Trap pioneer and borderline hip-hop legend Gucci Mane is usually known for his impressive and prolific release pace, often dropping multiple projects a year – for better or for worse, as many often display his inconsistencies with a quantity over quality attitude. However, since he’s been focused on compilation projects and promoting some of the new rising stars on his label as of late, Ice Daddy is his first studio album in 2 years, the “regular” pace for most being his longest break since his time in prison between 2013 and 2016. Now on his milestone 15th studio project, the 41-year-old shows absolutely no signs of slowing down or conceding to his proteges, showing that perhaps he should take some time off more often. The longer wait has resulted in his greatest project since 2017’s DropTopWop, his lovable and animated personality and threats hilariously disguised in his easygoing shrug of a voice as strong as ever. With a couple standout beats going the extra mile past your typical trap fare, Ice Daddy’s many highlights rise above the filler.
Gucci Mane has been putting in the work to promote the artists signed to his 1017 label, and it’s really paid off with the surge in popularity we’ve seen from Pooh Shiesty this year – although Shiesty does appear on two tracks in the early goings of the project, Gucci takes the opening track to provide a showcase for one of his lesser-known artists in BigWalkDog, essentially giving him the opening track on his project and contributing a single verse. It might pay off in the same way – it’s one of the greatest tracks here, BigWalkDog sounding almost like a more amped-up Gucci with his relentless flows and infectious southern accent. The stuttered piano embellishments in the back give the whole thing an air of grandiosity, Gucci and his producers once again making trap sound like something big and important instead of the standard-issue musical default. Pooh Shiesty makes his appearance on both “Posse On Bouldercrest” and “Like 34 & 8,” his drawl complementing Gucci’s more clean and surgical approach. The former track brings the one and only Sir Mix-A-Lot on board to yell its title a couple times, an innovative and futuristic synth sound backing up Gucci’s rhymes. He goes for some almost too-obvious rhymes and flow patterns here, but that’s why we love him – you can always count on Gucci to deliver classic rap thrills with one of the best and most charismatic deliveries in the game. As for Shiesty, his tendency to fall off the beat is exposed a little more on “34 & 8,” without as strong of an instrumental as “Bouldercrest.”
The parade of 1017 artists in the first couple tracks continues with an appearance from BIG30 on the track “S**t Crazy,” a brief but hard-hitting track where BIG30’s quotable chorus stands out as Gucci continues to coast smoothly over his southern trap beats – it feels like he’s on auto-pilot, but in a strangely good way. Gucci has been doing this for so long that sometimes he sounds bored of it, but when you give him a great beat, he knows exactly how to handle it and the fire comes back. While he’s smart to showcase his artists early on, the features on the remainder of the project can easily make or break the tracks, since we essentially know what to expect from Gucci on every track. While there are some great ones in the album’s back half, Lil Baby blends in with a Gucci impression on the otherwise bombastic southern banger “Trap S**t” and Lil Uzi Vert provides the project’s weakest feature on the track “I Got It.” The decision to pair him with Gucci Mane is a truly strange one – his hyperactive, giddy energy is almost the exact opposite, and he clearly misses his cartoonish and colourful beats, his zaniness not fitting in with Gucci’s wheelhouse. The solo Gucci tracks become the ones to look forward to, “Dboy Style” being one of the easy highlights. Hearing Gucci in his calmest possible voice, drawing out his syllables at the end of his sentences and throwing in a couple funny and memorable bars can be one of hip-hop’s greatest comfort foods when done right. The track “Rich N***a S**t,” as well, finds him in fine form with some outlandish flexes and personality-driven bars.
The album transitions into its second half with three tracks in a row that see Gucci linking up with one of his fellow middle-aged rap titans. “Top of S**t” unites two of the genre’s most charismatic and infectious personalities and brings 2 Chainz on board for a verse that could have been longer, but the two both do what they do best and ham it up over a catchy piano loop and some elongated trap hi-hat rolls that amp the energy up. Gucci makes up the word “two-faceded.” It’s a delightful collaboration. Two world collide on “Never Runnin Out Of Money” as Bay Area king E-40 makes an appearance, Gucci speeding up his flow and pulling off some more rhythmically impressive verses to match the erratic style of his collaborator. The singsong chorus doesn’t fit as well over the darker instrumental here, but both rappers deliver standout verses. The project’s two weakest tracks come back-to-back – Project Pat’s appearance on “Fold Dat Money Up” isn’t the reason why, more so Gucci’s laid-back flows going one step too far into a territory resembling apathy, while “Gucci Coming 4 You” is essentially unlistenable. A cocking gun is interspersed into the beat, the rhythms not quite lining up and becoming headache-inducing as it persists throughout the track, which isn’t much better conceived and finds Gucci playing off of the classic Nightmare on Elm Street “one, two…” chant.
Ice Daddy winds down with some more classic Gucci-isms, the instrumental quirks along the way keeping things interesting throughout. “Invoices” is one of the more creative flips here, turning what appears to be a French accordion sample into a creeping, menacing trap beat, while “Live at the Red Carpet” keeps the energy high as Gucci plays off of a fiery appearance from Peewee Longway. “Bust Down” follows the formula of the trap banger featuring a blaring horn section, but the gang vocals on the anthemic and repetitive chorus elevate this one to something that should be blasting in the clubs as soon as they open back up – as a side note, Gucci rhymes “bust down” with “butt, wow” in a completely characteristic move. Closing tracks “Lately” and “How I See It” don’t quite hit the same heights, Gucci offering some more introspective material and toning down his voice, but he never turns off the charm.
The last Gucci project I reviewed formally was late 2018’s Evil Genius, and this project is a huge step back in the right direction. Gucci always kills it on features as a jovial diversion, and usually leaves us wondering why he can’t translate that energy to a full-length album. He’s essentially done it here, and with some great features along for the ride, this is his best project in recent memory.
Favourite Tracks: Poppin, Dboy Style, Top Of S**t, Posse On Bouldercrest, S**t Crazy
Least Favourite Track: Gucci Coming 4 You