Ice Daddy is Gucci Mane at his best, showcasing his ongoing legacy in the ever-changing genre.
There’s a strong case to be made that Ice Daddy, Gucci Mane’s 17th studio album, is the Atlanta rapper’s finest and most consistent work to date. To provide some basic defense for the validity of such a claim, for starters, there really wouldn’t be much other competition in that specific category: while there have certainly been occasional flashes of brilliance throughout the many years Gucci has been building his empire — dropping the oddball song here and there about having sex in crazy places and whatnot — he’s never really been much in the way of an album artist, even whilst dropping 74 mixtapes over his illustrious career. When he was in prison, the excessive amount of music he released saturated his presence so much that he became a cultural punchline. When he was released from prison in 2016 and left a new man, his music suffered from being unfocused and overstuffed, eager to please a new audience expecting a cleaner act.
But something changed in Guwop recently, where he isn’t as interested in working with pop stars anymore, or being as friendly either. Maybe it’s a result of the younger rambunctious talent from his newly re-imaged 1017 Records rubbing off on him — he likens his label to the U.S. military with the line “I don’t sign artists no more, I recruit soldiers” — but either way, this is the new Gucci: machine-like in his efficiency and deadly in his precision. His delivery has gone from unintelligible to relentless, like how he mercilessly rides the beat on “Shit Crazy,” spitting these heavily-punctuated threats that continue to trail off into one another. His image may be cleaner, but don’t let that fool you here; he may now be over 40, but he’s not a dude to fuck with.
If anything, Gucci seems almost ageless as he seamlessly situates himself amongst younger talent, with Lil Baby borrowing Guwop’s signature cadence and flow from the 2000s over “Trap Shit” and Lil Uzi Vert delivering one of his brattiest (even if it’s not one of his best) features on “Got It.” But as the title of the project suggests, this is a family affair: one about fathers and sons, ones who have musically raised a generation and are still alive to reap the rewards. Gucci is this father of sorts, and alongside T.I. and Jeezy, helped to shape the sound of trap music and future generations of aspiring dope boys. The two aforementioned artists are children in this respect, and the entire project has an air of understanding and appreciation for this madman as something of a coveted elder statesman of sorts now, if only by virtue of his sheer longevity. Gucci’s taking stock of his surroundings, but he certainly isn’t getting sentimental; he’s the type of guardian who’s willing to slap his offspring if they act out of line. Those who can rise to the occasion, however, are treated justly.
The most touching moments to this end are found in the current heir of the Bricksquad throne, the foremost pupil under Mr. Zone 6’s tutelage: Pooh Shiesty, featured on the borderline-experimental “Like 34 & 8” (there’s a piano melody that occasionally crashes through for no discernable reason) and oscillating “Posse On Bouldercrest,” shines in passing-the-torch moments that are genuinely touching in their purity of spirit. Both tracks are produced by Mike Will Made It, whose contributions here (along with the likes of Zaytoven and 30 Roc) are inspired in small, but noticeable ways. There are the higher 808 kicks that creep along in “Trap Shit” to liven the mood, or the seemingly endless cocked shotguns that turn “Gucci Coming 4 You” into a living nightmare, or the luxurious horn section that opens “Bust Down” like its star was the biggest act in the world — these are choices which bring the best out in Gucci, made by long-standing beatmakers who regularly bring the best out in him. With this in mind, it might be best to consider Ice Daddy as a successful mixture of traditional practices and new modes of expression. It’s not reinventing the wheel, or even striving to be more than its finite ambitions — yet, if taken with full understanding of those shortcomings, one is left with a sturdy, quality release and one of Gucci’s grandest achievements thus far.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2021 | Part 2.