It’s no coincidence that President Barack Obama ended his hour-long State of the Union Address at exactly 10:16pm on Tuesday. As cool as it is to know about what’s happening in the worlds of jobs, energy independence, and how easy it’s going to be for all of us to buy houses in twenty years, all that’s just a pile of wood shavings when compared to a new Gucci Mane mixtape, and ending his speech a minute before Gucci’s Trap God 2 dropped ensured there would be no overlap between the two. If I had to assume, Obama himself downloaded the tape, and if the President and I are anything alike, Trap God 2 left him disappointed.
When Gucci Mane came out in 2005, he was something else. He’s from Atlanta, but he wasn’t a trapper-turned-rapper-turned-motivational speaker like Young Jeezy or the world’s toughest pretty boy like T.I. He showed off his belly constantly, rapped about it even more (“and my belly getting so big I can hardly see my toes.”) He wore bucket hats when it seemed like everybody else had stopped. He picked his nose. He pretended his Bart Simpson chain could smoke. The most amazing part of his whole cavalcade of eccentricities is that all those elements came together to make a really good rapper.
La Flare twiddling a nose hair
Opinions on Gucci Mane have shifted through the years. At first, he was mostly for fans of trap music or people from Atlanta—there’s a learning curve to deciphering Gucci’s lyrics that's best suited to locals only. Then Gucci Mane became Mainstream Mane and did collaborations with Mariah Carey and Swizz Beatz, and it seemed like everybody started to embrace him a little bit more, even though he was the same old Gooch—he even recycled some lyrics in that song! Then through sheer work ethic and amount of mixtapes dropped, he started popping up on Pitchfork, and he did that song with Big Boi and became popular with college kids who liked to listen once smart people were writing smart things about him. Along the way, he released a classic album and a few tapes that, if not stone-cold classics, were certainly worth someone's time.
These days, the popular opinion on Gucci is that he’s back, and giving us fire as hot as any of the fire that Classic Gucci blessed us with. This is partly true. Gucci’s always been a fantastic and unorthodox lyricist: lines like “East Atlanta/Cockin hammers/Bandannas on car antennas/No we do not talk to strangers/Just cut off these n****s fingers” or “All Nas need is one mic/All I need is one stove” are elevated by Gucci’s then rapid-fire, energetic delivery. Or consider “Timothy,” in which Gucci takes a short break from bragging about jewelry and cars and gets into full Notorious B.I.G. story-telling mode about a Zone 6 car thief that thinks he’s hit the big time, only to have his entire world crumble around him.
But everything that Gucci drops isn’t fire. Trap God 2 is not a good mixtape. Maybe by your standards, but not by that of Vintage Gucci. It’s not that Gucci stopped being lyrical; it’s that he’s become lazy in his delivery, whisper-rhyming his way through 22 songs like a lost Ying Yang Twin. It’s Gucci Mane-Lite. Even the “burrs” and “PYEWNs" sound phoned in, which should be literally impossible. Which sucks, because the lines are there: “If I can do it, you can do it, you started off with more than me.” Go back and listen to any Gucci tape prior to his arrest in 2010 and you’ll find more energy and charisma than you will in even a gram of Trap God 2. The internets however, seem to disagree with me. The assertion now is that Gucci Mane is a great writer, which seems to be code for “the words are good but the rap isn’t.”
A positive note to end on: Gucci’s two worst tapes are probably Ferrari Music and Jewelry Selection, which suffered from the same problems that Trap God 2 does. But then Gucci fucked around and dropped Writing on the Wall 2, Trap Back, and Trap God, which are great. A couple of years ago Gucci rapped, “It’s boring. There’s no comp. Wake me up, I’m snoring.” Maybe Gucci’s too comfortable. Maybe he needs to feel like the underdog again. Then he’ll be back, and moving chickens harder than ever.
Martin Spasov is from Atlanta and has liked Gucci Mane for longer than you have. He tweets here - @RealMarvon