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Gucci Mane’s fall: Do record labels enable self-destructive rappers?

GBK BET Awards Official Backstage Talent Lounge - Day 2
Rapper Gucci Mane has been at the center of numerous controversies throughout his career, the latest of which involved the Atlanta native posting degrading and disrespectful comments on Twitter directed at everyone from XXL Editor-in-Chief Vanessa Straten to Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson. The flurry of tweets, which were posted a little over two weeks ago, caused fans and media to speculate as to whether or not the rapper’s erratic behavior was evidence of mental illness.

This weekend, Gucci apologized for the tweets and his behavior, claiming that its the result of his addiction to “lean” (a liquid mixture of cough syrup and codeine that’s a popular party drug for many hip-hop stars) and said that he wants to get help.

Fellow hip-hop star Nicki Minaj (who Gucci claimed that he’d slept with and had photographic proof) stated several months ago in an interview with Hot 107.9 in Atlanta that she was concerned for her former friend. “In terms of intervention, I think about how talented he is, and I kind of wish there was somebody that could step in and say, ‘Gucci, if you only knew how special you were. You would take a moment to really just get centered.’ I just think he really needs to center himself and not to point fingers.”

It should be noted that during his Twitter tirade, it was revealed that he had been dropped from his record label. Atlantic Records. The rapper built his name on the indie circuit in the mid-2000s, before signing a deal with Warner Brothers Records, which subsequently merged with Atlantic. A Warner rep was still defending Gucci’s bizarre Twitter behavior as recently as this past March, when Gucci’s disses of his former protege, Waka Flocka Flame, were blamed on a hacker.

Gucci Mane has literally made a second career out of legal trouble and bizarre behavior. The rapper has a string of arrests since he became famous; including being charged with assault after he pushed a woman out of a moving car in 2011 when she wouldn’t go to a hotel with him. In December 2010, his lawyers filed a Special Plea of Mental Incompetency and a judge ordered him to a psychiatric hospital a few weeks later.

As his career has become less noteworthy (his last few mixtapes have gotten little-to-no attention and his latest studio album, Trap House III, also failed to find an audience), it looks as though his label doesn’t consider him worth the trouble any longer. He was arrested five times and sentenced to jail time four times from 2008 to 2011, when he was at his commercial peak. Yet he continued to land lucrative deals for himself and his 1017 Brick Squad imprint.

So a major record label was more than willing to fund the career of a mentally-unhealthy, drug addicted, violent personality as long as he was moving units. This isn’t at all shocking, but as we watch Gucci Mane’s fall from grace, we should be taking a long hard look at the “suits” that led him to the ledge. Of course, the man born Radric Davis is responsible for his own fate, but how many times was he bailed out of jail by his label? How many times did they pay his lawyer fees? Did anyone ever order him into rehabilitation? Did anyone care that this man was clearly self-destructive?

And maybe fans and media should hold the industry more accountable for their enabling of these troubled artists–and for their eagerness to wash their hands of them once they become more trouble than they’re worth.