Top 7 Best Gucci Mane Mixtapes
Need a primer on Gucci Mane? Here are the inimitable Atlanta rapper's most essential mixtapes.
Gucci Mane is a new man. He exercises every day. He talks fashion with "Vogue." He eats kale. And with his new studio album "Everybody Looking," the new Gucci's back and he's not going anywhere.
The album, his ninth, was written while incarcerated and recorded immediately after his release. It's an incredibly mature collection that finds his Southern drawl and buoyant flow less muddy, much sharper and shockingly clearheaded.
This time, Gucci wants us to know exactly what he's rapping about. The guest spots — featuring Drake, Kanye West and Young Thug, as well as production from longtime collaborators Mike WiLL Made-It and Zaytoven — speak not to Gucci's desire for contemporary co-signs, but to the gravitational pull centering around his towering influence. These days, everybody's looking and everybody wants a piece.
But to truly understand Gucci's influence on rap music, we have to go underground. With the trap wars of the mid-00s long since won by Gucci (condolensces to T.I. and Jeezy), we're only just now starting to fully comprehend the scope of Gucci's pull. The shadow he casts over and outside of Atlanta is so long, so pervasive, so all-enveloping that younger crowds don't even realize how much Young Thug, Waka Flocka Flame, Future, Migos and many others owe their careers to Guwop, whether through mentoring, co-signing, collaboration or through style-copping alone.
Most of Gucci's impact was done in the streets and it manifested most tangibly in his mixtapes. With the mixtape world having blown up to insane proportions over the last several years, some might find it surprising that no one has quite matched Gucci's dominance and masterful (ab)use of the format (and that includes Lil B). But Gucci's absurd prolificacy is simply unprecedented: his run of 20 or so tapes from 2006 to 2009 continues to be a high-water mark for rap music and with roughly 50 more tapes released since then (with over two dozen released while in prison), Gucci has shown that the path he helped pave is as reflective of his artistry as his business savvy.
Highlighting just a handful out of roughly 70 Gucci mixtapes is an arduous task— an almost criminal one. But after much suffering and great hardship, we managed to pull something together. These are the essential Gucci Mane mixtapes you need to hear right now. And be sure to check out RBMA Radio this week as it touches down in Atlanta for a week of ATL-focused programming and events, including Patchwerk, the famous studio where Gucci has made many classics.
7. "Mr. Zone 6" (2010)
Not all of Gucci's mixtapes are designed with cohesion in mind. Tapes like "Mr. Perfect," "Bird Flu" and "Bird Money," for example, are somewhat dumping grounds for leftover and re-released/reworked tracks. But then we get something like "Mr. Zone 6." Released in 2010, this DJ Drama-hosted 16-tracker is airtight from top to bottom with Gucci experimenting more than ever with his flow, contorting his simplified trap delivery and Dozens-style braggadocio into new, twisted shapes.
In fact, "Mr. Zone 6" has earned a reputation as the best showcase of Gucci's technical talents as a rapper. Which was a big deal: Gucci, at the time, got a lot of flak for his perceived lack of skill, with purists unable to wrap their heads around the trap sound. (They're still trying to, actually.) The score is mostly settled now, but at the time, "Mr. Zone 6" was Gucci's big, bold artistic rejoinder.
Download: Gucci Mane, "Mr. Zone 6"
6. "Free Bricks" [with Future] (2011)
Gucci Mane's not just a rapper — he's a brilliant scouter and he proved this when he dropped his collaboration with Future way back in 2011, roughly a year before Future released his debut, "Pluto." The tape features a young, mostly unknown Future, who was only just getting his flow in order. It's shaky and rough, sure, but it shows just how rooted his now much-revered, much-copied style is in Atlanta trap aesthetics. Gucci, meanwhile, was still peaking, flaunting some of his best bars on the tape's final track, "Go For It." But Gucci also complemented Future's flow with both maturity and respect, never trying to dominate the proceedings.
Up until this point, Gucci had two joint mixtapes under his belt, "Guapaholics" with Shawty Lo and "Definition of a G" with Yo Gotti. After "Free Bricks," things opened up considerably, with joint tapes alongside everyone from Rich Homie Quan, PeeWee Longway and Chief Keef, to Young Scooter, Young Dolph and Young Thug. With more collaborations lined up for the future, including one with Drake, the tradition moves forward.
Download: Gucci Mane & Future, "Free Bricks"
5. "World War 3" trilogy ("Molly," "Gas," and "Lean") (2013)
One of the greatest things about Gucci is his willingness to get conceptual, to zoom out from the niche concerns of mixtape culture and make big, risky statements. The "World War 3" trilogy was one of them. Dropped in August 2013, the tape echoed his other franchise releases like "The Movie," "The Cold War," "Ice Attack," "Bird Flu" and "Meal Ticket." Separated by his vices and a corresponding producer — "Molly" was with Metro Boomin, "Gas" with 808 Mafia, and "Lean" with Zaytoven — the tapes signaled Gucci's ability to stay both on top of and in touch with the contemporary rap world, despite all odds. Even the guest rappers — Young Dolph, PeeWee Longway, Young Scooter — were from a new, younger generation.
Like most of the two dozen mixtapes released while in prison, the "World War 3" trilogy was culled from the Brick Factory vaults and compiled with help by longtime engineer Sean Paine. The series got a reprise of sorts the following year, when Gucci released three color-themed solo albums from Migos (green), Young Thug (purple) and PeeWee Longway (white). Gucci's influence, then, clearly isn't limited to his own artistry; it also speaks to his curation abilities and not even confinement could stop him from creating a sense of community and cohesion in Atlanta rap.
4. "Chicken Talk" (2006)
"Chicken Talk" is significant for being Gucci's first mixtape, but it also played a significant role in his unique ascent in the rap game. The monster 25-track tape was released right around the time that his second studio album, the Zaytoven-produced "Hard to Kill," was dropped in October 2006. But while the latter could be found in record stores courtesy of Big Cat and Tommy Boy, "Chicken Talk" was for the streets, at one point literally being sold out of the trunk of DJ Burn One's car in a mall parking lot.
On this release, Gucci flaunts classic mid-00s trap, with his unique rhyme schemes and slurred flow just beginning to foment. It's rough, dirty and lovingly lopsided. It's also a true endurance test. In this sense, "Chicken Talk" is neither a good entry point nor a proper example of Gucci's talents, but its bass and hook heavy aesthetic kickstarted one of the most dizzying mixtape runs in rap's history. It was, in short, a statement of purpose, and everyone — including Jeezy, who was called out on it — was listening.
Download: Gucci Mane, "Chicken Talk"
3. "Writing on the Wall" (2009)
One benefit of releasing music at such a frantic, breakneck pace is that any stylistic changes that occur sound natural and organic. But listen to "Writing on the Wall" immediately after Gucci's debut tape "Chicken Talk" (a flash-forward that jumps two and a half years and 12 mixtapes) and you can clearly hear just how much Gucci had evolved as an artist. His voice in 2009 was arguably its most masterful and realized; it was less rough and diffuse, more urgent and exploratory, his bizarre enunciations trumped by his emphasis on intonation and cadence.
If "Writing on the Wall" represents anything, then, it's that the quintessential Gucci — the Gucci that most of us know best and love most — never settled to get where he was. And by the time this mixtape came out, released after a string of compilation tapes while he was serving time, Gucci was back on top of the mixtape game, blanketing us in his warm Southern presence.
Download: Gucci Mane, "Writing on the Wall"
2. "No Pad, No Pencil" (2007)
While the critical apparatus has somehow forgotten the impact of "No Pad, No Pencil," the mixtape was huge at the time. Gucci himself called it one of his "biggest mixtapes" (it was his first mixtape to chart) and it remains a cult favorite today. Wonderfully hyped throughout by Supastar J. Kwik, "No Pad, No Pencil" showed that Guwop didn't need to write his lyrics down, boasting a bevy of trap bangers balanced by a no-pad, no-pencil freestyle approach. In fact, it was even an ad-lib that resulted in Mike WiLL Made-It's moniker. Gucci was winging it and we loved it.
The tape, which was recorded in just a few days, came out a month after his third studio album "Trap-A-Thon" (October) and a month before his fourth, "Back to the Trap House" (December), the last capping off an astonishing string of five releases in a four-month period (including "Guapaholics" with Shawty Lo). Perhaps it was Gucci's rift with Atlantic that in part precipitated the padding of these two studio albums with three mixtapes — the label had been messing with Gucci's tracklist choices — which eventually led to Gucci partnering with Warner Bros./Asylum. Their loss, of course. As they would soon find out, Gucci was just getting started.
Download: Gucci Mane, "No Pad, No Pencil"
1. "The Burrprint (The Movie 3D)" (2009)
Let's get real: There really is no definitive Gucci Mane release. Gucci's not about dropping end-all, be-all releases — he's about documenting the hedonistic moment, about keeping the party going, about finding value in transition. But two months before he finally released his major label debut, the gold-certified "The State vs. Radric Davis," Gucci dropped a DJ Drama-hosted mixtape called "The Burrprint (The Movie 3D)" and it's about as definitive as you can get.
The production — handled brilliantly by Zaytoven, Drumma Boy, Shawty Reed, and more — was top-notch, tense, dramatic and oh so icy. It was the perfect platform for its comparatively modest guestlist to sprawl out with their vicious rhymes, from OJ da Juiceman and Waka Flocka Flame to Bun B and Rocko. For his part, Gucci was on a whole other level for this tape, spewing out intense bars and memorable hooks with trademark ease, hurtling through the tracks as if already on a victory lap — "from rookie to MVP to veteran of the game," as he put it. Gucci never sounded hungrier and his 1017 Brick Squad team never more in the zone.
As solid as the mixtape is, "The Burrprint (The Movie 3D)" was still a transitional release. It marked the last installment in his "Movie" series and the first in his "Burrprint" series, and it saw the rapper pivoting even further into the mainstream spotlight. As if to further prove the point, just one week later, Gucci released the gigantic "Cold War" trilogy. Yep, Gucci clearly doesn't fit into your typical career arc but whether it's a mixtape, EP, major label album or guest spot, Gucci goes all in. The coldest in the game, hands down.