Gucci Mane, The Return of East Atlanta Santa | Album Review
‘The Return of East Atlanta Santa’ marks the third album released by formerly incarcerated southern rapper, Gucci Mane.
Since his release from prison, southern rapper Gucci Mane has proven himself to be an incredibly prolific artist. His latest project, The Return of East Atlanta Santa, marks the rapper’s third album in 2016. First came Everybody Looking, the sole project of the three to be released traditionally in July. WOPTOBER arrived in October, led by infectious – if ridiculous – single “Bling Blaww Burr.” Unavailable for purchase, WOPTOBER was a streaming exclusive. Now The Return of East Atlanta Santa marks album no. 3 for Gucci, available digitally and for streaming. Initially, Santa as an Apple Music/iTunes exclusive only.
“St. Brick Intro”
“An igloo full of snow and a white stove / House full of naked hos snortin’ blow…” Phew! On “St. Brick Intro,” Gucci embraces his role as Santa…of the hood of course. The opener is creative to say the least, incorporating a minor version of “Jingle Bells” that loops throughout. Lyrically, it lacks transcendent substance, but there’s ample references to drugs, money, and sex.
On “I Can’t,” Gucci is strictly about business. He delivers his rhymes firmly and unapologetically, yet there is poise. He’s cool, calm, and collected – flexing in his confidence.
“They want me to apologize, but I can’t / You can talk about homicides, but I can’t / You pillow-talking to these b*tches, but I can’t / You n*ggas snitchin’ on your partners, but I can’t.”
The trap is alive and well on “Walk on Water,” which boast a hellish, malicious beat. Clearly, blasphemy flourishes, as “Walk on Water” doesn’t sound the least bit celestial or miraculous. Nonetheless, Gucci boasts, “I’m the trap God and I walk on water.” When Jesus walked on water, it was miraculous. In Gucci’s hands, it’s shallow as Hell, “Ear rings, fingers, and they look like water” or not.
“Both” featuring Drake gives The Return of East Atlanta Santa a surefire hit. “Both” doesn’t redeem Gucci after dabbling with false idolatry, but gives him another hard-hitting banger. As usual, Gucci has no filter, referencing his felonies and his conquests. As for Drake, his rhymes are familiar. Perhaps this is because he is ubiquitous. Or, perhaps it’s because he’s ran out of distinct rhymes that deliver a K.O. Nonetheless, he rocks the hook, and “Both” is more vibe than depth.
“Both” gets a pass, but “Stutter” goes low…really low. Essentially, Gucci spends the track rapping about his sexual experience with a girl that remains nameless. Her name isn’t important – shocker. He spends the entirety of “Stutter” objectifying her, and the others who shall remain nameless. Sure, no one looks to Gucci Mane to be the torchbearer for transcendence, but “Stutter” is adequate at best, not truly memorable.
“Drove U Crazy”
“Drove U Crazy” featuring Bryson Tiller keeps things slick, propelled by swagger. Another superstar collaboration, “Drove U Crazy” is enticing despite being devoid of – wait for it – depth. Essentially, Gucci and Bryson Tiller are a match made in urban heaven, even if their respective rhymes are sure to condemn both to hell. But this isn’t moral authority 101, so “Drove U Crazy” ends up being a worthwhile guilty pleasure. 502, represent!
Following “Drove U Crazy,” The Return of East Atlanta Santa loses its oomph. “Crash” is typical Gucci – nothing too flashy, yet sound. The flow is relaxed without being lazy, yet still provides some oomph. Follow-up “Yet” embodies a similar vibe. It’s not a megahit, nor is it a blatant miscue. Mike WiLL Made It handles the boards on “Nonchalant,” where Gucci is “In the strip club chillin’ so nonchalant.” Like “Crash” and “Yet,” the mushed-mouth southern rapper is incredibly nonchalant.
Zaytoven adds his prodigious production skills on “Last Time” featuring Travis Scott. Zay may not be Beethoven, but the production work is dope, and clearly, the best attribute of “Last Time.” Ultimately, “Last Time” is slick, but in-the-long-run, forgettable. Travis Scott doesn’t elevate the joint either.
Another track, a different producer. “Bales” brings Bangladesh (famous for Grammy-winning “A Milli”) along for the ride. Once more, the superb hip-hop producer shows off his skills. Gucci doesn’t do too shabby himself, if “Bales” still feels a shade undercooked. The Return of East Atlanta Santa concludes with the utmost mediocrity with “No Smoke” and “Greatest Show on Earth.” Neither approaches the level of the B-cuts off Everybody Looking.
All in all, The Return of East Atlanta Santa is merely average at best. Midway through, the mediocrity is crystal clear. Compared to Gucci Mane’s most notable album of 2016, Everybody Looking, The Return of East Atlanta Santa falls short. It has its moments – most notably “Both” – but overplays clichés backed by slick, if predictable production. Skip this one, unless you are suffering from a Gucci Mane deficiency.
Gems: “St. Brick Intro,” “Both,” “Drove U Crazy” & “Bales”