Gucci Mane & Young Scooter

Free Bricks 2

"Now it’s Wop’s turn" announced Gucci Mane, as he officially changed his name to Guwop recently… for all of 32 minutes. This isn’t exactly his first attempt at updating his public image; after all, this is a man who tattooed a fairly sizeable ice cream cone onto his own face back in 2011. But while Gucci’s in[k]famous new look had coincided with a stuttering phase in his career marred by prison sentences and a creative drought, Gucci has recently been enjoying the kind of momentum which made him such a captivating presence to begin with.

Gucci isn’t alone in finding his feet again either; his 1017 Brick Squad collective and extended ATLien family have been a dominant force in forward-looking rap music during 2013. Propelled by unusual, warped synth progressions, hi hat rolls and trunk-rattling low-end, the sound of Atlanta at the moment is as weird as anything you might traditionally associate with underground or leftfield rap. While Waka Flocka Flame and OJ Da Juiceman have made vigorous returns in recent months by expanding on their own bonkers formulae, Future has been toying with auto-tune to peel away some of rap’s testosterone, revealing vulnerable, even romantic qualities. Meanwhile Young Thug has defied his own uninspired moniker, making an emotive mess that could be the best or the worst thing I’ve heard all year. Whatever these records might or might not make you feel, though, it’s difficult to deny their progressive intent. 

Then there’s Young Scooter, Gucci’s new partner in crime, who is also having a promising year of his own. His Street Lottery mixtape – released in January – is a more down-the-line vision of street struggles, but its bleak, heavy-hearted outlook is engaging and offers a nice counterpoint for Brick Squad’s larger personalities. That’s mostly how it works on Free Bricks 2, as Scooter settles into the tape’s moody, late-night aesthetic, while Gucci lets his mind wander in his inimitable word-drunk style. It’s audible when Gucci is enjoying his writing and now is one of the times, using the anxiousness in the production to arrive at intimidating, if partly goofy threats like: "I got mob ties, you moulinyan, you a fucking prick / kiss your cheek and say capiche and then I mail your mum your dick."

Perhaps it’s that there’s been an overload of full-throttle trap maximalism of late, but it’s the slower, simplistic productions which feel most effective here. The looped piano motif which forms the backdrop for ‘Re-Up’, for example, is a perfect fit for Scooter’s resourceful hustling ("I can still cook it with the dope wet, 20% bricks I can work with that"), while the wistful ‘Faster’ finds Gucci back behind bars, counting the days with the longing of a man intimate with the sadness of serving time. Waka Flocka Flame too, is deployed effectively in a rare subdued role, providing the hook to the Zaytoven produced ‘Remix rerock’ that stresses the numbness at the heart of the song’s drug-pushing tales.

What’s striking about Free Bricks 2 is that Gucci and Scooter barely seem to break out of third gear, yet their sedated, spaced-out deliveries are an ideal match for what’s going on around them. As well as Zaytoven – who shines brightest here – the beats from Mike Will Made It, Sonny Digital, Lex Luger and Metro Boomin help create a delirious, syrup-fuelled energy off of which Atlanta is once again thriving. Gucci is still largely rapping to his own beat, but by surrounding himself with rap visionaries he’s regained some charisma in his writing again. As long as he maintains this sort of form, ol’ Guwop might just have to continue to wait his turn.

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