If anybody in the hip hop world pushes the ‘quantity over quality’ mantra to its very extreme, that title would almost certainly have to go to Gucci Mane. Even when incarcerated between 2014 and 2016, Radric Delantic Davis, known by his stage name of Gucci Mane, who has been at the forefront of the trap game long before its complete mainstream crossover, did not falter in his almost unrivalled prolificacy, with the MC even cranking up his productivity, to the point of sometimes even releasing several solo and collaborative digital albums, mixtapes and EPs within the space of just one week. Whilst Gucci’s high-yielding attitude towards his enterprise has earned the rapper a large and loyal fanbase that eats up just about everything he puts his name to, the self-proclaimed ‘Trap God’ and founder of the 1017 Brick Squad record label has had a somewhat different relationship with critics, with his hefty work ethic, although impressive, routinely allowing the consistency and overall quality of his output to slip substantially. In fact, Davis tends to be so prolific that only a handful of his musical outings receive all that much coverage within the world of music journalism, as keeping up with all of the releases from an artist with such a fertile discography would be nigh on impossible. The name ‘Gucci Mane’ is never too far from article headlines, however, even if such write-ups tend to concern his personal life and run-ins with the law more than his artistry, but as a result, any album or mixtape of the MC’s that is especially significant to some aspect of his private life is sure to garner far more attention amongst critics. The most recent example of this would undoubtedly have to be Everybody Looking from last year, which stood as Gucci Mane’s first project since leaving prison and his first studio album since as far back as 2011, featuring executive production credits from mainstays of the Gucci Mane recording team, Mike WiLL Made-It and Zaytoven, as well as guest appearances on the mic from Drake, Young Thug and Kanye West. Despite seemingly being rushed to coincide with his newfound freedom, with the entire recording process taking less than a week, Everybody Looking exhibited an exceptionally energetic, sharp and charismatic Gucci Mane, with the album proving to be an impressively consistent release by his standards, even if it was significantly let down by some weak songwriting and issues of one-dimensionality. Unfortunately, however, whilst his second post-prison project, WOPTOBER, came out soon enough following his discharge that a reasonable amount of critics were still keen to cover the rapper’s musical undertakings, the mixtape marked a pronounced return to the quantity-over-quality Gucci Mane who has so often turned off music journalists with his hyper-productivity and seeming sacrifice of his artistic calibre in the process. Despite this, Gucci’s latest project, Droptopwop, has, for now, rekindled many music critics’ interest in the MC, having tided over the music journalist community until the release of his 11th studio album, Mr. Davis, this Friday, and for good reason. Undoubtedly, Droptopwop amounts to one of Gucci Mane’s most consistent full-length releases in quite some time, whilst the rapper’s presence on the mic exceeds even his best performances on Everybody Looking, and it would seem that this arises almost exclusively from the second wind that the front-to-back production from iconic trap DJ Metro Boomin has given the artist. I have spoken in the past about the extent to which production credits from Metro Boomin have saved songs or even entire projects from rappers with little-to-no charisma or flair as performers, but in the case of Droptopwop, Gucci Mane, as well as the guest MCs brought onto the tape, particularly Offset and Rick Ross, really step up to the plate to meet the quality of Metro’s sparse, chilly bangers, with the rapper penning some of his most infectious hooks in recent memory. On the other hand, some of the usual shortcomings of even Gucci Mane’s best projects remain, particularly his lacklustre compositional chops, which are emphasised by the uncharacteristically long durations of most of the songs in the tracklisting. Even in spite of the mixtape’s obvious flaws, however, it’s hard not to view Droptopwop as one of Gucci Mane’s most fully-realised full-length releases in quite some time, which, with some more refined songwriting skills, could have made for a genuine artistic breakthrough for the MC.
Previous full-length collaborations between Metro Boomin and a prominent trap artist, such as his work with 21 Savage last year on Savage Mode, have unfortunately typically exhibited a distinct disparity between the DJ and the MC, with the sturdy architecture of Metro’s production just barely being able to hold up rappers who simply lack the charisma in their deliveries or the nimbleness in their flows to make the most of the solid stylistic substructure that the producer provides. In the case of Droptopwop, whilst the mixtape unquestionably has it glaring faults, Gucci Mane could be said, at the very least, to be putting in the effort to pull his own weight throughout the tracklisting, and this is translated in both his punchy performances and his improved knack for the sticky refrains that go hand-in-hand with Metro Boomin’s nocturnal, stripped-back beats. From the interpolations of brief whiffs of rises and falls in the tone of Gucci’s voice on 5 Million Intro to the fluidity with which Offset delivers his galloping, triplet flows during the chorus of Met Gala, many of the most prominent hooks across Droptopwop amount to some of the snappiest and most contagious refrains to have landed on a project from Gucci Mane in quite some time. Specifically, it’s the chemistry between Gucci’s deliveries and Metro’s production that makes many of the most memorable hooks from the mixtape so potent, with the MC making an unmistakable effort to accommodate for the DJ’s dark, rawboned beats on numerous tracks across the project. The chilling chimes that play against the slender trap percussion on Finesse The Plug Interlude and Dance With The Devil, for example, are met with fittingly low-key and almost wispy performances from Gucci, especially over their hooks, which perfectly play into the overall tone of Metro Boomin’s definitively sparse production style. Whilst some Gucci Mane fans may lament the lack of sheer, unrelenting firepower in the rapper’s deliveries, bringing that kind of a heat to a track with as icy production as that which is provided by Metro would simply melt away the deliberately moody and muted tone of the instrumentals featured across Droptopwop. This being said, that’s not to say that every single chorus over the course of the mixtape displays the same infectious fundamentals as the stand-out cuts, with certain hooks alluding to the broader songwriting shortfalls that bog down the main body of many of these songs. Not only does Gucci’s performance across Loss 4 Wrdz see the MC occasionally cram too many syllables into a single bar, making for a somewhat clunky delivery at times, but the overall tone of his performance arguably crosses the line from sounding appropriately mellow and laid-back, as to suit Metro’s production, to the point of sounding somewhat uninspired and unenthused, which only brings attention to how underwritten the refrain is. What’s more, with Rick Ross’ verse towards the backend of the track being, by his standards, rather energetic and incisive, Gucci is unfortunately outshined by his guest on his own track, which is also the case on Met Gala, with the MC struggling to keep up with Offset’s speedy, supple pace.
Undoubtedly, there exist much more comprehensive issues with the compositional prowess at play over the course of Droptopwop, but to chalk these problems up to Gucci Mane alone would most definitely be unfair. Of course, the rapper has an annoying tendency to rhyme words with themselves, which becomes especially tiresome when this habit seeps its way into the hooks of songs like 5 Million Intro, just as his lyrics are as lacking in substance as ever. However, as I have stated on numerous occasions previously, the lyrical content of the work of artists such as Gucci Mane really exists for no other reason than to the evoke the usual, braggadocious sentiments relating to typical trap tropes and act as a sort of swagger-based word salad to add to the overall sonic wallpaper of music that is made expressly to vibe to, so to criticise the tape for its vapid lyrics would surely be to miss the point of its appeal. Then again, there is a limit to how far aesthetics alone can carry a full-length project, and there are numerous instances across Droptopwop wherein Metro Boomin’s production, although pleasing on the ears, could have certainly given more of a leg-up to Gucci Mane with a broader tonal palette and some more fleshed-out beats. Given that tracks such as Dance With The Devil do, in fact, witness Metro provide some notably more varied melodic and rhythmic structures to pad out the song’s runtime with some genuine substance, which Gucci matches with a wider assortment of flows and inflections, there are undoubtedly points on the mixtape wherein the longer durations of these cuts are justified with some solid, if subtle, songwriting skills. However, there are too many tracks that may display some strong hooks or performances from Gucci Mane and his guests, but nevertheless run on longer than they should, to the point of losing part of the punch that comes upon first impact, as is the case on a song such as 5 Million Intro, which, despite being an introductory track, is longer than most of the other cuts in the tracklisting. Even some of the shorter songs from Droptopwop that remain under four minutes can burn a significant amount of time on extended introductions and refrains, as is the case with Hurt A Nigga Feelings and Loss 4 Wrdz. What’s more, when it comes to Metro Boomin’s production, although the DJ unquestionably provides the backbone to the mixtape, which is what makes it stand out as amongst Gucci Mane’s most consistent releases in quite some time, with only 10 tracks, there was unequivocally a lot more room for some more diverse instrumental tones and styles that would nonetheless not infringe on the project’s cohesion. With so many cuts boasting chilly, chiming synth sounds, subtle rumbles of sub-bass and sparse, clacking percussion, Droptopwop can certainly feel one-dimensional at times, but it also makes some of the punchier cuts grab the listener’s attention even more. In fact, a track such as Tho Freestyle could be said to see both Gucci Mane and Metro Boomin overcome their most obvious flaws across the tape, with the MC’s songwriting being packed into a succinct, animated and forcible performance, whilst the DJ entwines some winding, siren-like synths, making for a striking pairing between these serpentine melodies and the cut’s usual snappy, rattling beat. Considering that Gucci’s abilities are typically translated most cogently when contained within more concise song structures — whilst Metro’s production often suits shorter tracks, given the extent to which it typically prioritises capturing a mood over providing a backdrop of convoluted compositional themes — more cuts like Tho Freestyle could have really benefited the chemistry between the MC and the DJ across Droptopwop.
Gucci Mane is likely always going to be an artist who values quantity more than he does quality, but if more projects from the rapper in the future were to feature wall-to-wall production credits from someone with fundamentals as strong as Metro Boomin’s, more endeavours in the vein of Droptopwop could prove to be just as successful as it, and potentially even more so. In fact, just employing any one DJ to oversee the production of all tracks on a project could perhaps alone provide Gucci with the consistency he needs to focus over the course of entire full-length release and not get distracted by detours into poorly written refrains or weak verses. Then again, Droptopwop also highlights just how important the chemistry between the MC and his executive producer is, with the points over the tape wherein the two seem to be more at odds with one another undoubtedly making for some of the project’s weakest moments. Ultimately, however, the appeal of any given Gucci Mane release is relatively straightforward. If rife with infectious flows, sticky hooks, well-placed guest verses and the odd witty punchline, such a release would almost certainly meet the minimum requirement for a solid project from the rapper, so simply utilising a DJ who could wrap the whole project up in a consistent production style would do wonders for the cohesion of future projects from Gucci Mane. In this sense, Droptopwop clearly comes close to unlocking this potential, but unfortunately, recurrent compositional shortcomings and the obvious problem of one-dimensionality stunt the MC’s artistic growth across the course of the mixtape. Even still, with Metro Boomin being the glue that brings much of the project together, Droptopwop displays a Gucci Mane who is at the top of his game, which only appears across an entire full-length release once in a blue moon.
The Vinyl Verdict: 6.5/10