In a post-Sheen world, Gucci Mane’s personal issues seem almost quaint. But the Georgia rapper made plenty of his own bizarre headlines in the past year. He was released from jail after a probation violation; arrested again after a series of “Grand Theft Auto”-type driving moves; institutionalized; and then famously celebrated his release by getting a tattoo of an ice-cream cone on his face. Despite all this chaos, he remained ultra-prolific, releasing a new album or mixtape roughly every time there was a new moon. But underground gangsta rap’s vulgar, mush-mouthed king of nonsense seemed to lose his touch over time.
His new album, “The Return of Mr. Zone 6,” is being hailed as a return to form, but that’s an oxymoron when it comes to Gucci. A return to formless would be the best result. After dalliances with A-list producers Neptunes and Swizz Beatz, Gucci re-teams with longtime collaborator Drumma Boy, who provides the slow, synth-heavy beats that work best with Gucci’s dissociative ramblings. It’s hard to make out much more than expletives through his stilted style and garbled delivery, but that’s a large part of Gucci’s appeal. “I’m a carnivore / I’m a dinosaur / You’re a herbivore / I use [unknown] [unknown] you never heard before,” he mumbles on “Shout Out to My Set,” as usual offering listeners a chance to fill in their own non sequitur.
But more than a comeback, “The Return of Mr. Zone 6” may mark the official passing of the torch from Gucci to his friend Waka Flocka Flame as King of the Incomprehensible. On an album full of collaborations, it’s Waka’s guest turns on “This Is What I Do” and “Pancakes” that provide the best moments. The frenzied background hollering of “Waka! Flocka!” that follows him from song to song has become the greatest leitmotif in music, and the hope is that the pair’s upcoming full-album collaboration lands on the ideal combination of shout and slur.
Recommended tracks: “This Is What I Do,” “Pancakes”