Before he fell off the deep end, went to jail three times in the past year and got a tattoo on his face, Gucci Mane couldn’t be touched. He adapted his mush-mouthed flow to just about any beat, crafting raps so absurd that the listener couldn’t help but bowing to his Dadaist brilliance. He was in the rarefied territory that Cam’ron was in circa his legendary Purple Haze, and his 1017 Bricksquad crew served essentially the same role that Cam’ron’s Diplomats did, adding thug gravitas to the bizarro-world surrounding them.
A funny thing happened during one of Gucci’s many incarcerations, however. One of his umpteen protégés, Waka Flocka Flame, stepped in and made an album that in many ways changed the face of Southern Rap, taking Gucci Mane’s fantastical gangsta utopia and punching it in the face. Waka wanted no part in anything that wasn’t directly related to his own physical world, which consisted more or less of senseless violence and a disregard for human life in any form. And screaming. Lots and lots of screaming.
Well, you know the saying. Birds (or is it “BURRds?”) of a feather tend to flock(a) together, and once Gucci Mane was out of jail for maybe ten minutes, he and Waka, being the two most famous members of their crew, were almost financially obligated to make an album together. That album is Ferrari Boyz.
The startling revelation, here, is Waka Flocka Flame, who has sneakily managed to become at least as compelling as his 1017 Brick Squad general. This album shows Waka coming into his own and finding his voice, sculpting a style that positions him as something of a Southern M.O.P. You’ve got to wonder if Flocka feels sort of like how Darth Vader did when he realized he could kick Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ass. I am the master, indeed.
Ferrari Boyz often sounds like a Waka Flocka solo disc that features Gucci Mane on every single song. Between the duo, Waka’s lines tend to be the ones that stick with you the most. Whether it’s him bragging, “My bank account got commas in it” on the album’s title track or enthusiastically letting out, “White fans scream, ‘Waka Flocka, you rad!” on “In My Business,” Waka has a penchant for howling ridiculous lines at the volume of an armed banshee, and half the fun lies in trying to figure out if he’s kidding.
Gucci Mane, on the other hand, mostly sounds like somebody slipped him a bunch of Ambien before he went in the booth. The Gucci of yore does, of course, rear his head every once and a while, as he does on the squirmy banger “In My Business.” In his opening verse, he talks shit about Volvo drivers, gently reminds us that he “owns things,” and finally settles the question of whether or not he’s a blogger (he’s not). To his credit, Waka tries to retaliate by rapping with his newfound speed and intensity, and his delivery on “In My Business” is almost so good you don’t notice that he doesn’t actually say anything of note. Almost.
The album works best when the dynamic duo finds a beat that gives them enough room to each do their thing, and is interesting enough to pick up the slack whenever the rapping sags. “Mud Musik” is one of those songs. Waka Flocka discusses drinking something called “mud” that, according to his basso profundo, profoundly fucks its drinker up, and Gucci’s sleepings pills wear off long enough for him to assume a double-time flow and call himself “DUI,” which is awesome and also really confusing. It’s got a spacey, hypnotizing beat that if not for its crunkily crunk hi-hats and chintzy, synthesized horns, could pass for something that the weirdos over at Anticon might rap over. Heck, with Lil B recently appearing on Sole’s new album Hello Cruel World, speculating about such a collaboration might not be so far out of line. 1017 Brick Squad/Anticon. Now that would be a joint album to get excited for.