Gucci Mane is back (again) with a new album, The Return of East Atlanta Santa.
The project is the third installment in Guwop’s holiday series, East Atlanta Santa, and the first he’s released as a free man. It's also his third solo album of 2016 following June’s Everybody Looking and September’s Woptober (not counting the three collaborative projects with Zaytoven, Future and Lil Uzi Vert he’s also released).
A better way to look at The Return of East Atlanta Santa, however, is as Gucci’s first real post-prison album. While Everybody Looking and Woptober were largely written behind bars, this latest project is full of fresh material. “This the album I been wanting to put out since I came home,” Gucci tells Sway. He also calls it his “most confident album ever.”
The supporting cast certainly reflects that. Clocking in at 13 songs, The Return of East Atlanta Santa features production from the likes of Zaytoven, Mike WiLL Made-It and Metro Boomin, as well as guest spots from Drake, Travis Scott and Bryson Tiller. The album boasts more star power than Woptober, but Guwop still shines brightest.
Having talked about wanting to rebuild his 1017 Brick Squad label in 2017, The Return of East Atlanta Santa could be Gucci Mane’s last album for awhile (which, in Guwop years, might only be a few months). But there’s enough here to fill your stockings. Merry Brickmas!
Three Standout Songs (Beyond the Singles “Last Time,” “St. Brick Intro,” “Drove U Crazy” and “Stutter”):
“Both” ft. Drake
After teaming up for “Back On Road” earlier this year, Gucci Mane and Drake reunite on “Both,” and this time we’ve got an actual Drake verse (albeit a short one). Over Metro Boomin and Southside’s icy soundscape, Guwop tips his hat to Toronto while Aubrey namedrops one of The A’s newest stars (“Shout out Yachty but this ain’t a lil boat”). Drake also handles hook duties and sings about the introspection that comes from being drunk and high at the same time (without actually getting introspective), but Gucci holds onto the spotlight with his clever rhymes and dynamic flow.
In case you haven’t caught on by now, the only Christmas-y thing about the East Atlanta Santa series are the project titles. On “Crash,” Gucci Mane is more savage than 21. “I let my pockets do the talking, I ain’t got nothing to say / And if that bitch ain’t pussy popping get the fuck out my face,” he raps over 808 Mafia’s menacing production. Throughout the rest of the song, Guwop focuses all his energy on putting “lil n*ggas” and “lil bitches” in their place. If “All My Children” made Guwop sound like a cool dad, then “Crash” is what happens when you piss him off and turn him into a strict parent. No Christmas presents for you this year.
We already know Gucci Mane doesn’t smoke a pound a day anymore, but don’t worry, this isn’t another anti-drug anthem. Instead, the Honorable C.N.O.T.E.-produced “No Smoke” finds Guwop raining down on all the fake thugs and Instagram flexers with the realness—specifically, his MAK-90 with a telescope. Only a rapper who’s actually killed someone can come up with lines like, “You ain’t made your enemy had to buy his homeboy momma no black roses.”
Like most Gucci Mane albums, The Return of East Atlanta Santa is a mixed bag. The project gets off to a strong start thanks to previously released singles like “St. Brick Intro,” “Stutter” and the Bryson Tiller-assisted “Drove U Crazy.” But the album seems to fizzle out towards the second half, with only “Last Time” and “No Smoke” offering much replay value.
You can tell The Return of East Atlanta is the first album Gucci has written as a fully free man in 2016. Like he says on “Nonchalant,” “All the young n*ggas call me a OG / But I don’t reminisce about the old days.”Everybody Looking was enough prison and Promethazine reflection for Guwop; right now, he’s more concerned with reinstating himself as the rightful Trap God—vicious, vulgar and unapologetic as ever.
The Return of East Atlanta is a more “confident” album than a memorable one, but it’s still a strong finish to Gucci Mane’s homecoming year. Welcome back, Gooch.
By Andy James. You can follow him on Twitter.