Is Gunna a rapper or an Avenger? On Spotify’s amazing poster promoting his new album Wunna, a computerized Gunna stands in reverse-V formation with his musical godfather Young Thug and the album’s principal producers: Wheezy, Turbo, Taurus, and Ator Keyz. They all wear matching iridescent black vinyl bodysuits. A burning meteor streaks through the background. WUNNA: THE AGE OF YSL, the poster declares. It’s a fitting visual metaphor for the album, which stands among Gunna’s best releases to date. On Wunna, the talent that resides in and orbits around YSL Records (Thug’s label imprint) brings out the best in Gunna.
Wunna is an astrology-themed album about the life and times of Gunna’s half-assed alter ego, Wunna. Gunna is Wunna; Wunna is Gunna. As the delightful backronym “Wealthy Unapologetic Nigga Naturally Authentic” and the Wunnascope encouraging Geminis to “drip offensively” both suggest, Wunna doesn’t unveil a yet unknown side of Gunna, but rather the wealthy superstar he has become. Private jets to Maui, women lined up to take him to bed, $150 thousand per show, custom VLONE. Despite the fervor of Gunna’s flexing, there is peace in his warm, groggy, melodic murmur, which always makes it sound as though he’s just woken up from a refreshing afternoon nap. On both “Addys” and the title track, he retools OT Genasis’ “Cut It” flow to make it glide. While some of his writing is of the Fisher-Price variety—one verse in “Met Gala” employs a AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA rhyme scheme—and his lyrics aren’t always well thought out (“Say the wrong word, and I’mma shoot him in his shit”), Wunna remains a transportive listening experience, due in large part to its production, which exists in almost perfect harmony with Gunna’s soothing vocals.
The beats on Wunna underscore the envious extravagance and comfort of Gunna’s lifestyle. Many of these beats recall the restraint, buoyancy, and soft edges of Young Thug’s Barter 6. It is the production, rather than Gunna, that dictates the album’s mood swings, which appear almost as seasonal fluctuations. The weightless single “Skybox,” produced by Taurus, evokes springtime with synths that flit like hummingbirds. “I’m On Some,” produced by Wheezy and Turbo, is spare, cavernous, and unhurried in a way that evokes wintertime stillness. “Argentina” and “Met Gala,” both produced by Wheezy (who notched 10 production credits on Wunna), evoke a languid, endless summer.
Most of Gunna’s signature moments have been collaborations. “Sold Out Dates” and Drip Harder made him and Lil Baby into bigger stars, and Thug’s presence has yielded some of his finest moments and biggest hits (“3 Headed Snake,” “Surf,” “Hot”). Unsurprisingly, Thug’s two features on Wunna coincide with two of the album’s standouts, “Dollaz On My Head” and “Far.” On “Far,” the satisfying victory lap that closes out the album, Thug doubles Gunna on the chorus, and they wistfully sing together, remembering friends dead or in jail and appreciating how far they’ve come. Whether Gunna is probing these arrestingly weighty moments or singing about Eliantte diamonds and boat sex, Thug and the Wunna production braintrust never once let him down.