Review Summary: in the middle of summer i'm freezin, baby
It’s no secret that Gucci Mane is my favourite rapper of all time, but even previous non-fans had to find something undeniably impressive about his prison-inspired metamorphosis from overweight lean addict to muscular, sober, clean eating modern rap icon. Gucci simultaneously accepts and rejects aspects of his pre-jail existence, be it throwing back to older material musically (‘Multi-Millionaire La Flare’), or smashing up platinum plaques in the finale of his 'Pick Up The Pieces' music video. That track was the finale to Gucci's thematically triumphant but sonically grim post-jail rebirth album Everybody Looking
(which in itself referenced an older hit from 2009), and his subsequent offerings (Woptober
, The Return Of East Atlanta
) have all been increasingly zany in tone, reminding us of the omnipresence of metaphor-heavy, 2008-2009 Gucci. This record, which was delayed to coincide more closely with 10/17, featured the most hype of any of his projects since his release and I kind of expected this to be the The State Vs Radric Davis
’s The Burrprint
Firstly, I want to say how bizarre I find it that ‘Make Love’ even made this album. A pretty bland Nicki Minaj verse is the song’s most offensive feature, but Gucci’s lyrics and flow are equally unimpressive. The beat is seriously below average given the talent credited, and the hook might be the worst to ever make it to a Gucci single. The other two songs chosen as singles starred Chris Brown (who really shouldn’t be appearing on any song in 2017) and The Weeknd respectively, and barely even matched the dull energy of ‘Make Love’. But as I predicted, this is most definitely Gucci’s first big pop record as a figure of positive energy and influence, so it would be stupid to not expect big names to show up. Luckily, the guest list redeems itself by helping the record get off to a good start right out the gate.
The first collaborators we get to see are Migos, who more or less turn ‘I Get The Bag’ into one of their own songs. Takeoff’s machine gun verse seems to set Gucci up for inevitable failure against such fierce technicality, but Guwop instead bodies the song himself with one of this record’s most sauced up verses: ‘Jay-Z couldn’t even co-sign for me, I do what I want cos I’m signed to me’, ‘Came out of jail and went straight to the top, Take it easy, baby, middle of summer, I’m freezin’ baby’. The addition of the spectral Metro Boomin beat makes the track sound like a high quality B-side from May’s DropTopWop
. Another track reminiscent of past successes is ‘Member’s Only’. This track seems like a self-congratulatory career summation by, mentioning the rapper’s murder charge and talking of ‘quadrupling’ his net worth. Honorable C-Note throws the sound of this song back to the minimal aesthetics of Gucci’s 2016 material with a skeletal, woodwind-oriented beat.
Gucci has never relied on guest features before this, and the excellency of the aforementioned song, as well as the Zaytoven produced ‘Back On’ and the Southside/TM88 hook-up ‘Money Piling’, reinforce that this is still true. Every bar sounds totally effortless, giving the impression that Gucci has an endless supply of hilarious lyrical turns in his arsenal: ‘I was selling bales before I sold a ringtone, the whole hood know my number like Mike Jones’, ‘Call Forbes, tell them n***** what that list look like ‘cause if Guwop not on that bitch, then that list not right’. Each of these are delivered with the same gleeful joy as the best lines on ‘Bricks’ or ‘Wasted’, and it’s a joy to behold. The hooks on these songs are as immediate as Woptober
’s, but their emulation of Gucci’s late-2000 mixtape run are even more accurate.
Not only does Gucci hold his own against contemporary rappers (many of whom are fruit of his highly prolific womb), but he pushes them to excel in their respective lanes. ‘Lit Story’ features the nastiest, grittiest Schoolboy Q verse in ages, seeing him eschew his usual eccentricites to match Gucci’s deadpan, thousand-yard stare flow. The beat is suitably ominous, a move replicated on ‘Stunting Ain’t Nuthin’, where Rae Sremmurd’s Slim Jxmmi contributes a career-defining performance, his impish yelp making for an absolutely killer hook. Gucci continues to dazzle: ‘I feel like the Pope all these crosses on me’ and Young Dolph momentarily abandons his usual shortcomings on an unusually charismatic turn, making for the best collaboration on the album.
It’s easy to forget that this is intended as the big league pop-rap project that last year’s The Return Of East Atlanta
so obviously failed to be, that is until you get to songs like ‘Curve’, ‘Enormous’, ‘Changed’ and ‘Tone It Down’. Each of these songs features a pretty lame guest choice, and they really disrupt the flow of the project. Where the classic The State
soared in its poppier moments, this album stumbles. However bar these songs and the forgettable bookends (in general the record begins to fall off in its second half), Mr. Davis
hits just as hard as anything else he’s released in the last eighteen months. In its stronger moments, it may even be better. Importantly, this album represents enormous collaborative success for Gucci, as it extends his list to include previous beef targets like Minaj and the ASAP Mob. And yet, while living a wholesome, more healthy lifestyle has driven Davis towards more commercial ambitions, it’s unlikely we’ll see another project of this ilk anytime soon, given his statement of a desire to leave his label in the new year.