Metro Boomin pulls the best out of Gucci Mane on his third LP since he was released from federal prison. Together, they are sharp and unhinged.
Last summer, just two months after his release from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., Gucci Mane dropped his comeback album. The title made sense at the time: Everybody Looking. Already one of the most celebrated rappers of the century—a cult hero who had caught Billboard lightning a few times—the Atlantan’s profile had only risen while he was behind bars. The generation of rappers who owed Gucci their careers, either by borrowing his creative DNA or as one of his legions of mentees, had finally reached maturity and were dominating rap’s mainstream. Lean and sober, Gucci went on a charm offensive in the press, breaking bread with magazine editors and beaming on Snapchat. Everybody was looking, and Gucci was ready, mostly.
Crucial in all this was that many were looking for the very first time. The thing about Gucci Mane’s work is that it’s best consumed in endless, bludgeoning waves. The jewelry appraisals and the re-up math and the latent paranoia are supposed to bleed into one another like an endless river. But the comeback album is supposed to be a Machiavellian statement of purpose, and Everybody Looking was weighed down by more than a few cobwebs. When the house lights came up, Gucci retreated back into his music to work out the kinks.
Droptopwop, his full-length collaboration with Metro Boomin, is Gucci’s first post-prison project that truly gels. This is thanks in no small part to Metro, who Gucci had sought out for production when Metro was still in high school, who has since evolved into one of the genre’s most important architects. And while his reputation as a hitmaker has long been above reproach (he’s scored four top-ten hits in the past twelve months, including Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” which hit No. 1), Droptopwop now stands alongside the 21 Savage vehicle Savage Mode as a testament to Metro’s skill as an auteur.
The beats are spare and disquieting; “Finesse the Plug Interlude” sounds as if it’s playing out of a haunted Game Boy Color. “Dance With the Devil” is built on the shivers you feel when the feds are watching you as you watch your friends succumb to drug addiction, when you have unprotected sex and tremble in the clinic’s waiting room. And while “Met Gala,” which guest stars a furious Offset and includes assists from Southside and CuBeatz, is comprised of familiar parts, they’ve been arranged in a way that’s just a little bit foreign. Imagine hearing Flockaveli out of a passing car and then trying to describe it to someone who only speaks a little English.
Though much has been made about Gucci’s radiant positivity, the truth is that he’s still working out fiercely, sometimes uncomfortably dark things in his music. “Helpless” plays around with the titular concept, throwing it into lighter contexts—into strip clubs—but the hook has a sinister subtext. “Tho Freestyle” pays tribute to fallen friends between gas station dead-drops and flying dope in on a drone. There are times, too, when Gucci’s sly sense of humor pokes through: On “Finesse” he raps, “I’m a shyster, I’m spiteful, and I love rifles/And I love white folks/I walk on a tightrope.”
That last quote is the sort of thing Gucci does when he’s at his best: tightly-wound raps that betray a love of language, a comic’s sense of timing, a keen awareness about the way people see him, and the baggage of their preconceptions. Droptopwop is a worthwhile listen because Metro draws this out of his mentor by instinct, which makes for some of their most unhinged music in some time. So if you’ve tuned out since the welcome-home party, it might be time to start looking again.