wanted him to remain stuck in his lowest moment.

Stefan: Gunna rises above it all. He proved he doesn’t need any features. He proved he doesn’t need Wheezy’s production. He proved everyone wrong. This is one of his most complete albums.

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