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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Gucci Mane’s ‘Mr. Davis’ shows maturity in some areas, missteps in others

Radric Davis, better known by his stage name Gucci Mane, has dropped his 11th studio album titled Mr. Davis by GUWOP Enterprises and Atlantic Records. The Atlanta trap-rap pioneer has been in stride since his 2016 release from prison. Noteworthy albums like Everybody Looking and The Return of East Atlanta Santa marked a more mature — and thankfully sober — Gucci, and now, every aspect of the rapper's music has improved.

Mr. Davis, originally scheduled to release a month ago, was pushed back for sentimental reasons; it marked both the one-year anniversary of Gucci's wedding proposal to Keyshia Ka'Oir, and their wedding date on Oct. 17. Considering Gucci's extensive discography — 72 mixtapes, countless features, seven EPs and 10 previous records — how does his latest work stand out, or improve upon, a flow with literally hours and hours worth of music? The answer is through transparency. Granted, ever since Gucci Mane's sobriety, his vocals have become significantly more audible alongside an expanded vernacular. However, something else shifted in the artist's music with this latest work.

In the opening track, "Work in Progress," Gucci recounts his poverty-stricken upbringing: "I was piss poor sleeping on the dirty floor." In the track, Gucci explores and recounts the struggles of his troubled past as a drug dealer as well as his family dynamic: "I lost my daddy last year, I can't even cry, cuz it's so hard to shed a tear, he ain’t even try." It's in these fleeting moments when Gucci ditches the lavishly themed rhymes of promiscuity and glorifying fiscal success and instead reveals his vulnerabilities that the work truly excels.

Noteworthy tracks like "Miss my Woe," "Made It" and "We Ride" serve as examples of how great Gucci's music can be when he explores beyond his exhausted topics. "We Ride" is an intimate reflection on his engagement and clear love letter to his fiancé. R&B artist Monica's feature on this track adds a great element of style that sweetens the ballad into a song that will definitely be played at his upcoming wedding. With verses like "It's me and my ride or die, that’s my right hand, got me thinking damn who's gonna be my best man," it's refreshing to see how the woman in his life has positively influenced Gucci's lyrics.

Getting a glimpse into his more personal and true psyche serves him well; I just wish they were not so few and far between, because the album stutters with repetition.

Fans looking for tracks to put on their "Banger" playlists will gravitate towards songs like "I get the Bag," featuring Migos, and "Tone it Down," with Chris Brown. They are solid tracks, but do little to stand out; granted, Zaytoven's production value never falters throughout the entirety of the album. The best rap feature by far belongs to Schoolboy Q's verse on "Lil Story," which goes on to actually over shadow Gucci simply because the beat feels more in-tune with Q's style.

Gucci does experiment with other styles — not just topically, but also vocally. Unfortunately, he fails at them. "Money Make Ya Handsome" and "Make Love" struggle as Gucci experiments with a bit of singing aided by autotune. His voice sounds strained, and the final product is questionable. The fact that a better voice was not brought in for the hook seems odd, especially since The Weeknd's assistance on "Curve" really elevates the track into a billboard-worthy single.

Listeners eager for more "Guwop" will be pleased with Mr. Davis, and some of the more unique tracks do a great job at bringing fans back in for several more listens. The 61-minute playtime might be a bit difficult to get through in one sitting due to the repetition and lack of real substance, but the final product is a solid addition to Gucci's extensive discography.

Grade: C+

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