Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Gunna
Gunna's NYC Concert Shows That He's Ready to Move Past YSL Controversies
Over the course of a nearly two-hour show, Gunna went through a lengthy setlist that reflected his rise and influence as a rap hitmaker.
Gunna’s return to music has been anything but a comeback. The last year of the rapper’s career has been plagued by the ongoing RICO trial that culminated in the arrest of Gunna, his mentor Young Thug, and their friends under Thugga’s YSL label. In December 2022, Gunna was released from jail after accepting a plea deal known as an Alford plea, where the defendant pleads innocent but accepts a guilty outcome. The decision to take the plea deal resulted in a foundless attack on Gunna’s character, with people labeling him a snitch and fueling rumors of distance between him and Thug amid his release.
For narratives that have mostly been conjured through online commentators (most notably rap media troublemaker and internet personality Akademiks), it’s been unfortunate to see Gunna’s peers ostracize him, too. From sly disses from Lil Durk to rappers like Polo G, Meek Mill, and Lil Baby unfollowing him after his release, one couldn’t help but wonder what Gunna’s future in rap would look like.
However, it’s clear after his Saturday night show at Barclays Center that the Atlanta rapper hasn’t allowed the isolation from his peers and social criticism to get the best of him. For his first performance since last year’s Broccoli City, Gunna’s "The Gift" concert (in reference to his A Gift & a Curse album name) in New York City was a testament to his unwavering loyalty to Young Thug and YSL, as well as a reminder to fans that he isn’t buried beneath the ashes of last year’s controversies. Over the course of a nearly two-hour show, Gunna went through a lengthy setlist that reflected his rise and influence as a rap hitmaker.
Making his entrance atop a life-size marble bust of his own head and a marble snake curled around the neck, Gunna went on to perform a handful of hits: “P Power,” “Drip or Drown,” “Yosemite,” “Sold Out Dates,” “south to west,” and “Drip Too Hard.” But as well-received as those were, there was an unspoken anticipation for whether or not Gunna would address the YSL trial. Prior to re-emerging on the stage after an outfit change, the second half of the show provided documentary-style footage that offered a glimpse into Gunna’s mental and physical psyche following his release. The interlude included clips of Gunna smoking weed, reading books, and setting up a studio in a Los Angeles home, as a conversation between him and his mother narrated the montage, giving fans context into his mindstate while making A Gift & a Curse. Emerging after the interlude on an elevated platform with floral arrangements adorned on the bottom half, Gunna went on to perform “Hot,” “Oh Okay,” and “Ski,” as the words “Free Jeffrey” flashed across screens onstage.
During the montage, there was a notable moment where someone advised the following to Gunna: “I don’t think we talk. We put out the music.” Gunna’s show at Barclays is a testament to that: allowing his music to speak for him and remind us of why he’s become such a beloved rap artist, and why he still deserves to be after overcoming what he’s dealt with.
Gunna’s return to us on Saturday wasn’t just triumphant. It was a bold assertion of gratitude and legacy, with Gunna — and us in attendance — finding catharsis through his music.