Gunna scored his first No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart earlier this month with his new album, Drip or Drown 2. His previous peak was No. 2 for Drip Harder, his 2018 collaboration with Lil Baby. Before that? Drip Season at No. 25 in February 2017. “I’m just honored and happy,” the 25-year-old rapper, born Sergio Giavanni Kitchens, told MTV News recently about this chart success. “I’m glad that all of my fans are being supportive and I’m just excited for the album going ahead.” To say that the Atlanta rapper is having a moment is an understatement. He is the moment.
It started in 2018 when his Drip Season 3 mixtape helped him ascend to the top of the scene in Atlanta, rap’s current epicenter, and solidified the hip-hop obsession with the term “drip.” Gunna’s silky, slightly robotic flow was fresh, similar to Young Thug’s excited trilling but more toned down and rich with commercial possibilities. The rest of his year was huge, as he joined with fellow local rapper Lil Baby for Drip Harder and the massive hit “Drip Too Hard” (which peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100), and revealed how smooth his voice could be without its metallic edge in a freestyle video with 11 million views.
He spent the rest of the year becoming rap’s most loaned-out voice, appearing on songs by Tory Lanez (“Miami”), Travis Scott (“Yosemite”), and Mariah Carey (“Stay Long Love You”) — one of his career favorites so far. (His mom loves listening to her.) Now, Gunna’s hard work has paid off. His debut studio album, Drip or Drown 2, is the second in a series, the first of which came out in 2017. “Drip or Drown 2 is more me, more songs,” he said when comparing the two installments. “I enhanced it more, even with the cover itself. It’s more provocative, and this promotion scheme was super original.” He had an aquatic motif for the album seen through the album artwork itself — one of the hardest of all time — that captures him standing underwater with an umbrella. Gunna also threw a listening party at the Georgia Aquarium.
To find his best self, he sought out help from Atlanta production stalwarts Turbo and Wheezy, responsible for his songs “Drip Too Hard” and “Pedestrian,” respectively. “After two months of Drip Season 3 being out, me, Turbo, and Wheezy buckled down to focus on the new album,” he said of the LP’s creation. “It was extremely important to have them for this. We were already used to working together, but we weren’t working as a trio. This time, we were all in a room together.” Recording took place across a number of states including Atlanta, California, and Florida — Miami, specifically. “We just caught vibes in studios.”
Wisely, Drip or Drown 2, isn’t some big, bold reimagination or expansion of the rapper’s aesthetic. Instead, it takes what we know about his sound and cranks it up past the recommended level. “I’ve learned since Drip or Drown that no one should care what people think,” he said. “I learned that after years of comments, it really doesn’t matter. In making music, that’s really something that you have to know to move forward.” He’s wise not to let anyone interfere with his winning formula. He believes it “comes from being in the right spot and space of mind.”
Looking at the tracklist for Drip or Drown 2 reveals only three features, which makes it largely a vehicle for Gunna alone. The additional names, by extension then, are meaningful; of course, there’s Young Thug and Lil Baby, but there’s also Playboi Carti. They make for a thrilling combination – Gunna’s futuristic warbling, Carti’s pinky-up sniveling – that’s worked previously on “No Time” (from Carti’s 2018 album Die Lit, on which they turn up the personality to 11). On Gunna’s latest, they return with “Same Yung N---a.” “Me and Carti are both from the Southside of Atlanta,” he said of their chemistry. “That’s one of the main reasons that we clicked so well. Before I got on, we were already cool because we went to high school together.” That connection can be heard in how effortless their voices play off each other and they build upon the other rapper’s foundations.
But enjoy Drip or Drown 2 because, according to Gunna, the reign of the “drip” is coming to an end. “Drip Season 4 is going to be the last in the series and I’m going to come with something else,” he said. Since he began “dripping” in 2016 with the series’s first installment, the term “dripping” has become so commonplace that water, by association, has been absorbed into the rap canon. Offset and 21 Savage dropped “Ric Flair Drip” in 2017. One of Cardi B’s biggest records on her 2018 debut album Invasion of Privacy is the Migos-assisted “Drip.” Tory Lanez one-upped her by releasing a tune called “Drip Drip Drip” months later. The rapper’s influence is clear when looking at rap in 2019. It may feel like a quick journey to the top, but in actuality, it’s been a couple of years: “I just work hard and when you work hard, a lot of stuff just starts happening for you.”