Firstly: no, BAYTL is not a joke. Gucci Mane has released an album--not a mixtape, but an album, as in something that people are supposed to pay for-- with V-Nasty, comment-thread lightning rod and associate of Oakland-based viral sensation Kreayshawn. The out-of-nowhere pairing was announced last month by a new venture between Vice and Warner Bros, and here it is. All that’s left to do is scratch our heads and wonder why.
V-Nasty, who is white, caught a lot of flack earlier this year for using the n-word in her raps. In a Youtube interview (a screenshot of which adorns the cover of BAYTL), V-Nasty waxed unrepentant and incoherent about her appropriation of the slur. “Y’all ain’t never seen where I came from,” V-Nasty says in the video, “How can you act a race?” The irony of someone from a crew called “The White Girl Mob” trying to rise above racial differences within hip hop shouldn’t be lost on anyone with a working brain. It’s obvious that if V-Nasty and Kreayshawn weren’t white, the conversation about them and their music would be significantly diminished, if not nonexistent. Whether V-Nasty is simply stupid or deliberately using her race as a wedge issue/calling card is up for debate, but given that there are so many points during her raps -- the line “How a white girl more hood than David Banner?” is a notable example -- where she draws attention to her whiteness, one has to wonder about her intentions.
Irrespective of how aware V-Nasty is of the racial game she’s playing, she’s at least backed down from using the n-word: the word appears exactly zero times in her verses on BAYTL. But that hardly redeems her as a rapper, because as a rapper she’s pretty much irredeemable. Her voice cracks, she yelps like a beat dog, she loses the beat, she uses the same end-rhyme-heavy flow that results in one forehead-slap non sequitur after another. Some of her more embarrassing couplets include “Hold up, I’m way better than the average/In my city, I ain’t nothin’ but a savage” and “I’m a bitch but I rock like a male/ Last place you gonna see me is in a cell,” but V-Nasty’s raps stream from such a mother lode of badness that you can pick any line of hers from random and be assured that it’s laugh-out-loud awful.
What makes BAYTL really frustrating is the fact that besides V-Nasty’s appearances, the album has a chance to be excellent. Gucci Mane may have been a mess creatively the past year or so, but here he’s rapping with much of the mush-mouthed, indolent swagger that had the Internet going nuts back in 2009. Subject-wise, he hasn’t changed at all, remaining in the cars-jewelry-drugs-women arena, but he raps with uncanny rhythmic precision and that typically wide-open and wacky worldview -- rhyming Prada, Harlem Globetrotter, waddle, Harry Potter and enchilada during a particularly inspired run of “I’m Loaded.” If Gucci’s ice-cream facejob has prevented us from anticipating a full-fledged comeback, BAYTL is at least a remember of his immense talents on the mic.
BAYTL marks Gucci Mane’s reunion with the producer Zaytoven, who produced many of Gucci’s early tapes but who seemed to have been ignored recently in favor of Lex Luger and his army of pounding synthesizers. Zaytoven’s affectedly low-budget beats sizzle, pop, and burn, and Gucci sounds much more at home than he ever did amid Luger’s throbbing clamor. You almost get the feeling that Zaytoven and Gucci are taking the opportunity to make an album for what it’s worth, and trying their best to ignore V-Nasty. But for a video that shows V-Nasty and Gucci in the studio, you might think that the album is literally phoned in, because Gucci barely mentions V-Nasty, Oakland, or the White Girl Mob in any of this verses. You would think he would take a song called “White Girl” to say something about his inter-racial collaboration, but instead he fills the song with more tried-and-true double entendres about slinging cocaine.
One has to hope that V-Nasty’s career is nearly finished, but in this garbage-fueled era it’s easy to imagine her conning her way on to a reality TV show, or the album of some other established artist desperate for buzz. If there is any justice in the world, Zaytoven will leak the beats for BAYTL as well as Gucci’s verses, and some enterprising bedroom DJ will splice together a V-Nasty-less version. Meanwhile Gucci and Zaytoven can collect their checks from Warner Bros/Vice and pretend this project never happened.