Release Date: Mar 22, 2011
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Rap, Gangsta Rap, Hardcore Rap, Dirty South
An artist-certified street album -- a release somewhere between a mixtape and an official album, The Return of Mr. Zone 6 is slapped together and doesn’t care much for crossing over. Those are both reasons your everyday fan should be cautious, but they’re also the reasons fans of Gucci’s gutter music will be pleased and downright thrilled in parts.
Gucci Mane is having a rough 2011. He started the year facing trial for parole violation-- the same charge that's kept him in prison for a pretty good chunk of the past two years. After his lawyer filed a plea of mental incompetency, he had to spend some time in a psychiatric institution. When he got out, he pretty much confirmed his own insanity by getting a giant tattoo on his face: an ice cream cone with lightning bolts shooting out of it.
I understand that the name on the cover is Gucci Mane. So for a moment, I will discuss Gucci Mane. The Return of Mr. Zone 6 is a new Gucci album only in the sense that they chose to call it that, as in all other respects it’s more like Flockaveli in the sense it could easily be a mixtape without DJ drops.
After calling in production heavyweights Swizz Beatz and the Neptunes for his previous major-label albums, Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane keeps it hardcore on a new one produced mostly by long-time collaborator Drumma Boy and featuring guest spots by his 1017 Brick Squad group. The result encapsulates the quick and dirty energy that's made the prolific Atlanta MC into a cult gangsta-rap icon: lo-fi synths, skittery club beats and his off-key warble that recalls Biz Markie. Gucci's head-down focus on honing his signature sound is admirable, but the monosyllabic stuntin' gets old fast, and flashes of lyrical or melodic invention are scant.
Between a stint in prison and a court-ordered trip to a mental institution, the last 12 months have not been easy ones for Gucci Mane. It makes sense, then, that Gucci would want to return to a comfortable place. The Return of Mr. Zone 6 has been described by Mane as an attempt to “return to the music that got me buzzin’ in the first place,” but it would be more accurate to say that the album is a lukewarm retread of the ground he covered on far superior street releases Murder Was the Case or Trap-A-Thon.
Could the dissonant production techniques of Tyler and his Odd Future crew already be wheedling their way into mainstream rap? The first track on Gucci Mane’s new album almost seems to suggest so, initially stark and confrontational, opening with a ghostly, ringing anti-beat. But as The Return of Mr. Zone 6 quickly and repeatedly proves, the rapper is a long way from the genre’s cutting edge, wallowing in canned horns and tired imagery.