Gucci Mane's year-and-a-half-long second wind continues with arguably his strongest overall product in years.
"Fish scale all over my muthafuckin' 'partment / Damn, I got dope all on my garment." It took 40 projects to get there, but Gucci Mane may have finally found the couplet that summarizes his entire career. For all his bullish intimidation tactics on record and in the interview room, at heart Gucci's just a comedian, and opening this album with a line like that let me know I was probably in for the Gucci Mane release I'm always patiently waiting for. Later, after I got to hear "I got that Mexican weed, them bricks / You know, that trash shit / And all you gotta do is drive this shit to Athens" on a song that also shouts out Black Panthers ("And for them Panthers raise your arm up then you make a ball fist") all wrapped in a ball of paranoia, Georgiaphilia, and jokes like "I'm a tough guy like Conan" I knew I'd found it, certainly.
Trap God 2, however, presents a dilemma more and more common to the mixtape scene. Frankly, quite a smart one as well. While in mixtape format Trap God 2 is certainly good at what it does, you'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don't take advantage of a new trend: buying the iTunes version. If the mixtape market wasn't confusing enough before, it certainly is now. But this review concerns that version, because the tape is just too solid to dedicate more than this sentence to the common knowledge that absolutely zero DJs screaming threats and making fake rewind noises is preferable to a pair of them doing so.
But it's also important because without the DJs, there's no longer this bizarre crack in momentum following the endlessly quotable "When I Was Water Wippin'" (along with Lex Luger's slightly Texas slow burn perhaps a pantheon Gucci Mane track) and "Servin'". "Nuthin' on Ya" is a fairly different song sandwiched between the two -- think T.I.'s "Cruisin'", an autotune croon from a guy you don't see trying it and succeeding -- but "Bullet Wound" can be bizarrely jarring on the guided tour version. It's the first song that doesn't feel like a definitively fresh direction for Gucci, perhaps in part due to a Lil' Wayne feature, although it's fair to note Wayne appeared to think a little harder about his two verses on this tape than most he delivers these days.
Even then, not necessarily a let down. If you've spent any cursory time through the maze of Wooh da Kid, KayO Redd, Cartel MGM and Frenchie mixtapes, you're going to hear a lot of the 808 Mafia's (Lex Luger, Southside, TM88, Tarentino, Purps, London and others) experiments coming to fruition on Trap God 2. "Bullet Wound" is the sort of experiment in making bass so titanic that it renders many lower-end audio systems -- and the cars that house them -- absolutely pitiful. When he teams up with DJ Squeeky on "Bob Marley" for a fairly plain song about weed and money that just so happens to sound like "Hail Mary" meets "Come With Me" because why not. This is an album where he's raising the price of a blunt from $100 to $200, or smoking 75 of them in one minute. The way that he comes about making his threats by way of humor and assertion is as goofy and creative as it's ever been.
One clear dividing line for this tape, though it'd be hard to come by considering French Montana owes a fair amount of his style to Gucci Mane's Wilt Chamberlain days, is Gucci's increasing use of hard, intentional mush mouthing coupled to blurry sung vocals coasting through a codeine haze ("Breakfast" admits as much). It's a sound that's not at all unsuited to him and Brick Squad's probably smart to move in this direction. No matter how loud things get, aggressiveness is mostly left to subtleties, suggestions. There's a calmness and professionalism to everything that happens on this tape that just isn't present on many of the projects imitating what this crew was doing in 2010. The iciness isn't a shell hiding nothing -- Trap God 2's ignorance feels exacting, soulful.
Still, however much fun it's clear Gucci Mane is having or how in control of their sound the various 808 Mafia folks are, 80 minutes is quite a lot of Gucci Mane and a whole lot of pretentiously angry, mixtape nerd music. I couldn't recommend any of the last eight tracks strongly and I wouldn't put it past fatigue having a say in that. Gucci's music has gone long past the point of honesty, but unlike fellow prolific rapper Lil' Wayne he's never lost sight of his artistry, the hook. His giggle to himself as he raps "ain't no witnesses to be snitchin' on me" comes off in an honest way few other guys doing what he does can and that's what ultimately makes a Gucci Mane release like this so exciting. Generally it's so much easier to point at flaws like mixing, cheap beats, lame features or lazy verses than take note of the highlights that you never expect a Mr. Zone 6 or, now, Trap God 2 from Gucci Mane. He'd have you very convinced that he's standard if this review of Trap God 2 is the first time you've been curious about him and taken a listen.
It'd probably be a mistake to believe him. Lying is one of his strongest attributes.