On DS4EVER, Gunna brings a surfeit of personal style. His raps, a blend of melodic gestures and whispered boasts, glide like an Aston Martin dashing along Biscayne Bay. It’s breezy and full of allusions to hot sex, macho boasts and luxury accoutrements. On occasion, he refers to personal troubles: The Turbo-produced “Livin’ Wild” finds him admitting, “I just got from the hospital, might need another liver/Kidney failure, I tell ya, this shit couldn’t be no realer.” Yet the turmoil never overwhelms Gunna’s seductive vocal presence.
Days before DS4EVER’s release, Freddie Gibbs claimed that Gunna appeared on the now-defunct TV series Crime Stoppers and called him a “snitch.” As far as rap battles go, it ain’t much. The kayfabe factor in hip-hop runs deep, and one can’t be sure if the two Warner Bros. acts aren’t simply indulging in a social-media dustup to stoke sales. (Gunna is signed to Young Thug’s Young Stoner Life imprint and 300 Entertainment, with distribution by WMG.) On “Poochie Gown,” Gunna responds by growling, “I can’t fuck with Feddie [sic] Gibbs/Niggas tellin’ fibs.” It’s the equivalent of a shoulder shrug. He knows his audience is more interested in the altered reality he conjures than petty beef. It’s a paradigm illustrated by DS4EVER’s cover art: a digital marble bust that hearkens to his 2018 mixtape classic with Lil Baby, Drip Harder, yet this time the bust is clearly a visage of Gunna, clad in sunglasses and a “GUNNA” chain.
“I’m just kicking it with a baby, smoking on exotic (yes!)/Ain’t it ironic, look at me now, I used to sell narcotics,” Gunna raps and ad-libs in a singsong voice on “Private Island” as a lilting guitar is plucked over a wavy trap beat. He flips words that start with the letter “p” alongside Future and Young Thug – pussy, pills, paranoid, Porsche – on the fanciful “Pushing P,” then drops more “p” words like “penthouse” and “piped down” on “Poochie Gown.” Young Thug cheerily claims that he’s “fucking a bitch on the couch, we fuckin’ all over the house” on “Mop” before offering to take his conquest to St. Tropez. But this vision of sun, drugs and hardcore sex is for dick-swinging thugs only. On the Mike Will Made It-produced “Thought I Was Playing,” Gunna calls, “These boys a bunch of pussies/They no different than a trend.” Near the track’s end, 21 Savage lands a few dazzling, gun-toting bows and ad-libs for good measure: “Never tucked my tail, I went to war with real killers (pussy)/I’m your wifey’s surgeon, dog, I give her lip fillers (pussy).”
Then there’s “P Power,” a collaboration with Drake that appeared on early press editions of DS4Ever yet doesn’t appear on the official streaming version. Originally nestled between “Thought I Was Playing” and “How You Did That” as the album’s sixth track, “P Power” has a filtered disco-sounding sample and the sounds of a woman moaning ecstatically, “Come into my life!” Musically, it was the most impressive thing on the project, with Gunna unfurling his horniest rhymes. Meanwhile, Drake initially sticks to the theme, offering “When you fuck on me it feels personal, baby,” before segueing into a typical complaint about why people don’t pay more attention to him, asking, “How can I not be the top of discussion?” There was nothing else on the album that sounded like it. Maybe it’ll leak onto YouTube and/or appear on the inevitable DS4EVER (Deluxe Edition).
While Gunna’s 2020 album Wunna crested with a uniform gauziness, DS4 opts for modest sonic diversity, flitting between digitized trap hammers like “25k Jacket” and “Alotta Cake”; and laconic, guitar-inflected oases like “Livin Wild” and “Flooded.” Quality features abound, from 21 Savage on the aforementioned “Thought I Was Playing” to G Herbo swinging hard on “IDK That Bitch.” Its most audacious moment finds him and Chloe Bailey harmonizing the chorus from Jon B’s “They Don’t Know” on “You & Me.” It’s amusing, albeit a little gimmicky. Every Southern rapper these days seems to think that he could be a 90s R&B lothario if given the chance. Gunna has a flashy and intoxicating vocal style, and that alone DS4 a worthy escapade. But he can’t transcend the clichés that define his era.