Frannie Kelley

Gucci Mane has had a roller coaster of a career. Born Radric Davis, he grew up in his grandfather's house in a small town in Alabama. He made his name in Atlanta, over time becoming a central figure in Southern rap and a mainstay on commercial radio. But his successes were interrupted by time in jail.

Gucci Mane's smile makes you feel like there's still some good in the world. He's really earned it, and that thing is infectious.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


Gallant was not rushed to market. Gallant is the wise, lucky beneficiary of development and time. Or we are. Zebra, the EP that Christopher Gallant released in 2014, was adrift in a stylized haze; but on Ology, the 24 year-old singer's soulful voice is front and center, and his intent clear.

We're about 300 emails and one month in. We started with seven people and swelled to eight, though the composition of the group has changed a little bit.

Maybe we have jumped the gun. We very badly want G.O.O.D. Fridays back (we're not alone). Surprise releases are fun and everything, but the build of a month(s)-long stretch is better. We would like to talk about music together, and not only by collectively spazzing out and crashing Livemixtapes. We would like to Monday morning quarterback the art and announcement punctuation and where we heard it over the weekend and the context and the song itself.

Note: NPR's Audio for First Listens comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

The first voice we heard when Compton rapper Boogie took the stage Wednesday night wasn't his. It was Darius, Boogie's five-year-old son, booming out the speakers and making occasional appearances throughout his set. This is Boogie's first SXSW, among his first concerts and the beginning of a career that will have to be built on the road, which will mean stretches away from his son, stretches when his son's voice will have to be piped in just like it was at Stubb's.

Last year you heard Terrace Martin's work on YG's album, Ninth Wonder's compilation, Big K.R.I.T.'s Cadillactica and, just this week, a new song by Kendrick Lamar, called "The Blacker The Berry." In the space of less than six months in 2014, the LA-based producer and multi-instrumentalist also put out a full solo album, 3Chor

It's fair to wonder why anybody would make an album today, much less a group of musicians who've proven themselves several times over. There isn't much money to be had, and what little there is can be got by other, less exhausting methods than touring to break new songs. Kool G Rap doesn't need to do this – everybody you respect wishes they could be like him when they grow up. Pharoahe Monch dropped an album this year that leveled whole tiers of his competition. AZ, when he cares to, rhymes circles around 99.99 % of the rapping population.

If this is the first time you're hearing of somebody called Your Old Droog, don't even trip. Some people know the name; those people spent the spring and summer speculating if an unknown entity who posted a better-than-it-should-be debut EP on Soundcloud was in fact Nas, our (hip-hop's) Jeff Buckley, minus the tragedy.

T-Pain's fingerprints are all over pop and R&B and hip-hop. He wasn't the first musician to use Auto-Tune as an instrument — he noticed it on a Jennifer Lopez remix, and remembers "Deep" well — but it was, as he says, his style. For a while, in the mid-2000s, he lived at the top of the charts. He dominated that brief moment of our lives when ringtones were a thing.

On Sunday, Sept. 14, 20 years and one day after Biggie Smalls' debut album, Ready to Die, was released, Microphone Check gathered four of the musician's friends in Brooklyn to recall the man they knew.

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