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On ‘One of Wun,’ Gunna Shows Off His Melodic Genius — But Should’ve Shown More

Atlanta rapper Gunna achieved one of hip-hop’s most remarkable comebacks last year. After being ensnared in the YSL RICO case and spending seven months behind bars, he got out on a plea deal and released A Gift and a Curse last June, buoyed by the infectious single “Fukumean,” which became his first Number One hit. He placed himself back on the same trajectory he was on in 2022, when his album DS4Ever debuted at Number One on the Billboard albums chart and marked his superstar ascension. 

Enter his fifth album, One of Wun, with a title that speaks as much to typical rapper ego as it does to his status as one of the few rappers to beat the justice system’s recent and ongoing criminalization of rap. The project shows him utterly unbothered, placing his bid for coolest guy in the world one slinky melody at a time. Despite what naysayers might think about him, he’s just focused on delivering his trademark sound to his loyal fan base. 

The most notable thing about the Gunna experience is the polish. Whereas his YSL contemporary Young Thug is a master of vocal hysterics, akin to a sports car stopping and starting on a dime while weaving lanes, Gunna has always exemplified a precision that’s a perfect match for his smooth, lush beats. When One of Wun starts with “Collage,” you picture a luxury car gliding down a highway at night, scored by producers Evrgrn and Young T. That immersive start sets the tone for One of Wun, which is dominated, for better or worse, by midtempo, synth-driven production.

After eight years in the game, Gunna knows exactly who he is, and how to complement the beats he chooses with disparate vocal melodies. His preference for subdued production makes his voice his primary instrument, and he delivers his lines with a different cadence and flow on almost every song. A song titled “Hakuna Matata” hints at how dexterous Gunna will get, unfurling rapid-fire lyrics over a bass-heavy production co-crafted by Evrgrn, Fritz, Kenny Stuntin, and Don Oskar. On “Treesh” and “Life’s Changing,” he artfully stretches his end rhyme, and on album closer “Time Reveals, Be Careful What You Wish For,” he gets close to outright singing. The totality of the album exemplifies his skill as a strong vocalist with seemingly infinite ways to approach a track. 

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The variance in flow helps the 19 tracks here from blending into one another, though the redundancy in sonic choices eventually makes the listener realize how long One of Wun is. None of these beats are bad in a vacuum. But the overall body of work could have used more variance, such as the rim clicks on the breezy, Leon Bridges-feature “Clear My Rain.” The uniformity in vibes might not matter to Gunna’s die-hards, but it would have been nice to hear him have fun over different BPMs and percussion. 

Gunna’s primary themes don’t stray far from love, stuntin’ on haters, and making money (while being impeccably dressed), all of which he does well. But there’s more happening on the album beneath the surface. He subtly references the backlash against him on the hook of “One of Wun,” when he rhymes, “Think all about how they want me to lose, but I’m W, due for a win.” On the first verse of “Today I Did Good,” he references his physical transformation, telling us, “I ain’t been eatin’ bullshit.” On “Black Jack,” he proclaims, “Lot of shit to deal, with but we’ll be alright.” The album would’ve been more robust if it had more of this introspective unpacking, but it’s nonetheless a strong project that will satisfy his most ardent fans. 

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