I still consider the early albums from Gucci Mane’s career to be an unlistenable mess. I stand by anything I ever said about his lack of clear diction, his excessively materialistic values, and his complete lack of substance beyond the “trap star” lifestyle he praises. Gucci Mane is not beyond redemption as an emcee though. On “The State vs. Radric Davis” he made some of his weaknesses into strengths and managed to pass them off as an unusual form of charisma, and he used enough hot producers and guest stars to make his music more palatable. It might have been sleight-of-hand, but it worked. Gucci had finally made an album I didn’t regret buying and could honestly enjoy listening to.
Although I felt Gucci lost his way a bit on 2010’s “The Appeal” I was fully prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on “The Return of Mr. Zone 6.” I opened this album with an open mind, determined to see if Gucci could recapture that magic from 2009 a couple of years later. The early results are somewhat promising. Drumma Boy’s production on “24 Hours” and “Mouth Full of Golds” featuring Birdman definitely sets a standard for the rest of his new album to live up to. Fortunately for Gucci the raps set a much lower standard he should easily be able to match, almost without trying. This is part of what’s so frustrating about Mr. Radric – a majority of his songs sound like lazy freestyles that on occasion don’t even bother to rhyme. It doesn’t bother me that having lived the hood life that Gucci Mane now wants to live the good life, I just wish he’d put more thought into expressing it. The lyrics of “24 Hours” are at best entirely predictable:
“Don’t talk about my Lambo’, talk about my ‘rarri
Talk about my Phantom or talk about my Harley
Brick Squad biker boy, +Angel+ named +Charlie+
Goons goin psycho; white boy gnarly
Every twenty-fo’ a second passin me the Marley
Lame tryin to diss don’t affect me hardly”
A Gucci Mane rap often takes the words “plodding” and “deliberate” to whole new levels, and “24 Hours” is no exception. I did resolve to be fair though, and in fairness I have to say that by his OWN standards (which are the only ones you can use to truly be fair to him) this is an above average song on which Gucci’s deliberate pace actually results in clearer diction and a more enjoyable experience. What’s even more surprising is that he picks up the pace of his flow on “Mouth Full of Golds” and still keeps it clear while dropping a few funny lines: “I’m a rich-ass nigga, you a bitch-ass nigga/you a cornball bar of soap snitch-ass nigga […] I’ma tell you twice cause I’m Gucci two times/fuck your clique and fuck your rhymes.” Normally Gucci would be completely sonned by Birdman, who is not exactly a lyrical virtuoso in his own right, but he’s able to hang and not embarrass himself on the song. Props given where deserved.
Much like “The State Vs. Radric Davis,” Gucci Mane uses production and guest stars to cloud any issues with his flow or rhyme writing ability. Drumma Boy gets the majority of the credit as his beats back up 77% of the tracks – 10 out of 13 overall. “Reckless” has a majestic opening and a minimalistic melody that fits the presentation ideally. “Better Baby” is borderline to being a radio song and might get there with a radio edit to clean up his cursing. You have to wait until three minutes in for Wale’s guest stint on “Pretty Bitches,” but it’s worth it thanks to D.B.’s work. The same goes for “Brinks,” although the high piano keys make the track even more menacing, and Master P’s voice is an unexpected and pleasant surprise. A lot of people were hard on P back in the day, but given the generation of rappers that came along since, everything from his vocal tone to his subject matter seems more impressive in hindsight. No Limit still over-saturated the market with way too many mediocre albums and rappers on the whole, but this song should give you a new respect for P himself.
Now if we’re being fair on “Mr. Zone 6” that means Mr. Radric should be prepared to accept the negative with the positive. The normally acceptable production of Zaytoven completely falls off a cliff on “I Don’t Love Her” and leaves Rocko and Webbie nothing to work with. Speaking of over-saturation we didn’t really need THREE doses of Waka Flocka Flame on “This Is What I Do,” “Trick or Treat” and “Pancakes” – though at least on the latter 8Ball is there to help out. The same goes for Slim Dunkin appearing on two songs. Although it’s fine for Gucci Mane to be showing off his Southern loyalty and pride with guest stars, a little more outside the box thinking like Wale’s guest appearance wouldn’t have been a bad idea. I’m sure you can come up with as many ideas reading this as I can writing it: Drake, Redman, Too $hort, Elzhi, et cetera. It’s not as though he hasn’t mixed it up before and brought in everyone from Cam’Ron to Usher to appear on a track.
“The Return of Mr. Zone 6” is the best and worst of Gucci Mane in almost equal measure, though it’s enough of the best to pull up to an acceptable level. It may be that “The State vs. Radric Davis” was a career peak he’s not ever going to be able to equal or exceed, but against all odds I’ll hold out hope since this latest album hints that it’s at least possible for him to reach that level again. It’s not a high level compared to some of the lyrical and musical virtuosos of the hip-hop world, but anything that makes Gucci Mane’s music tolerable and enjoyable is definitely something that should be aspired to for both his sake and that of his audience.