Words About Music
Atlanta legend Gucci Mane is an artist whom I have been following very closely since his highly publicized release from prison during the summer of 2016. The man would be cemented as one of the greats of southern trap music even if he had gotten a life sentence and died in a cell, and yet he cements his status even further with his prolific string of post-prison releases. First, barely a week after he was released, he dropped what may be his best release to date, “Everybody Looking.” He took over autumn and winter as well with the respective releases of “Woptober” and “The Return of East Atlanta Santa,” both of which are perfectly solid projects.
Gucci’s newfound sobriety and clarity has made his music more accessible than ever, not to mention the fact that he happened to see release right around the time that trap music started to invade the mainstream. He topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the very first time in his career last year when he appeared on the excellent Rae Sremmurd track “Black Beatles,” which was the young duo’s first number one single as well. Now, with his tireless work ethic seeing him on huge albums by everyone from Migos to Young Thug and Big Boi to 2 Chainz, Gucci is coming back with his fourth full-length release in the year or so that he’s been out of the feds.
“Droptopwop” is a collaborative project with famed Atlanta producer Metro Boomin, who has provided the 1s and 2s for nearly every rapper in the game at this point, including Migos, Future, Drake, Big Sean, Lil B, and 21 Savage. With a majority of Gucci’s latest music being produced by Mike Will Made-It and Zaytoven — check the song “Waybach” for an explanation — it is awesome to hear Gucci let an up-and-comer (with some of the trap’s most creative beats) have exclusive producing duties on his next project.
At 10 songs and 37 minutes, “Droptopwop” is Gucci’s most concise proper release in quite a while. I find that artists like Gucci and Thugger and Future tend to operate best when they work in shorter durations, because even though I do like all these artists, they have all made it no secret that their M.O. is to drop as much material as possible, without necessarily considering whether it’s the best they’ve released or if it progresses their sound or if they even want to progress their sound.
This tape kicks off with “5 Million Intro,” a song where Gucci’s undeniable charisma continues to ooze as if effortless. With this genre of music, it’s sort of like listening to dance music, where one’s enjoyment from it comes from how much it makes you move in your seat. Plus, Gucci’s voice and flow is so smooth and easy to pick out in a crowd that once you’re on board, it’s hard to get off. I just like listening to Gucci’s music because he has these specific qualities to his voice, cadence, and flow that fill me with joy. This song in particular is a fun bit of braggadocio that proves you don’t need to relate to the lyrics of a song in order to enjoy it. I will probably never make $5 million a day, but goddamn it I’m at least happy Gucci Mane is, even if he’s spending it recklessly on material things. I also enjoy the line “I’m too rich to give a shit about anyone but me,” not because I think it’s a mentality we should all embody, but it’s a textbook example of why greed is a manifestation of capitalism and money’s chokehold over our lives, rather than an endemic part of human nature that makes capitalism inevitable. Talk about Gucci Mane La Marx, am I right?
“Tho Freestyle” is the next song on this tape, and it’s another enjoyable combination of a great beat from Metro, if a bit lo-fi and typical, and some more introspection from Gucci on his life and what’s been going on since summer 2016. He talks about how he used to be quite a heavy man, due of course to his usage of substances such as alcohol and lean, as well as how he has since lost all that weight and cleaned up his act. I don’t think this track is quite as memorable as the previous one, but again, Gucci’s charisma and his chemistry with Metro’s beats is hard for me to deny.
The next song, though, “Hurt a N—a Feelings,” is brilliant. I love the moody beat Metro brings here with the ambient-esque synthesizers. You might think from the first few seconds and the title of this song that Gucci is about to spill his heart out to you, but no, he’s actually about tell you about how his wealth and success makes his haters sad, which is a hilarious 180. I also think Gucci’s flow here (and goofy ad-libs) are more infectious and variable, which are of course complemented by Metro’s virtuosic and versatile production.
“Helpless,” which follows, is a bit more in the vein of what I expected from the previous song. This track is about Gucci’s fiancee, to whom he proposed at a sporting event last year. Or at least I think so. Gucci is one of those rappers who, like Kanye West, seems to be in a committed relationship but raps about the sort of anonymous sexual experiences a lot of rappers like to talk about. Is “See me with her girlfriend, she jealous/I woke up with a rich bitch, we wealthy” the saying of someone who is engaged to be married? I don’t know, nor do I care, Gucci. If she’s cool with it, you do you. Although I feel like I do have to single out the line “Laughin’ but that camel in her jeans mean muggin’/Actin’ like we family, but bitch we ain’t cousins” for being… either hilarious in an ironic way or disturbing in an unironic (post-ironic?) way. Regardless, this type of “wait… what?” reaction is part of what makes listening to a Gucci project so fun and ridiculous, because he, like 2 Chainz and Young Thug, finds interesting and humorous (and… a bit sus) ways of depicting well-tread territory.
Gucci takes us to the “Met Gala” on the next track, with fellow Atlantan (and 1/3 of Migos) Offset, who drops his usual Migo-flow of consistent triplets throughout this song. I actually like that Offset has such a heavy presence on this track, and it’s cool to hear Gucci try to keep up on his voice. In some ways this sounds more like an Offset song featuring Gucci since Offset has the first verse and the hook, but it’s still an enjoyable song that presents another change of pace. It looks like my prediction that this will be a very enjoyable Gucci Mane project due to its brevity has started to come true, thankfully. Again, don’t walk into this expecting to take it seriously, because that’s willfully missing the point of a project like this. This isn’t to talk down or condescend what’s going on here, just to point to the fact that it’s a trap mixtape meant to do numbers, not a conceptual project by someone who releases one album every four years. If the second half meets the quality standard set by the first half, I think we might be in for one of the better hip-hop mixtapes of 2017.
And I can definitely say that the second half kicks off with probably my favorite song on the entire tape. Despite the fact that it’s supposed to be an interlude based on its title, “Finesse the Plug Interlude,” it’s the longest song here, as well as the catchiest. It’s another example of Gucci penning a hook that is inescapable, delivering a certain je ne sais quoi with his voice and lyrics that makes me want to shut off my brain and let my body take over. Again, we are hit with a great beat from Metro. If anything, it’s sort of a disturbing beat, and it nicely fits Gucci’s theme of the violence associated with the illegal drug trade found within traphouses in Atlanta and nearby.
There’s an interesting attempt at producing a melody with the song “Dance With the Devil,” which is about the risks one needs to take in order to achieve the level of wealth and success Gucci has achieved. You need to flirt with the devil, but you need not sell your soul. While I enjoy Metro’s glitzy beat on this track, I think it’s one of Gucci’s least enthused performances on the mixtape. That sort of makes it a bit forgettable for me, but it’s not an offensively poor song or performance. If anything it just doesn’t seem to fit the mostly summer-y vibe I get from this project.
We get two more features with the next song, “Both Eyes Closed.” Fellow Southern rappers 2 Chainz and Young Dolph deliver a few verses to this track, which also picks up the quality that sort of dropped on the last track. I think Gucci gives us a great hook and performance on this one, as well as some pretty hilarious lyrics to match up to rap’s best comedian, 2 Chainz, whose new project I will surely review on this forum. But, for now, let’s just highlight yet another hilarious-ass punchline from Chainz on this track: “Had to Roc just like Tidal, sell a preacher the Bible/I’m a hustler for real, sell a hospital vital/Sell my cousin some Adderall ’cause he takin’ his finals.” Brilliant. Young Dolph’s verse doesn’t offer me much, but it’s short and goes by without anything too embarrassing going on lyrically. I consider this track another hit in Gucci’s insurmountable discography.
“Bucket List” is another conceptually humorous track where Gucci lists a series of expensive things he can now scratch off his bucket list, because, you know, he can afford to buy it. Because he’s rich. Have you not been listening? Well, just in case you weren’t, this dude has a ridiculous amount of money. Again, though, he finds unique ways to let us know he’s flexin’, which makes his projects so fun to listen to. I think he sums it up nicely on this line in the song, which probably applies to me, too: “How a white man gon’ criticize me ’bout reppin’ these streets? Man, fuck you critics.” I think that line says it all really, because even if I don’t enjoy this music at all (which I do) I would be remiss to really say anything insulting about Gucci Mane. The streets have democratically elected this man to legendary status, so you either get it or you don’t. Personally, I get it, and even if this isn’t high art, it’s a consistent tape that meets and occasionally exceeds the expectations Gucci’s previous project have set.
The tape’s final track is the Rick Ross-featuring “Loss 4 Wrdz,” which seems to focus on the condition one is left in when they take too many drugs. While he tries to put himself in a positive mindset, he finds himself unable to even formulate a sentence because of how fucked up he is. This was probably the impetus for him deciding to clean up his act, which is supported by the fact that he mentions the late rapper Pimp C, who famously passed away due to a lean overdose. Rick Ross comes through with an okay verse, but I still enjoy the track overall due to Gucci finding himself sticking to a theme that seems to comment more on his former addictions.
It’s important to remember that this is a mixtape. There’s not much of a flow to these tracks, nor does there necessarily need to be. I mostly enjoy the songs here, and I think this is definitely a better and more listenable release than the last two project Gucci dropped. I’m going to continue tuning in when Gucci drops something, even if I know I’m not in for progressive production or provocative lyricism. Fans of the trap legend should definitely not avoid this project, and neither should anyone who is interested in trap music but has not yet stumbled through Gucci’s intimidating discography.
SCORE — 7.00 out of 10
FAVORITE TRACKS — 5 Million Intro, Tho Freestyle, Hurt a N—a Feelings, Met Gala, Finesse the Plug Interlude, Both Eyes Closed, Bucket List