Free Gucci, Fuck Diplo, and the History of "Free _____"
Gucci Mane's new album, The State vs. Radric Davis is in stores today, but the insanely prolific, remarkably consistent Atlanta rapper has been in jail since November 12th. This is Gucci's second stint in jail for a parole violation this year. Both sentences stem from a 2005 incident in which Gucci attacked a promoter, served six months for the attack, and was released under the agreement that he would take rehabilitation classes and do some community service--which he's now failed to do, and gone to jail for failing to do...twice.
And though this recent return to jail brought about another wave of "Free Gucci" T-shirts, mixtapes, and Facebook groups, there's an equal amount of healthy, hands-up-in-the-air frustration with the guy. It's impossible to turn Gucci Mane into any kind of victim of "the system" because the system's given him second, third, and fourth chances to get his shit right.
But that didn't stop last week's team-up between Gucci's label, 1017 Brick Squad, and Diplo's Mad Decent to sell "Free Gucci" T-shirts--promo in turn for an upcoming, Diplo-produced remix mixtape. The "Free Gucci" shirt contains a moderately classy, Wall Street Journal style portrait of the rapper with the familiar, loaded message hovering atop. It's currently available for twenty-five bucks. The remixes are on the way. A tweet from Diplo yesterday hinted at the line-up: Zomby, Flying Lotus, Memory Tapes (?!), and more. A track was leaked this morning.
Within hours of Diplo's press release though, another shirt was pimped, capturing a different kind of internet consensus: "Fuck Diplo." The shirt succinctly describes the objection many have to this remix project and the shirt in particular. Diplo's frustrating, fascinating ability to transform populist trends into hipster-ized, pseudo-underground ones is one thing. But to adopt something as politically loaded as the "Free" movement for shits, giggles, and fashion (and some dough) is just offensive. Whether Gucci's label co-signed it all or not.
The "Free" movement, conjures up everything from "Free Winona" to "Free Pimp C", but its roots are in the slew of baffling events, arrests, and convictions of many prominent members of the left in the late sixties. So, how did "Free Angela" buttons become twenty-five dollar, jet-setting DJ-approved "Free Gucci" t-shirts? Let's try to figure it out.