Atlanta rapper Gunna returns with his new Hip Hop album DS4EVER. HipHopDX breaks down Gunna’s Billboard-topping Drip Season 4

Gunna has made a name for himself over the last few years for enjoyable work that seamlessly blends melodies and a myriad of rap flows. Projects such as 2017’s Drip or Drown, 2018’s Drip Season 3 and 2020’s WUNNA function as three checkpoints in his canon; they’ve produced major hits and are highly regarded. But none of these projects have let listeners know who Sergio Giovanni Kitchens is as a man.

Fortunately for Gunna, where some artists have been asked to take things deeper than the surface, listeners have been satisfied with the YSL signee detailing his fashion sense, flexing about buying whatever he wants and proudly exclaiming he’s “made it out the mud.”

While Gunna’s third studio album DS4EVER is similar to his past work in some ways, there are key moments of vulnerability paired with the usual bravado that hint at Gunna’s evolution as a person and artist. The drip is highlighted, but he doesn’t shy away from lamenting over the times when life’s tidal waves nearly drowned him.

The introspective Turbo and McNab-produced “livin wild” flips Keith Sweat’s “Why Me Baby” as the 28-year-old reflects on mentor Young Thug experiencing kidney failure and potentially needing a new liver, in addition to his own bout with pneumonia in July 2021. Gunna croons wistfully over the somber mid-tempo beat, accentuating the severity of these situations. “The doc didn’t care who the richest,” he sings in anguish. “I need to be admitted.”

While “livin wild” focuses on the fragility of health, “missing me” covers matters of the heart. Over the stripped-down Adriano, Bobby Raps and Wheezy-laced cut, Gunna professes his desire to be believed in and seen, reminding himself he’s a star as a coping mechanism for the heartache he feels.

But this is still a Gunna album. These moments of insecurity are balanced with luxurious flexes, boisterous brags and catchphrases aplenty. “pushin P” has transcended being a two-minute, 16-second head-knocking anthem to a major viral moment with blue P’s appearing all over social media. The Atlanta chameleon taps hometown heroes Young Thug and Future for an endeavor similar to their 2019 collaboration “Unicorn Purp.” The trio dismissively asserts they are “pushin P” as if someone is repeatedly asking them questions they have no interest in answering, which is humorous considering how often people ponder what the phrase means, and Gunna’s answers leave the listeners even more confused.

Every so often, Gunna trades his calm, beat-riding approach to records for frantic moments of tommy gun flow. For DS4EVER, that comes in the Byrd and TURBO-produced “south to west.” He raps with urgency, as if the studio was about to close down for the night, delivering an impressive exhibition of lyricism: “Got me some hundreds and still gotta keep it one hundred ‘cause these n-ggas counterfeit.”

Gunna Reveals Why 'P Power' Song With Drake Got Cut From 'DS4EVER'

The quality of the tape does waver. “life of sin” sinks due to a disappointing contribution by Nechie. His messy flow, uncreative bars and lack of chemistry with Gunna makes it a difficult listen. The “you & me” ballad with rumored girlfriend Chlöe Bailey encroaches cheat code territory in flipping Jon B’s extremely popular “They Don’t Know” and interpolating lyrics from Usher’s classic “Nice & Slow.” However, the underutilization of Bailey makes the track sound more like cute filler rather than the heartfelt ballad it had the potential to become.

“25k jacket” may feature Lil Baby, but it’s overkill and mediocre compared to all the other collaborations the duo has done together. “die alone” would’ve been stronger without the Chris Brown verse. His 16-bar barrage of sexual explorations made the song disjointed conceptually after the synergy between Gunna and Bleu’s verses. Not getting to add “P Power” with Drake to the original tape is also a glaring misfire.

Though DS4EVER is anointed as the end to Gunna’s popular mixtape/album series, it leaves listeners with an inadvertent epilogue laden with foreshadowing. Gunna has expanded his repertoire in six years to include in-depth storytelling and grown comfortable in acknowledging his humanity. These improvements are nice but many of these songs struggle to stand out. Wunna may be an album of absurd flexing and aquatic trap, but it’s memorable. Gunna’s bid for universal understanding ends up making the formula he had already perfected less sharp.

As life has forced Gunna’s growth, he’s clutched his surfboard and rode the waves through the high and lows, yielding more evocative narratives in the process. DS4EVER is proof he presumably won’t allow stardom to make him complacent, balancing improvements in song topics and technical skill, even if the drip talk has gone stale.

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