"I dropped my biggest album in jail. That's the story of my life: money problems, haters, liars, lawsuits..." says Gucci Mane on the recorded-by-phone introduction to the DJ Holiday-hosted Burrrprint (2) HD. As a snack to the second album in his trilogy, The Appeal, the Atlanta trap star speaks the truth. With his greatest chart success, a slew of late '09 features and a seeming truce in a once near-fatal feud between him and Young Jeezy, Gucci's destiny correlates his rap sheet. With presumed State vs. Radric Davis leftovers produced by Drumma Boy and Fatboi, this release has album potential, marred by its defiantly mixtape treatment.
A decade ago, labels did everything in their power to stop the mixtape. By the midpoint of those last 10 years, the labels used the mixtapes as a promotional tool for buzzing artists, and pre-album marketing. Burrrprint (2) HD marks the full change, as a major label with their flagship Rap artist goes and releases a Top 20-selling retail mixtape as a nationally-distributed product, complete with annoying drops, distractions and non-HD quality.
Some of Burrrprint (2) has the polish of The State vs. Radric Davis. While this material is geared towards a core fan-base, "Coca Cola" has single appeal, as the Brick Squad posse cut also includes Nicki Minaj, Yo Gotti and fellow ATL native Rocko. At just under nine minutes, Gucci's signature vocal timing and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor drives the track, as he chronicles money laundering and how Atlanta's other coke bought him all his toys. Minaj book-ends the track, with one of her harder 2010 verses, taking it back the days of D in her knapsack. The Trey Songz-assisted "Beat It Up" is another album-worthy record, largely due to Drumma's eerie production and Songz' accents to the beat. DJ Holiday however, won't let it breathe, and the record is choked by ad-libs and self-promotion. Some of these inconsiderate actions to the listener force one to ponder how much of a last minute decision it was to make this mixtape retail?
Countless Gucci answering machine drops and artist testimony does not help the cause. Despite a revealing intro, this collection of songs is frequently arrested by fanfare and the kinds of things heard on the tapes that made Gucci famous, but seem extra by now. "Gucci On The Rise" is a rushed cover of Young Jeezy's 2006 cut "J.E.E.Z.Y." combined with non-stop Paper Trail "yeah, boy!" ad-libs, confusing any believer in Gucci's lyrical identity. Records like "911 Emergency" and "Shining For No Apparent Reason" lack the show-stealing production heard in a handful of other songs, and merely feel like Gucci verses rubber-cemented onto predictable trap-house beats. Much of Burrrprint's sequel makes use of what was available, but one has to question if keeping audio updates on Gucci's catalog was worth compromising quality and brushing aside, what many believe to be his 2009 mainstream breakthrough.
Fifteen years since Slick Rick released his aptly-titled Behind Bars, the label strategy remains the same, but the presentation paradigm sure has shifted. Whether X-Raided, Shyne or MC Ricky D, no artist has been able to make a classic album while in prison, or with pre-jail leftovers. "Classic" was hardly the intention here, but as Gucci Mane's brand reverts back to the mixtape methods that made him a star, he departs from the kind of quality, dominance and lyrical nuance that it will take to keep him there. The enduring material here is muddied by the interludes, the hosting and the lack of quality. However, from the extensive guest-list and impressive production contribution, the incarcerated Gucci takes a page from Shawshank Redemption, as the trap star is "a man who knows how to get things."