Gunna Makes Triumphant Return to Stage, Reaffirms Assist for Younger Thug at The Gift Live performance

Gunna Makes Triumphant Return to Stage, Reaffirms Support for Young Thug at ‘The Gift’ Concert

In some ways, the latest years of Gunna’s profession have solid the rap celebrity in plenty of completely different narratives — a few of them false and a few of them true. To some, Gunna is a hero — a real star who was in a position to launch a formidable comeback album amid his precarious new social standing. To others, he’s a villain, the brand new mascot for snitching. On Saturday evening (Sep. 9), throughout his first headlining efficiency in two years, Gunna obliterated each a kind of narratives whereas concurrently crafting and cementing his story on his personal phrases.

Treating Brooklyn, New York’s Barclays Middle to a particular present titled The Reward, a nod to the primary a part of the title of his A Reward & A Curse album — which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in July — Gunna electrified the world with an impressively staged, discography-spanning present.

Gunna teamed with PLUS1 and the nonprofit group Goodr for The Reward. Each $1 per ticket went in direction of The Goodr Basis, which, in response to its web site, “strives to end world hunger by cultivating countless resources.”

A Reward & A Curse served as Gunna’s official follow-up to final 12 months’s Billboard 200 No. 1 album DS4Ever. That document, which spawned memorable hits resembling “Pushin P” (with Future and Younger Thug) and “P Power” (with Drake), turned Gunna’s second consecutive No. 1 album. Primed to turn out to be one of many defining hip-hop album eras of 2022, the DS4Ever promotional marketing campaign was lower quick in Could 2022 when Gunna (alongside Younger Thug and 28 different YSL associates) was charged in a 56-count RICO indictment and subsequently turned himself in. After pleading responsible to a single racketeering conspiracy cost final December and receiving a four-year suspended sentence, Gunna was launched from jail.

Drawing on imagery knowledgeable by Historical Greece and the Previous Testomony alike, Gunna tore by a towering set that reminded the world of his constant ear for pristine beats, his enviable roster of hits, and his unwavering allegiance to Younger Thug and YSL.

To start his set — which was preceded by transient opening units from “In The Party” rapper Flo Milli and a remarkably uncharismatic YouTuber-turned-rapper named DDG — Gunna emerged from behind a life-size marble bust of himself toppled onto its facet. Donning a grey tank and crystal-studded shorts, Gunna’s entrance was a tackle the “phoenix rising from the ashes” trope that solely he might ship. For his first main efficiency in two years, Gunna arrived fully conscious of the gravity of the second. A video interlude that performed earlier than he took the stage traced the imagery of his album covers, ultimately touchdown on the bust that characterised the DS4Ever paintings — his last album earlier than he went to jail.

Together with his victorious stance atop the toppled bust, Gunna embraced the blows to his title and fame and funneled them right into a successful show of his stay efficiency capabilities and the standard of A Reward & A Curse. Nonetheless, he neatly balanced all of this by selecting “Back At It,” A Reward A Curse’s breezy no-frills opener, as the primary music of his setlist. The packed area erupted into an avalanche of cheers because the music set the tone for an evening anchored by a crisp stay band and a decided entertainer who tore by his discography with no backing monitor.

The primary half of The Reward featured a slew of hit singles in addition to fan favorites. As Gunna maneuvered across the elaborate set — which additionally included a life-size marble snake and several other massive crystalline constructions — Gunna delivered renditions of plenty of DS4Ever songs, a reminder that though the present was thematically centered round his most up-to-date album, the live performance additionally served as the primary stay efficiency of a number of DS4Ever tracks. With the assistance of a implausible drummer and guitarist, Gunna’s performances of “South to West” and “Too Easy” rocked Barclays. For “Poochie Gown,” a gaggle of statuesque girls struck poses in flowy robes as Gunna rapped his means by the monitor; the staging nodded to the music itself whereas additionally casting the ladies in Muse-adjacent roles in Gunna’s Historical Greece-inspired manufacturing.

Gunna’s first second of onstage banter got here in his introduction of “P Power,” his hit Drake collaboration from DS4Ever. He flirted with the women within the crowd earlier than launching right into a energetic rendition of the X-rated monitor. By way of crowd engagement, basic Gunna reigned supreme; the lyrics of “Drip or Drown” and “Pedestrian” ricocheted throughout the world with notable depth. The most effective a part of the primary half of the present — moreover the extremely dope skull-adorned microphone stand — was when Gunna recreated his viral A Colours Present efficiency of “Top Off,” full with a dangling mic.

To introduce the second half of the present, one more video interlude performed on the huge screens behind Gunna and his band. This time, documentary-style footage offered the primary actual glimpses into Gunna’s psyche concerning the aftermath of the YSL RICO indictment, his stint in jail, and the thorny intricacies of his post-release life. “I don’t think we talk,” a voice advises Gunna over the cellphone, “We put out the music.” The interlude additionally included snippets of what seemed to be conversations between Gunna and his mom — tender moments through which she encourages him to maintain pushing regardless of the difficulties he’s going through. The montage showcased a clearly despondent Gunna packing bowls of weed, ruminating on the best way his world unraveled, and determining the way to choose up the items and rise from the rubble.

From there, the second half of The Reward launched into the stronger and extra memorable A Reward & A Curse tracks, in addition to his borderline bulletproof litany of collaborations with Younger Thug and Lil Child. Album standouts “Back To the Moon” and “Bread & Butter” sounded much more lush and layered of their stay preparations; each songs lower a lot deeper with the added emotional context of the previous interlude. Gunna carried out the start of the latter half of his set on an elevated platform adorned with a mixture of floral greenery and skulls à la the Reward & A Curse album cowl — a transfer that highlighted the thematic throughline of the present’s artwork path. For this a part of his set, Gunna opted for an outfit change: gray-black denims paired with a black high that recalled the obsidian wings of fallen angels. Earlier than launching right into a medley of Younger Thug collaborations, Gunna flashed a “Free Jeffrey” graphic throughout the screens, and performances of “Hot,” “Ski,” “Oh Okay,” Billboard Scorching 100 high 10 hit “Pushin P” (No. 7), and an exclamation of “Free Slime!” quickly adopted.

The ultimate act of The Reward featured the 2 largest hits from Gunna’s final document. “Fukumean,” which turned the highest-charting solo music of Gunna’s profession on the Scorching 100 (No. 4), roared by the world, cementing its standing as not solely one of the vital beloved anthems of the 12 months but in addition a direct staple in Gunna’s stay exhibits. “Rodeo Dr,” which lately acquired a cheeky, cinematic music video, elicited even stronger crowd reactions. Shirtless and charged with a brand new degree of urgency and adrenaline, Gunna’s grit and gratitude illuminated Barclays on Saturday evening. “I love the f— out of y’all, I swear to God,” he stated. “This s— is crazy.”

And loopy it was. For an artist who noticed popular culture at its most fickle whereas on the top of his profession, Gunna’s awe was removed from contrived. If something, it was a real reclamation of his narrative. By drawing on varied items of spiritual imagery, Gunna was in a position to reassert his personal humanity. As triumphant as his return was, he made the admirable choice to not gloss over the damage, ache, and melancholy of the previous 12 months — and that emotional depth helped add sensible pockets of nuance to an already well-staged and well-produced efficiency. A real present certainly.

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