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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gucci Mane - Writing on the Wall 2: B+

Give it time, give it time. I know I said that Gucci Mane’s last release, Return of Mr. Zone 6 was the death knell of the Atlanta rapper’s career, and I still believe that. The fact that the man has followed up that atrocity with his best mixtape to date does not deter me. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, Gucci won’t go away with one album. Writing on the Wall 2 will regardless be a reassurance to longtime Gucci fans, and, in some sick way, I feel a little bit of goodness knowing that he can still pump out a considerable amount of above average tunes.           

The album, it should be noted though, is not a vast improvement on Return of Mr. Zone 6 because of anything on Gucci Mane’s part. Rounding up, I’d say that the man comes away with one solid line on the entire mixtape; one line that made me think, “Oh man, maybe I’ve been wrong about this guy all along.” In actuality, what helps Writing on the Wall 2 is that Mane’s presence is relegated to the textural or the background entirely. On the album, Gucci steps aside so that the real talents that have gotten him to this point can shine through.

In this manner, almost all the best parts of Writing on the Wall 2 are the beats. Where Return of Mr. Zone 6 and the majority of Gucci’s 2010 mixtapes were attempts at establishing the now hackneyed Drumma Boy/Lex Lugar constant barrage of sound, Writing shows these beat makers agreeing on a style and then branching them out into more tuneful arenas. On “Guilty” and “Tax Free”, Drumma Boy incorporates piano and synths to add more depth to his regular assault of mindless hooliganism. On “Recently”, he even opts for a smooth bassline to make the track flow like an excellent Curren$y song, all the bells and whistles dropping out to fantastic effect when 50 Cent takes the mic for a surprisingly memorable verse. Needless to say, when “MVP” emerges with a sung hook, it’s an unbridled success, making it an immediate album highlight. 

Drumma Boy’s not the only producer here who takes chances with excellent results. Writing is teeming with subtle risks that consistently impress. Many of the tracks surprise with the inclusion of boisterous horn parts. Their presence on “Hard On A Bitch” is a nice, silly touch on an otherwise tame track. They turn “Play Your Cards” into a veritable epic, with a malicious chorus from YC and a ¾ bass on the verses that adds welcome tension. However, it’s “Brrrr (Supa Cold)” that takes the cake on Writing on the Wall 2. Frequent Gucci collaborator Fat Boy creates a rather buoyant hook that’s harmonized vocals borrow as much from The Beach Boys as Waka Flocka Flame. The verses’ light and playful brass make the track sound like the most streamlined thing Gucci’s ever rapped over. Coupled with characteristically unrelenting bass, I’d say it’s the best track Gucci Mane has ever put his name on. The guy sounds so lively in this environment, it’s a wonder he hasn’t made more songs like it.

Although Writing on the Wall 2 will likely satiate Gucci Mane fanatics, it has many obstacles that will inhibit the uninitiated. While many of the record’s beats deserve praise, songs such as the Fat Boy-helmed “Camera Ready” and Lex Lugar’s “Lil Friends” sound like boring, grating Gucci by numbers. And, of course, considering this is a Gucci Mane release, the man is bound to surface from the background to deliver some truly crass, humorless lines. If you can look beyond terribly derivative couplets like “Pussy, pussy, I smell pussy,” then you’re pretty much in the clear for Writing’s enjoyment. However, if you’re looking for a good rap record in the traditional, lyrically brilliant sense, you’ve been barking up the wrong tree for far too long. Writing on the Wall 2’s positives may override its negatives, but, if you’re expecting more from Gucci Mane than cheap thrills, I’m tempted to ask why you’re reading this review in the first place. 


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