Free Gucci II: The Burrrtish Edition Mixtape
By Colin McGowan | 24 March 2011
I’m not sure how well this worked the first time. By “this” I refer to Diplo’s attempt to throw Gucci Mane’s warbling bars atop dubstep and the Georgia native’s full-length from last year, The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted. Because when the first volume of Free Gucci was operating at its apex, it was largely the doing of the glossy slow-motion stuff in the vein of “Danger’s Not a Stranger (Diplo Remix)” and “Dope Boys (Bird Peterson Remix).” When things got too frantic or sludgy or weird like on, say, DZ’s reworking of “I Be Everywhere,” Free Gucci was pretty grating. And The Appeal was alright and everything, but Gucci will never be fully comfortable operating in the major label album format. So, Free Gucci II is the marriage of a semi-functional premise utilizing tracks selected from a serviceable album. Color me tepid.
One of the appeals of Gucci’s mixtape work, and a main reason why he sometimes sounds out of place over major label production, is the way in which the basement-level production values of many of his recordings fit him superbly. Few rappers—perhaps Wayne on a good day—sound better over sparse blips and 808s than Gucci. His sleepdrunk flow is alternately nimble and dominant; he sort of bulldozes a track while simultaneously slipping beneath its fault lines and scratching its underbelly. The dubstep that’s so prevalent on Free Gucci II doesn’t fit him nearly as well. His vocals sound garbled and they occasionally get lost in the burbling hum of the productions.
Toddla T’s subsumes Gucci in all kinds of whirring and blips on his remix of “Trap Talk,” even opting to filter the vocals and allowing some dude named Slick Don to clumsily snooze his way through the track’s second half. This is the variety of cannibalization that cannot even be dubbed “interesting.” Half of the tape, in its attempt to provide a grimy backdrop for Gucci’s voice, just sounds garish and causes that voice to act as another annoying instrument in a cacophonous melange. Speaking of also-rans like Slick Don, these remixes also serve as an excuse to append Gucci’s tracks with verses from mediocre British rappers. The only noticeably skilled emcee who appears on this compilation is Wiley, who sleepwalks his way through a remix of “Remember When” that can’t seem to decide whether it’s aiming for ethereal or sonorous and due to its indecision sits as a pool of muddled pap.
The best light in which one can view Free Gucci II is as an experiment, and like any valuable experiment it yields a handful of worthwhile results. Opener “Gucci Time (Sinden Remix)” will snap a few necks; it creates the sort of alternate-universe version of dubstep-y thump for which this collection probably strived. Even the Swizz Beats verse sounds pretty okay (which, note to producers: if you’re going to remix a Swizzy track, you might as well cut out his lousy verses). These New Puritans build their reworking of “Dollar Sign” around a building, melancholy piano that transforms a Gucci “get money” track into a palpably sad anthem. These are the moments when one realizes why this mixtape and projects like it exist. Regardless of the level of success achieved by each beatmaker here, they each transform the work of a hood rapper from Georgia while sitting at a laptop somewhere in London. One just wishes some of those transformations wouldn’t slosh around the ears like the croak of a dying toad.