It’s easy to give Gucci Mane his flowers now. The 41-year-old Atlanta trailblazer’s innovations to trap music set the stage for everyone from Vince Staples and 21 Savage to Young Thug and Young Dolph; pick any Atlanta rapper out of a hat and they wouldn’t be here without Radric Davis.
But revising history sometimes glosses over the trials and tribulations Gucci faced during his prolific mixtape run. He had plenty of detractors pointing out his sliding, mushy flow as a signifier of the death of “real hip hop,” a tired cliché resurrected anytime a rapper tries something different than boom-bap “rappity rap.”
But Gucci’s biggest obstacle was the police, who did everything in their power to disrupt Davis’ ascent, finally catching him slipping after other shorter jail stints with a weapons charge that resulted in a two-year prison stint.
Gucci’s output post-prison has been mixed at best. He’s made albums that returned him to the mainstream eye, such as the pop-rap compromise Mr. Davis while also flashing the fun-loving Gucci that endeared him to millions, like on The Return Of East Atlanta Santa.
However, at times, it seems he’s either released bogged down filler mixtapes with sparse moments of brilliance (Gucci Mane Presents: So Icy Summer), inferior sequels of beloved projects (Woptober 2) or middling efforts that play it too safe (Evil Genius). Frankly, with the sheer amount of material released, it’s unsurprising listeners have decided to pass on a few Gucci projects in the past few years.
But on Ice Daddy, whether it’s because of the pandemic delaying music releases and halting shows, the boost from his classic WWE-storyline esque Verzuz battle with former rival Jeezy or the presence of his up-and-coming 1017 signees, Gucci sounds re-invigorated and ready to take on all who disrespect his pioneer status.
Either by accident or a symbol of his new status as a mentor, Gucci yields the spotlight on the opening track “Poppin,” allowing newcomer BigWalkDog to introduce himself to the masses. He makes the most of his opportunity, rapping with the ferocity of a caged dog breaking through the confines of a metal cage.
Budding star Pooh Shiesty acts as the Kobe Bryant to Gucci’s Shaquille O’Neal (before the falling out, obviously) on “34 & 8,” where they take turns elevating from the key and dunking on their opps. Their matched energy proves Gucci has found a mentee to take over when he hangs it up, like David Robinson ceding the keys to Tim Duncan.
But Gucci Mane doesn’t reserve the spotlight for his labelmates. He connects with direct descendants of his rap coaching tree, like Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid pulling up to the club with John Harbaugh and Sean McDermott. His presence results in superstar rappers delivering vintage performances as if they’re back in the lunchroom cyphers where they used to rap like Gucci.
Lil Uzi offers adlibs straight out of The Perfect Luv Tape era on “I Got it,” as Gucci creeps in for a short and smooth altruistic brag session. On “Trap Shit,” Lil Baby slides alongside Gucci with a rolling mumble flow in a full-circle moment where the current leader of modern Atlanta trap rap meets the Godfather.
While the features add some flair to the project, the best songs come when Gucci is given space to stunt on his haters. He reflects on his success while dispelling any and all rumors of his brokenness on “Dboy Style,” coming with his signature sliding flow in a way back machine performance from the king of street mixtapes in the late ’00s. He continues the nostalgia tour with his most introspective track “Lately,” rapping with the intensity of a sleeping lion who’s been awoken by incoming challengers to his throne.
“N-ggas talkin’ down on me like they ain’t bought no bricks from me/Suckers tryna clown me like they never hit no licks with me (Ha).”
There are some instances where the features don’t mesh and Gucci reverts to autopilot raps. “Posse on Bouldercrest” ends up underwhelming despite the strange but intriguing combo of Gucci, Pooh Shiesty and a repeating spoken-word chorus from the lover of the bodacious behind Sir Mix-A-Lot. The album also ends on a whimper with an understated and phoned-in performance from Gucci on “How I See It,” where he runs out of steam after a mostly smooth run.
If fans didn’t like him before, naturally they won’t love Ice Daddy. But for the people who used to download shady links off now defunct websites and bump OJ Da Juiceman unironically (AYE!), this is the best Gucci has sounded in years and a welcome return to form from a legend who’s finally getting the respect he deserves.
WE NEED the Old Gucci mane back ASAP .. this man really just released some MID #Clone
— Problematic (@MrProblematicTV) June 18, 2021
Gucci mane can put out a million projects and ima listen to EVERY GAHDAMN ONE!! Keep working wop!!!
— #DirtyMackMillitant (@GetYaBarsOffPod)🇩🇴🇵🇷 (@The_Marketable1) June 18, 2021
Gucci mane dropped a fire ass album and nobody talking about it smh
— FOREIGNWHIPCRASHER RICH ⛹️♂️ (@335iRich) June 18, 2021