Gucci Mane, ‘The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted’ (Asylum/Warner Bros.)
With his mushy run-on sentences over stark keyboards and 808 kicks, Gucci Mane has a charmingly sloppy DIY appeal. He’s less a craftsman than a hood dude who just makes records for the fuck of it. But on his second LP, the Atlanta rapper’s creeping self-awareness and new polish eat away at his edge.
In his comfort zone, Gucci remains magnificent. On “Girl Missing,” produced by Zaytoven, he mutters about assault rifles over an Eastern European-esque synth progression. It’s music made for running Kiev red lights in an armored Benz with hookers in the back. Later, abetted by the ominous, siren-infested beat of “Trap Talk,” he describes paying crackhouse cookers in cocaine. But The Appeal falters when A-list producers (Swizz Beatz, Wyclef Jean, Pharrell) try to give Gucci the Eliza Doolittle treatment. “Grown Man,” a schlocky, Estelle-assisted anthem, seems made for Snooki to dance/cry to. “Party Animal” and “Weirdo” pander to the frat boys who embraced “Wasted,” his 2009 crossover success.
While Jay-Z or Ludacris can dazzle by snapping off verses in 16-bar increments, Gucci benefits from a listener’s full immersion. Only then do the nuances emerge: the goofy wit, meandering rhyme schemes, nonchalant charisma. At his best, he sounds like he’s sweating it out in a kitchen with flypaper dangling from the ceiling. But on The Appeal, he could be anywhere.