It seems nowadays that rap’s southern titans are spending more time in the slammer than in the studio. Weezy’s out of commission for the time being and T.I. was released last spring after almost a year in the can. Atlanta’s Gucci Mane, like his reckless peers, is no stranger to the joint. Though these not-quite-upstanding citizens have been busy paying their civic debt, there seems to be no shortage of releases coming from these rappers.

Gucci Mane

The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted
Warner Bros.

Gucci Mane’s latest release comes fresh off his six-month stint in Fulton County Jail. With The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted, Gucci is one step closer to becoming a household name rather than a hidden gem from the streets. The Appeal shows no sign of Gucci quitting the roll he has been on since 2009’s The State vs. Radric Davis. Incarceration serves him well.

The Appeal features Gucci’s regular circle of guests, including crooner Ray J on R&B burner “Remember When” and the ubiquitous Nicki Minaj on dreamy “Haterade.” However, Bun B takes the prize for fiercest guest appearance on album leadoff “Little Friend,” as he seems about one inch away from beating someone into the ground. But despite his aggression, he still manages to intimidate listeners in a kid-friendly way: “You look like a clown / Take the red ball off your nose / Bitches sit yo ass down,” he snarls. Mostly kid-friendly, then.

“Making Love to the Money” kicks off the album’s first blatant dance-on-the-table party jam. Gucci deadpans exactly what the title implies: “Makin’ love to the money like a sex tape / I’m talkin’ Kim K / I’m talkin’ Ray J.” A driving organ-like synth and a surprisingly full production beat keeps the song captivating from the first intro beat to the last ringing proclamation of “ ’S Gucci!”

Guest Swizz Beatz’s stamp is prominent on The Appeal’s lead single and album standout “Gucci Time.” The furious stop-and-start looping beat sounds like a tinny broken record (in the thuggest way possible) reminiscent of classic Swizz production on Jay-Z’s “On to the Next One.”

Gucci does miss the mark, however, on Wyclef-assisted “Odog.” With an awkward and screechy electric guitar buried under a schmaltzy beat, Wyclef underwhelms with bland lines like “Sky is the limit now / My jet just took off the ground now / Ain’t nobody gonna stop my destiny.” Good thing this lackluster track won’t get any airtime on Wyclef’s shut-down political campaign trail.

Gucci’s greatest strength perhaps lies in his nonchalant, muffled monotone. He delivers his lines with a tone as dry as the Sahara, whether he is rapping about money (his favorite topic), women (a close second) or the pressures of being Gucci Mane (few could ever appreciate the exertion of wearing as much ice as Gucci). So what makes him different from every other money-flashing, sexist, Lamborghini-driving rapper on parole?

It’s simple. In an age when hip hop can only chart on the radio if it’s buried under cheap pop schematics, when the actual rapping is snuck in between bombastic cookie-cutter choruses (cough, B.o.B., cough), Gucci Mane is a breath of fresh air. His flow is dripping with charisma and his songs have more character in one verse than all the top 10 singles on iTunes combined.

Gucci can turn from goofy self-deprecation (“Weirdo”) to spitting street-heavy rap more gracefully than almost any other rapper today. For those people who judge rap by how cool it makes them feel while driving their ride (and make no mistake, there are many of them), when blasted loud enough, “Trap Talk” could make even a Prius-driving soccer mom feel gangsta.

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