Gucci Mane & Waka Flocka Flame
(Warner Bros. / 1017 Brick Squad; 2011)
By Colin McGowan | 28 August 2011
In retrospect, it’s sort of obvious that the release of Flockaveli (2010) marked a sea-change within the 1017 Brick Squad crew. Flocka’s towering official debut arrived fully formed—an unbroken string on heat mortared together with Lex Luger’s production aesthetic. It was terrific, but more importantly for the Atlanta collective, it posited Flocka as an emcee whose appeal is easy to grasp. He’s one of the very best yellers hip-hop has ever known. Conversely, listeners’ relationship with Gucci Mane has always been a trifle more complicated, since his genius floats in slippery pools of wordvomit that one has to wade through in order to appreciate. Flocka is more or less as good as his production; the quality of Gucci’s music varies, I think, in accord with the position of one of Jupiter’s moons.
So, Ferrari Boyz, cut in like a week and a half while getting high and playing pool in one of Gucci’s mansions, sounds more like a Waka Flocka record than anything else. This is okay because the relationship between Flocka and Gucci is that between rectangle and square. Gucci can rap capably over plodding muck, but Flocka’s deficiencies as a rapper are exposed over the spare, whizzing trash over which Gucci sounds best. But this is Flocka’s show, simply because he can out-shout Gucci. He does so brilliantly at times. In print, a refrain of “I’m just lane changin’, chain swangin’! / Lane changin’, chain swangin! / Lane changin’, chain swangin’!” sounds inane, but Flocka has been quotable maybe twice in his entire career. On the eve of his second album, Triple F Life, Flocka sounds lean, as magnetic as he’s ever going to be.
To his credit, Gucci sounds better than he has in months. Flocka’s presence and the production palette injects some energy into a dude who has sounded catatonic on every other effort on which he’s been featured this year. He plays foil rather than co-star, but he’s a necessary counterweight that helps the hour-long record go down smoother than it would were it composed solely of Flocka’s madness. He falters (“It’s a white girl in town / Name is cocaine”) and impresses (“I’m running in a mansion but I don’t think I’m fancy / But I cut the blinker on and my diamonds dancin’”) in roughly equal measure. If it reads like I’m apologizing for his performance, I am. Here’s a blurb for the album sticker: Gucci is definitively kind of not on auto-pilot for Ferrari Boyz, and that’s good enough for me.
Elsewhere, YG Hootie yells abhorrent shit, Slim Dunkin sounds like anthropomorphic cheap whiskey, and the record is about fifteen minutes too long. The highlight might be a girls and weed track, “So Many Things,” which is surprisingly slinky and features the record’s best hook. Flocka even unfurls a slick flow and cleverly shouts out Wiz Khalifa. Ferrari Boyz, disposable as it might be in six months, might be the best 1017 Brick Squad release this year. Parsing it is a fool’s errand because one’s reaction to it hinges on whether or not one enjoys Flocka and a 75% Gucci Mane, but as a fan of their output, it’s been a mainstay in my living room the past few weeks. It’s a frivolous late-summer record in the best sort of way.
Since Ferrari Boyz doesn’t mark the reemergence of Gucci, it’s best viewed as a warm-up for Flocka’s previously-mentioned sophomore effort. One track has leaked from Triple F Life. It’s called “Round of Applause.” It features a Lex Luger beat, and it’s tremendous. Something of a sequel to last year’s blowjob anthem “No Hands,” it’s tempting to give most of the credit to Luger, who provides an understated beat that favors beauty over thundering drums and castle-sized synths, but at some point chemistry this palpable begets an equal partnership. No one sounds better over top-flight Luger production than Flocka. Maybe Brick Squad had two savants the whole time. If Slim Dunkin’s next mixtape is earth-shattering, God might have an aneurysm.