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Gucci Mane - Evil Genius (Album Review)

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

One of the advantages in helping to pioneer an entire subgenre of music is that no one has grounds to complain when you eventually move into new territory. Bearing that in mind, you'd expect Gucci Mane, one of the architects of southern trap in the mid-2000s, to have tried his hand at something else by now. However, across 12 albums and a disputed number of mixtapes (online catalogues suggest around 70), the Atlanta-based rapper has uniformly stuck to the distinctively heavy bass sound he helped originate.

From a business standpoint, it makes sense–the cheques keep rolling in and his daily listeners worldwide could still fill multiple stadiums–yet his insistence on working from the same template on virtually every project seems to go against human nature itself. But ahead of 'Evil Genius', his 13th release, he was (ironically) feeling lucky. Speaking to Billboard, he said: “I've been really working on the songs. You know, I just don't put out anything [...] I'm really trying to ... I give my fans something that they can be like, 'OK, Gucci still coming hard. He still passionate about the music'.”

'Trying to make a good album' might not seem a particularly radical concept, but it wasencouraging to long-time followers who remember just how impactful Gucci was in his prime. There are certainly spots here where he shows out.

Father's Day, in particular, is everything you want from a trap cut: dizzying double time flows, gargantuan basslines, ringing hi-hats and ominous synth stabs that set the tone. Even that can be chalked up as a negative, though–these sporadic above-average moments are still well within the parameters he's set for himself.

At 18 tracks, there are naturally examples of marginal progression and, although there's not one consistent producer here, Gucci's tastes have moved with the times to a degree. The opening run of tracks, including By Myself, BiPolar and Just Like It, are lush and textured, with only short staccato stabs on synth and strings interrupting the breathing space. Signature 808s, backed by droning bass, give the record the familiar Gucci tint, but at the very least the mixes are certainly some of his most sonically ambitious.

The issue is that Gucci Mane as a persona remains as unchanged as his rhyming patterns. He gabs about endless sexual encounters to the point where they just feel sexless (“She ain't said nothin' but her booty flirting” on This the Night), drugs to the point there's no buzz (“A marijuana war, we'll take your trees like Scrooge” on BiPolar) and his copious cars and diamonds (“I'm getting too rich to fly commercial flights” on I'm Not Goin). For every example of beat experimentation you could point to here, it's undermined by a lyric he could have spat in 2006.

Nobody would suggest that A1 Gucci is a wordplay mastermind–he has no interest in keeping up with the Travis Scotts, let alone the Kendrick Lamars. The modicum of effort he professed to putting into 'Evil Genius' suggests he's at least finally acknowledged the need for creative revitalisation. Unfortunately, bar a brief hook on the aptly titled By Myself, we still don't have any insight into Gucci's actual personality, and he sadly doesn't have the charisma to make up for it.


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