Gucci Mane Showcases Emerging Trap Talent on Double Album ‘So Icy Summer’

Just last year, Gucci Mane released a proper album, “Delusions of Grandeur,” as well as two themed mixtapes continuing threads begun years earlier. Perhaps his book, “The Gucci Mane Guide to Greatness,” out later this year, might reveal the secret to such productivity. For the present moment, he has treated us to “So Icy Summer,” a 24-track project that showcases artists on his “The New 1017” label. The first half consists of Gucci Mane tracks with a slew of high profile features, while the second division features tracks by three up and coming rappers: Pooh Shiesty, Foogiano, and Big Scarr. Altogether, the release shows some new sides of Gucci and introduces some formidable new hip-hop talent.

From the onset, the album takes far more liberties than Gucci’s typical fare, with tracks allowed to take shape around the various featured rappers’ colorful personalities. Future and relative newcomer Foogiano dart around hand drums on the infectious, but decidedly loony opener “Step Out.” Young Thug takes over with all his usual theatrical bent on “Rain Shower,” managing to flesh the central line, “My bitch got more jewelry than your partners,” into over three minutes of detail, and squealing his lyrics like only he can. Lead single “Both Sides” puts rapping front and center, with Lil Baby and Gucci each representing their own hoods, and warning about the dangers of wavering in one’s allegiance. Lil Baby’s delivery is more taunting and Gucci’s more somber, as they run through threats. “Nasty” delves further into the gritty details of an urban underworld, with a triple attack from Gucci, Young Nudy, and 21 Savage. Each raps with the same cadence, but spins it into something all of his own. Nudy wails and winces more, and Gucci enunciates his words with a certain old school precision, while Savage is raw direct.  

“Breasto” is an absolute highlight, showcasing Gucci in all his mad rapping genius. The way he falls into a meditative flowstate and packages syllables together into slick soundbites that keep coming is on full display here, over a barebones beat. “Left on Read” is another standout from a female voice, So Icy Girlz. The title comes from the climactic line, “Seen your last message and I left it on read,” a timely way of sticking it to someone, delivered with unsparing, ratchet gusto. “Iran” features a refrain of “I’m not going to Iran,” which takes a bit of listening to deconstruct. What Gucci means is that he never backs down, and would therefore never say “I ran.” In spite of all its gory and sordid detail, this strain of music can be quite winsomely childlike. It seeps into the sound too. “Gucci Land” picks the pace up from the usual trap tempo, and Gucci falls into another of his possessed states. Some of his flows spurt out like nursery rhymes that come in structured stanzas with meter schemes, and roll off the tongue with a fitting cartoonish flair.

On “Freakiest in the World,” Young Thug riffs off the first line from Rick James’ “Superfreak,” and engages in a spirited back-and-forth over a silly loop. Then, “Lifers” rebounds to serious trap stylings, and hits hard after all the drivelry. Foogiano and two other rappers, Key Glock and Ola Runt, trade animated Three Six Mafia-style verses of the grimmest fare. “Still Remember” gets darker, with creeping piano and creaking hi hats that glitch up to match Gucci’s rhythms, as he tells tales of his gang affiliations.

Five of the second half’s tracks are devoted to Pooh Shiesty. Gucci Mane is generally thought to rap with a Southern drawl, but Shiesty is on another level. Every word is slurred and full of twang, and it adds plenty of flavor to his colorful accounts. On the title track, he fashions rhythmic hooks out of insider criminal jargon  On “Main Slime (Remix)” he raps about a drug-fueled, nocturnal, murderous existence, over a fittingly foreboding beat. “7.6 God” channels all this experience into more typical bravado. On “Monday and Sunday,” Lil Baby drops one of his signature hooks, and provides an effective counterbalance to Shiesty’s horrorshow fare.

Foogiano has more flair to his rapping, with an animated, squeaky, high register flow that recalls Danny Brown at times. His spoken intonations are so exaggerated that rapped verses can take on something akin to fanciful blues routines. On “Molly (Baby Mama)” and “Trapper,” his non sequiturs can be hard to make sense of, as are his madcap emotional flights, but he puts on a spellbinding performance. “Ballin on a Bitch” finds him trading verses with Gucci, lending his surfeit of energy to more focused efforts. Foogiano’s crowning glory is likely “The Plan,” in which he tells a vivid story about drug dealing, lust, and deception that builds to a thrilling ending.  Two tracks are credited to Big Scarr, although only one is a solo effort. On “Make a Play,” Scarr essentially combines some of Pooh Shiesty’s edge with some of Foogiano’s showmanship, with a commanding flow of his own. And finally, the three personalities appear together on the closer “SolcyBoyz.”

Although “So Icy Summer” can easily come across as too long for its own good, each of the single albums that it comprises forms a rather cohesive whole. The first stands out among Gucci Mane releases for its playful variety. The songs explore different moods and aesthetics, alternating between raw street fare and fanciful, outlandish excursions. There are moments when Gucci is at his absolute best. There is an effective use of star power, and a secondary focus on up and coming players. The second half introduces the listener properly to the formidable bunch of Pooh Shiesty, Foogiano, and Big Scarr and takes on a darker, more uncompromising gangster focus. On the whole, the album delivers an onslaught of trap and associated stylings that is perhaps a bit much, but leaves plenty of colorful personality to return to.

So Icy Summer” is available July 3 on Apple Music.