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Gucci Mane - Evil Genius Music Album Reviews

Though it’s one of his most considered and carefully curated projects, Gucci plays it uncharacteristically safe for most of it.

Evil Genius might be the first album in Gucci Mane’s enormous discography that he took his time on. It follows his last project, El Gato: The Human Glacier, by a full year, a gap that would hardly be worth mentioning for some artists but is unprecedented for Gucci, a rapper who spent three years in prison and still averaged about a mixtape a month. So Evil Genius answers a question that even the most diehard Gucci fans must have wondered by the third or fourth time he dropped a trilogy of mixtapes on the same day: What would he be capable of if he were a little more selective?

After months of big talk from Gucci about his newfound high standards—“I’m trying to make this project one of my best projects ever,” he told Billboard—is Evil Genius any better than the average Gucci Mane album? Not really. There are fewer outright duds than on most of his projects, but also fewer happy accidents. His rhymes feel more rehearsed than usual, but that isn’t necessarily an improvement. On his best verses, Gucci sounds like he’s laughing at his own private joke. Here he mostly feels like he’s posing for a video shoot.

For a rapper known for his recklessness, he plays it uncharacteristically safe. Save for the prim, Bruno Mars and Kodak Black-assisted soul throwback “Wake Up in the Sky,” Evil Genius sticks entirely to of-the-moment trap, with a cadre of the industry’s top producers all contributing mostly interchangeable music. The beats are hard, sometime impressively so—especially during the record’s cold, bass-heavy opening stretch, including the Quavo feature “BiPolar,” where Gucci lands the record’s greatest Gucci-ism: “I’m talking to a shrink and I’m draped in a mink.” But they’re also overfamiliar. Each song is like a round of horse against a guy who insists on sinking the same two-pointer every shot.

Listeners skimming the record for something different might as well skip straight to the second half, where a few beats have a little more spin on them. A combination of alarming 808s and a gabby Kevin Gates feature jolt “I’m Not Goin’” to life, while “Lost Ya’ll Mind” is absolutely wild, with synths that play like a microwaved Super Nintendo cartridge. “Solitaire,” with Migos and Lil Yachty, has some cool, Tetris-shaded keys, too, but an album with more than two dozen credited producers really ought to have more surprises than this.

Production isn’t the album’s biggest concern, though. More than any project Gucci’s recorded since he emerged from prison happy, sober, and looking like he stepped out of a Bowflex ad, Evil Genius has a past-tense problem. Too often Gucci is rapping about the things he used to do, the life he used to lead, the terror he used to be. He’s already documented all that extensively, and his raps about those darker days aren’t becoming any more revealing the further removed he is from them. Instead, it would be nice to hear him rap a little more about the man he’s become, the ab-plated, kale-devouring, self-actualized newlywed currently living out one of those most riveting second acts in rap history. Now there’s a figure we still have new things to learn about. Gucci Mane still has plenty of new ground to explore, but on Evil Genius, he opts not to go there.

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