Knee-jerk Gucci Mane haters, I am no longer talking to you. Three-plus years after Gucci’s still-staggering 2009 breakout, if you’re still unwilling to concede the mere possibility that Radric Davis is good at making rap music, I can’t do a thing for you. I’m sorry. Your life is not as fun as my life, and that’s just the way it’s going to be. Right now, I’m talking to people who have paid at least tertiary attention to Gucci’s body of work over the past seven years or so, the people who have found at least a thing or two to like in Gucci’s slurry nursery-rhyme absurdism. Because, for those people, here’s a sad truth: Gucci isn’t operating at his peak level anymore, and he hasn’t been since The State Vs. Radric Davis hit stores. His bent, delirious strings of free-associative libertine tough talk don’t arrive like they once did. He’s no longer a goofy Alabama yokel variant of Purple Haze-era Cam’ron. And yet Gucci’s released three mixtapes during the 2012 calendar year, and they’ve all been really good. Gucci has, against odds, remained compelling, and it’s worth looking into how he’s been pulling that off.
This is going to look ridiculous, but I look at 2012 Gucci Mane, and I think of 1998 Michael Jordan. This is of course, the Jordan who couldn’t just posterize fools at will anymore, the one who had to develop a murderous fadeaway jumper, and who found ways to remain frighteningly effective despite his body starting to lose its spring. Gucci’s never been a Jordan-level talent, obviously, and I wish I knew more about basketball, so I could come up with a better analog. (Like, Grant Hill? Comparing Gucci to Grant Hill seems way worse than comparing him to Jordan somehow.) But the point stands: Gucci’s no longer bursting with these hypnotic eight-bar stretches where the inventiveness of his wordplay and his utterly arbitrary transitions just spin your head around. Instead, he’s finding sneakier, smarter ways toward making enjoyable rap music. Every once in a while, he’ll come up with a few lines that recall the old Gucci: “Throw a grenade in the room / Watch all ya partners kaboom / I’m a So Icy tycoon / Got two balloons in my Trues.” More often, though, he’s finding quieter, less showy ways to stick in your brainpan: Simplistically memorable singsong hooks, woozy keyboard-riff beat selection, canny sequencing and guest-selections. And it’s working! Trap God is a tape that I keep coming back to a couple of weeks after its release, one that gives me head-nods when I need them. It’s durable.
The greatest moments on Trap God are small and often tough to detect. There’s the way he wheezes out the hook of “Head Shots,” repeating that title like his death threats add up to the two coolest words in the English language. There’s the weird quasi-posh accent he adapts on the generally disgusting “Fawk Something,” the one that reminds me of Bon Scott on AC/DC’s “Big Balls.” There’s the way Future possibly-accidentally Auto-Tunes his way into a strange approximation of the Freeway crying style on “Fawk The World.” It’s a million little things, all working in concert. And it’s true that Trap God is simply one more effective ulitarian knucklehead rap tape, nothing more important or ambitious than that, and that it doesn’t have anything as indelible as “Plain Jane.” But it still gets the job done.
Download Trap God for free at DatPiff.