WOPTOBER plays more like one of Gucci Mane's mixtapes than it does a traditional major label rap album.
“Hi, my name is Gucci Mane, I’m addicted to everything.” So opens the closing track, “Addicted”, of Gucci Mane’s tenth studio album, WOPTOBER. Though anybody who’s followed post-prison Gucci is well aware of his new clean lifestyle, he had yet to truly transfer that mindset into his music. Lest we forget that one of his classic songs (and a post-prison one at that) begins “I’m starting off my day with a blunt of purp / No pancakes, just a cup of syrup.” But this is New Gucci, a man whose mission is to not allow his stature in the music world overwhelm him with the temptations that it offers. Over pianos from Will-a-Fool that wouldn’t sound out of place from frequent Gucci collaborator Zaytoven, he recounts generations of drug involvement in his typical inimitable detail, though without the dizzying internal rhymes of some of his best verses.
For those like me, however, who live in an area beset by a heroin epidemic, his intoning “So God, please help these country folks / Tired and broke, in need of hope” rings all too powerfully. As you can imagine by this write-up, “Addicted” is one of the best songs Gucci has ever recorded, exhibiting a nuance that he previously reserved for tales of glorifying drug usage. It’s the kind of closing track that overshadows an entire album, no matter the quality that preceded it, a la Jeremih’s “Paradise” from Late Nights: The Album, to give a contemporary example. That “Addicted” looms large once you finish WOPTOBER should not take away from what the album has to offer, though it does highlight its unevenness.
In the same vein as internal rhyme maestro companion Cam’ron, one of Gucci’s greatest strengths has been his subtle wit. Though he’s inventing new flows sometimes multiple times in the same song, his vocal performance rarely moves past the same bored monotone that is one of his calling cards. Instead, you have to listen closely and parse the words to get the humor; it’s almost always worth it. On the opening track “Intro: Fuck 12”, he delves into an uncommon meta moment when he clams “my heart done turned burr-burr like my ad-libs.” It’s the little things like this that make diving into all of Gucci’s release worth it, even when the songcraft doesn’t hold up over the course of a full-length.
This is most evident in songs “The Left” and “Right on Time”, where the titles are repeated ad nauseam (especially “Right on Time”, which repeats that phrase fifty times over just two minutes and thirty-seven seconds). Though you have to give Gucci credit for the hundreds if not thousands of songs he’s released that he’s managed to come up with unique hooks for them all, at some point, the repetition becomes lazy if nothing else. These criticisms are especially relevant when compared to fellow WOPTOBER track “Wop”, during the hook of which he gleefully recounts what happens “when they see the ‘Wop". Overall, save for “Addicted” for its poignancy and “Bling Blaww Burr” for its bold-faced absurdism, none of the hooks from this album will ascend to legendary Guwop status like the inimitable “I’m a walking lick, I’m a talking brick” from “Chicken Talk.”
The most consistent moments on the album, as is the trend of Atlanta hip-hop, come from the producers. Metro Boomin continues his fascinating dark ambient streak on the aforementioned “Bling Blaww Burr”, and his varied vision of trap on the four tracks he had a hand in show that he is one of the most important artists currently working. London on da Track’s two contributions -- “Intro: Fuck 12” and “Right on Time” -- are both reminiscent of the peaks he hit on Young Thug’s Barter 6. Zaytoven, ever Gucci’s trusty beat-maker, also turns in two solo-produced tracks that rely on his trademark piano minimalism, which never gets old.
WOPTOBER lacks the instant classic like the Young Thug collab “Guwop Home” or the extraordinarily high-profile collaborations of Drake and Kanye West, but then again, the album plays more like one of his mixtapes than it does a traditional major label rap album. In that sense, it’s worth giving a listen just because more Gucci slip-sliding around syllables is oft a good thing. He’s already announced the follow-up to 2014 and 2015’s East Atlanta Santa tapes, and like the namesake of that persona, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he delivers some extraordinary presents soon.