The cover art was released on Instagram Nov. 27. (Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records)
Rapper Gucci Mane dropped his thirteenth album, “Evil Genius,” Thursday night after teasing so for much of the year. The album is his first in almost one calendar year, after he had released four albums over the previous 17 months. The album is a mixture of multiple types of rap styles, and features a wide variety of artists, such as Migos, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Offset, Kevin Gates and Kodak Black, most of whom have collaborated with Gucci in the past.
The album consists of 18 tracks, yet never feels bloated or aimed at increasing streaming numbers. The songs are taut in their rhymes and minimalist production, and Gucci had said before that he feels each song in an album to be a punch, and he wants every punch to land, hard.
Songs like “I’m Not Going,” “Lost Y’all Mind” and “Off the Boat” reference his time in jail, and Gucci both pokes fun and glamorizes his time in prison, with a variety of featured artists piping in their two cents.
In those songs, Gucci shakes his head at his old behavior but also comes across as somewhat disingenuous; lyrics such as “2012, did more drugs than I sold,” and “I donate to charity, I’m a Good Samaritan.” It is likely that Gucci is being tongue in cheek with lyrics like that, but his tone doesn’t really change for one to be swayed one way or another.
“Off the Boat” in its totality summarizes much of what the album is about; Gucci’s bipolar personality still affects him and the album illustrates how the choices Gucci made, makes and will make molds him going forward. The album is not a redemption story, but rather an acknowledgement of his life.
The songs are fine and Gucci is fluid; he will take the shape of whatever container he is put in. The features almost always have stronger lyrics and because of that, Gucci’s storytelling loses luster.
When Gucci is not glorifying his jail time or making amends to how he acted, the songs are incredibly generic. That is not to say they are bad, but they are interchangeable and if it were not for the different artists, it would be extremely difficult to determine where one song ended and where the new one began.
Gucci’s life being a revolving door in prison has almost prevented him from being a huge A-list rapper celebrity, but even though he isn’t on the upper echelon of rappers at the moment, he still commands a huge following. Gucci Mane is outlier figure, almost a folk hero, rather than a force than can be consumed for true mainstream validation.
“Evil Genius” is a perfect distillation of his talent, and fans are unlikely to see him outdo it, but it also underlines his unique position as bona fide star and rap outsider. The album is good, probably his best work, but nothing truly special to elevate him above any of the other rappers of this era.