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"Mr. Zone 6"

Gucci Mane – Mr. Zone 6
26 August 2010, 10:00 Written by Tyler Boehm

In March of 2009, Gucci Mane was released from jail in Georgia after having served six months on a probation violation and went straight to the studio to record a song. That song, ‘1st Day Out,’ is a forceful, swaggering and giddy announcement of both Gucci’s return to recording and his arrival as a star. In the months that followed, Gucci produced a ridiculous amount of material of remarkably consistent quality, built internet buzz and backlash to levels really only ever reached by Lil’ Wayne, was sent back to jail on another probation violation and watched his major label album The State vs. Radric Davis brick from jail. In May, Gucci was released again and responded just like he did before: go to the studio and record more mixtape fire, this time in the form of the excellent, DJ Drama hosted Mr. Zone 6. None of the songs on Zone 6 seethe with the raw energy of ‘1st Day Out,’ but listening to the tape it’s clear that Gucci has made tremendous growth over the year of his ascension and, despite his legal and commercial problems, remains today’s most vital MC.

Mr. Zone 6, like The Movie 3-D, represents Gucci at his pinnacle and it’s full of moments where he makes the familiar exciting. On “Normal” and “It’s Goin Up,” Gucci takes simple conceits (what’s normal vs. what Gucci does; things that are going up) and manages to weave together verses full of clever lines and surprises while never veering off subject. Lyrically, as usual, Gucci is in Cam’ron mode; he knows his boasts and insults are absurd and he’s having fun with it (“My trap house like Morehouse it got niggas all around it/Your trap house like a whore house probably in there cooking brownies”). These jokes–which usually feel like rewards to close listening rather than rather than pat punchlines–are thuggish and obnoxious but they’re also a big part of his appeal.

Gucci is at his best over So Icey de facto house producer/musical soul mate Zaytoven’s production. Zaytoven didn’t produce all of Mr. Zone 6 but his signature sound–high-pitched, horror movie synths, slow, deep bass and faster, cheap sounding drums that are always surprisingly low in the mix–makes the mixtape feel all of one piece and Gucci, who sounds more agile and confident than ever, takes advantage. Gucci still picks a rhyme scheme and sticks with it for a whole verse, but throughout the tape he varies his speeds, sometimes on the same song and often to complement a change in the beat, to considerable effect. This new elasticity is a welcome evolution and songs like ‘Long Money’ and ‘Normal’ benefit from a double-time flow that we’ve never heard from Gucci before. There are no sung choruses here, but Gucci is as good as any rapper working right now at constructing hooks. The mixtape works as one cohesive unit and while individual songs don’t necessarily stand out, individual lines do and will get stuck in your head for days.

In 2010 when, for better or worse, Drake is the biggest new star in hip-hop and Eminem gets back on top by collaborating with Rihanna, Gucci Mane sticks with releasing bangers with limited guest lists (on Mr. Zone 6 it’s only frequent collaborators Waka Flocka Flame and Yo Gotti twice, rap legend Bun B once). You can’t help but feel it’s because Gucci just loves to rap; you can hear his joy in wordplay on the seemingly infinite and effortless verses that he crafts. This passion for the music and the craft is exactly what a cynical industry needs. Gucci’s new studio album,The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted drops in September; here’s hoping he sticks to the winning formula of mixtapes like Mr. Zone 6.

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