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Gucci Mane, ‘The State vs. Radric Davis’ (Asylum)

At first blush, Gucci Mane doesn’t seem like he’s saying much: a mumble, a brag, an emphatic burrrrr. But the things about the East Atlanta rapper that initially seem mundanely contrived — his obsessions with jewelry, women, his own life force — are what make him such a fascinating evolutionary case.

On his sixth album, Gucci is keenly aware of what’s come before — Lil Wayne’s word-drunk vomit, T.I.’s effortless sneer, Young Jeezy’s beguiling groan — and he perverts it just so. His low-toned voice, relentless repetition, and brilliantly goofy way with vocabulary are compelling, but his subversions are what make him great. “Heavy” seems like a typical boast-a-thon. But it’s an inversion — sure, his chain is heavy, but so is his ego, which is “gettin’ too big.” The insular, ominous “Worst Enemy” is not a shot at an nemesis, but, in fact, self-recrimination: “I’m my best friend / and I’m my worst enemy,” he drones. That rings truer now: Shortly after completing this album, the man born Radric Davis received a yearlong sentence for probation violation.

Gucci is not always so reflective; sometimes he’s as broad and bracing as a ball-peen hammer. On “Sex in Crazy Places,” he promises to “fuck you in your Range Rover.” But more often than not, the prolific MC (in 2009, he released more than 100 songs on mix tapes) limits his id, and emphasizes a surprisingly gripping superego. Case closed.